This time, I’ve got two articles discussing one part of Japanese healthcare that I’ve overlooked up to this point: the traditionally healthy diet of the Japanese population. Although some foods (for example, miso and soy sauce) are high in sodium, and the staple of the Japanese diet—rice—is a simple carbohydrate, there are many different foods in the average Japanese diet, some of which are considered to be very healthy. The Japanese love soy, vegetables and fish, and on the whole eat less red meat and dairy than other Western societies, although their specialties in that regard are well-known. Green tea, a staple drink, is rich in antioxidants. On the negative side, also, many processed foods in Japan have MSG and high fructose corn syrup, but they make up for that by eating a variety of foods in small quantities.
Yet, unlike other Western countries, processed foods which can possibly provide beneficial effects are specifically certified as such through the government program 「特定保健用食品」or simply 「特保」(Foods with Special Health Qualities). These include things such as the beneficial microbes in Yakult, the fiber in Kirin’s Metz Cola, and certain kinds of tea. The labeling program was introduced in 1991, and now, over 1,000 products have the designation. There have been some controversial designations, though, including the Econa brand of cooking oil, which was found to have a carcinogen. In response, new rules were put in place in 2009.
This week’s vocabulary:
特保 (とくほ): food with a special health use designation
Look, that oolong tea has a tokuho label on it. It’s healthy!
タンパク質 (たんぱくしつ): protein
For the purpose of making your muscles stronger, you must eat protein.
脂/油 (あぶら): fat/oil
Recently, the fat content in the Japanese diet has increased.
炭水化物 (たんすいかぶつ): carbohydrates
Because you’re a diabetic, please be careful when eating carbohydrates.
繊維質 (せんいしつ): fiber
For my stomach and heart, I eat lots of fiber. For example, I think we should eat things like vegetables of wheat.
It’s interesting to see the impact of Japan’s diet on their healthcare. In all honesty, this system seems to place an emphasis on preventative care instead of going to the doctor for every single ailment, and the government stresses healthy eating through methods such as the Tokuho label. While not perfect, as the Econa scandal shows, it’a still fairly good on that front, and I wonder what it would be like if similar labeling systems are implemented in the West. For my last post about this topic, I think I’m going to discuss self-medication, another aspect of preventative care.
Other sources on these subjects: