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6 Health Habits to Take Home from Japan


Recently I was  lucky enough to spend 10 days in Japan. It was cherry blossom season—and a trip that’s been on my bucket list for a while. I only learned two new Japanese words—”konichiwa” is “hello” and “arigato” is “thank you”—but I figured out at least a few explanations for why Japan continues to rate high in rankings of the world’s healthiest countries. Here are a few tricks that are helping our neighbors to the west—who boast the greatest proportion of citizens over 100—live long and healthy lives:



Fish comes first: Eaten raw, cooked, or somewhere in between, not a day went by that I didn’t have fish during my trip. All of this seafood was good for my body and brain: the blend of lean protein and healthy fats makes fish a staple in many diet and healthy eating programs. I’ve always liked sushi, but this visit gave me a new appreciation for sashimi—basically raw fish any rice: You get all of the benefits of the fish without the calories or sugar of the rice!

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Kevin Griffin Lost 110 Pounds in One year When He Immersed Himself in Japanese Culture

Not long ago, Kevin Griffin worked in Wichita, Kansas. In fact, his office wasn’t far from Diets In Review. We knew Kevin was a great guy, but we didn’t realize what an internal struggle he was having with his weight. When he decided to take a job in Tokyo, Japan, we said goodbye and wished him well. When we learned what a positive impact the Japanese culture was having on him, including a 110 pound weight loss in just one year, and a total loss of 160 pounds, we knew he needed to be our next True Weight Loss Story. Recently we spoke to Kevin about his 6,000 mile journey.

Kevin Griffin Before and After

Looking back, Kevin said he realizes his weight gain in college was directly related to a sedentary lifestyle, late night eating and soda addiction. “It seems impossible now, but when I think back, I must have been drinking 30–40 ounces of soda a day,” he explained. “Cheap summer drinks and open soda fountains made it something I didn’t even think twice about.” He knew he needed to lose weight but the initial thought was too intimidating, that is until a friend started to shed pounds. “ My friend was very much like me, and seeing his results really made me believe it was possible. . . I knew I had to do it, and my friend showed me it really could happen,” Kevin said. By counting calories, he noticed an encouraging 40 pound reduction, then, he received a job offer that would take him out of the United States and out of his comfort zone.

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Pepsi Special Aims to Make the Japanese Skinnier with a High-Fiber Additive

Pepsi-Cola isn’t exactly in a healthy industry. Over the past years, big soda companies like Pepsi and Coke have been scrutinized for contributing to the obesity epidemic. In light of this, Pepsi just announced a new fiber-infused flavor, “Pepsi Special,” that claims to reduce fat levels in the body. The product is only sold in Japan.

Pepsi Special contains dextrin, “a type of ‘functional fiber,’” explained our resident dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD. “This is a fiber isolated or extracted from a plant (or, in some cases, manufactured) added to a food. Dextrins are true soluble fibers that can help improve digestion. They act as ‘prebiotics,’ undigested fibers that feed the friendly bacteria in the colon.”

Benefits of dextrin include stabilizing blood glucose, regulating insulin, reducing risk of heart disease, and reducing cholesterol and fat cell levels in the body. Dextrin can be found in glue products as well, but it’s not safe to consume in that form. There are a number of foods and medications that contain dextrin and have for about half a century, notes Hartley. “Most people eat some dextrins every day without noticing a change in weight,” she said.

Will drinking the new Pepsi product make you skinnier? Probably not.

“Pepsi Special is a gimmick. It is just another product to increase market share,” calls out Hartley.
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Nike Lets You Run and Raise Money With Donate Japan Campaign

Nike has launched “Donate Japan,” a campaign designed to encourage people to log the kilometers they are running to raise money for the relief efforts in Japan after the March earthquake and tsunami devastated the country.

The way the campaign works is runners make a small donation between $5-25 to the American Red Cross and then use Nike Plus to log as many kilometers of running as you can over the course of 30 days. Many companies and individuals have teamed up with Nike and will donate money for each kilometer you run.

Nike Plus is advanced technology that makes cardiovascular training more enjoyable, competitive, and motivating. The program keeps track of your distance, best times, calories burned, and length of trainings, and also offers integrated online challenges, like “Donate Japan,” where you can compete with friends, family, or strangers all over the world.

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Japanese Food Banned in Wake of Radiation Fears

Damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan

Besides the immediate health effects that the Japanese nuclear disaster may have on people within close proximity of the plant, there are concerns as to how the radiation could spread beyond the borders of Japan. While much of the worries have been assuaged by experts, there is one that is being watched closely: the food supply in Japan.

Hong Kong has suspended all imported food from five prefectures in Japan (prefectures in Japan are governed jurisdictions that are larger than cities, towns, and villages.).

India has ordered radiation tests at its ports and airports of all Japanese food originating after March 11 when the earthquake occurred.

So, how does all this play into the food imported to the U.S.? First off, less than four percent of all food imported into the U.S. comes from Japan. Even so, that is enough to concern anyone if that food is contaminated with radiation.

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