Growing up in Japan, I fell in love with food as a child. One of my favorite things to do is cook for friends and family.
The Japanese are very deliberate about their food — and it shows: Japan is home to some of the the longest living people in the world. My mother, a cancer survivor, is 86 years old, and my aunt is still going strong at 98.
When I moved to the US, I tried various popular American foods and food trends. But my body does not respond well to many of them. Now, as a nutritionistmy approach centers mostly on Japanese eating habits.
I always recommend foods that have medicinal properties and that promote longevity. Here are six foods you won’t see me eating:
1. Hot dogs
Processed meats are almost impossible to avoid if you live in the US But not only are they high in salt, they also contain saturated fats that can increase your risk of certain cancers such as colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
What I ate instead: When I want something high in protein but low in salt and preservatives, I choose tofu. I also like multigrain rice balls with tuna wrapped in seaweed, which are full of important minerals like iron, calcium, folate and magnesium.
2. Fast food hamburgers
When McDonald’s opened its first location in Osaka, Japan, it was a big deal. I only eat there as a treat on rare occasions.
But like most fast food, it made me feel tired and fatigued, so I stopped. In addition, it is high in salt, trans fats and saturated fats, which can raise the level of LDL “bad” cholesterol in your blood.
What I ate instead: Tofu burgers taste amazing. I like to put a tofu patty in a crispy brown rice ball, topped with edamame. It is an economical and friendly choice.
3. Sugary sodas
Artificial sweeteners of soda can damage your metabolism and put you at risk for diabetes and heart disease, studies show.
As a constant part of your diet, artificial chemicals can also make it difficult for you to focus, leading to brain fog and even migraines.
What I ate instead: My favorite refreshing, low calorie drinks are green teas, like iced matcha or hojicha (with less caffeine).
4. Sugary breakfast cereals
When we’re in a hurry and don’t have time to eat in the morning, it’s tempting to default to cereal. But I never eat anything with added sugar or ingredients I don’t recognize.
Too much sugar can lead to issues with your blood pressure, weight gain, increases inflammationand put you in risk of diabetes.
What I ate instead: My go-to healthy breakfast alternative is natto, a Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans, with some multigrain rice.
5. Cream cheese
Dairy is a good source of calcium and protein, but not all cheese products provide you with the best health benefits.
I avoid cream cheese because most popular consumer brands only get you about five grams of protein. And just one ounce of it can contain as much as 27 milligrams of cholesterol.
What I ate instead: My favorite savory spread is kina, made from soy flour and sesame paste.
You don’t have to eliminate all sweets from your diet. Dark chocolate, for example, can be rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. But too sweet, candies full of corn starch can harm your heart and your brain.
What I ate instead: To satisfy my sweet cravings, I reach for chia seed pudding with honey or agave syrup, frozen bananas, or unsweetened dark chocolate. Of course, a small piece of cake with friends is great on special occasions.
Michiko Tomioka, MBA, RDN is a certified nutritionist and longevity expert. Born and raised in Nara, Japan, his approach focuses on a plant-based diet. She has worked in nutrition roles at substance recovery centers, charter schools and food banks. Follow him on Instagram @michian_rd.
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