The Japanese Breakfast and Its Health Benefits


Japan is an island nation directly off the eastern coast of China, boasting a population of about 126 million (as of 2018), the third largest economy in the world and, most noticeably, the longest expected life span in the world — about 85.5 years.

Japan has several reasons that explain its lengthy lifespan, but I thought I’d focus on what is debatably the most consequential reason for their good health: their diet. More specifically, their breakfast. What can we as students learn from Japanese breakfasts? 

Obesity is now a known killer. However, Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world, with only 4.3 percent  of the adult population experiencing obesity as of 2016. Compare that to the United States’ 36.2 percent and you can begin to see why Japan tops the world for its expected life span. So what are Japanese people eating that helps them stay healthy? 

After looking at a survey of 20 Japanese people who were asked what they ate for breakfast, I saw recurring themes. Most noticeably: white rice, soup (often miso soup), eggs, fruit, vegetables and some form of protein (usually fish of some kind).

If this doesn’t sound healthy to you, then let me explain what is so beneficial about these foods. 

Although most people will usually opt for brown rice over white — as brown rice is a healthier carbohydrate — doesn’t mean that white rice doesn’t have it’s benefits. The biggest benefit to focus on in this instance would be how white rice is easily digestable. 

Next, miso soup is high in vitamins and minerals, and contains healthy bacteria that helps support the gut. Eggs are a great source of protein and contain many vitamins. Fruits and vegetables are also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which supports the gut and aids in digestion. 

Protein in the morning helps keep you full longer and eliminate cravings; however, Japanese people often eat fish, which is arguably one of the healthiest protein options. Fish not only contains protein, but also many vitamins and minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

Due to all the nutrients these foods contain, you would almost certainly begin the day with higher energy levels and reduced cravings — both of which are beneficial for staying awake and focused in class. 

However, many college students don’t have the time or the resources to prepare a full Japanese breakfast in the morning. people often opt for something that is easier to make or drink, or may just not have breakfast at all. So, what can you do? 

Many of the foods listed in the Japanese breakfast can be substituted for more accessible and easier-to-make ingredients. For the protein, 1–2 slices of ham should be sufficient. Although ham doesn’t contain nearly as many beneficial nutrients as fish, it is still very high in protein — something that all people should be having in the morning. 

To substitute the rice, a bowl of oatmeal contains many similar properties as the rice does. And lastly a fruit of some kind, which you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting your hands on.

With a hearty breakfast like this, a college student is almost guaranteed to start their day off right!