3 Healthy Japanese Side Dishes

The Japanese have the distinction of being one of the longest living people in the world. While some of their longevity can be attributed to genetics and an increased activity level (fewer Japanese have cars compared to Americans) some of their good fortune is a result of good dietary habits. They eat fewer calorie dense foods compared to the average American and their food selections are generally higher in nutritional value. Thanks to their healthy food choices, they also have a low rate of obesity, but this changes when they adopt Western eating habits. One way to get the benefits of the Japanese diet is to replace less nutritious potatoes and pasta with some of their offerings. Here are three healthy Japanese side dishes that are healthy and easy to prepare.

Healthy Japanese Side Dishes: Seaweed

To the average person, eating a bowl of seaweed doesn’t sound very appealing, but that’s not the only way to get the benefits this ocean vegetable offers. There are a variety of types of seaweed – all with different tastes – that can be tossed into soups and salads. Seaweed is high in a variety of important minerals including iodine which keeps the thyroid working properly, as well as calcium, magnesium, and zinc. The sea vegetable kelp has been shown in studies to decrease the risk of breast cancer by lowering estrogen levels, and has a salty tasty that some people love. When you eat sushi, you’re enjoying a type of seaweed known as nori which contains compounds that help to reduce cholesterol and prevent gallstones. It’s also believed to have anti-cancer properties. Seaweed and sea vegetables are all very low in calories.

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Healthy Japanese Side Dishes: Adzuki Beans

Most beans are healthy, but adzuki beans really shine when it comes to nutrition. These beans, which are deep red in color, get their pigment from the heart-healthy polyphenols they contain. They’re also rich in minerals such as magnesium and potassium which help to lower blood pressure, and iron which keeps red blood cells healthy. They’re also high in soluble fiber – another benefit for the heart – in addition to being rich in the all-important B vitamins. Adzuki beans are used to make the tasty, sweet bean paste that’s so popular in Japan, but it also makes a tasty side dish and can be added to homemade soups.

Healthy Japanese Side Dishes: Edamame

Although it’s a mouthful to pronounce, edamame is really just an immature, green soybean. It’s really taken off as a snack among the college crowd where it’s served still in its pods; but you can buy them already de-podded in the frozen food section of natural food markets where they resemble lima beans in appearance. They’re rich in protein and fiber, plus they contain isoflavones which help to preserve bone health and lower cholesterol levels. Edamame can be served freshly steamed and flavored with herbs and spices, or added to salads and soups for extra protein and fiber.

When you enjoy these healthy Japanese side dishes, don’t forget to wash them down with Japan’s favorite health drink – green tea!