Japanese Nutritionist Shares 5 American Foods That Cause Obesity, Heart Disease & Diabetes That She’d Never Eat

Growing up in Japan, I developed a deep appreciation for food from a young age. Cooking for friends and family quickly became one of my favorite activities.

Japanese people are very intentional about their diet, which contributes to Japan’s reputation for longevity. My mom, a cancer survivor, is 86 years old, and my aunt is still going strong at 98.

After moving to the U.S., I experimented with various popular American diets and food trends. However, my body didn’t respond well to many of them. Now, as a nutritionist, I primarily advocate for Japanese eating habits.

I always recommend foods with medicinal properties that promote longevity. Here are six foods you’ll never see me eating:

1. Hot Dogs

Processed meats are nearly unavoidable in the U.S., but they are high in salt and saturated fats, increasing the risk of certain cancers like colorectal and breast cancer.

What I eat instead: For a high-protein, low-salt, and preservative-free option, I choose tofu. I also enjoy multigrain rice balls with tuna wrapped in seaweed, packed with 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, but I only ate there on rare occasions. Fast food often made me feel bloated and tired, so I stopped. It’s also high in salt, trans fats, and saturated fats, which can raise LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.

What I eat instead: Tofu burgers are surprisingly tasty. I like to put a tofu patty on a crispy brown rice ball, topped with some edamame. It’s an economical and environmentally friendly choice.

3. Sugary Sodas

Regular consumption of sugary sodas (one to two cans a day or more) can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Even sodas with artificial sweeteners can impair focus and trigger migraines.

What I drink instead: My favorite refreshing, low-calorie beverages are green teas, like iced matcha or hojicha, which contain less caffeine.

4. Sugary Breakfast Cereals

In a rush, it’s tempting to default to sugary cereals, but I avoid those with added sugars or unrecognizable ingredients. Too much sugar can lead to issues with blood pressure, weight gain, increased inflammation, and a higher risk of diabetes.

What I eat instead: My go-to healthy breakfast is natto, a Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans, with some multigrain rice.

5. Candy

While it’s unnecessary to eliminate all candies, too much sugary, corn starch-laden sweets can harm your heart and brain. Dark chocolate, rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, is a better option.

What I eat instead: To satisfy my sweet cravings, I enjoy chia seed pudding with honey or agave syrup, frozen bananas, or unsweetened dark chocolate. Of course, a small piece of cake with friends is perfectly fine on special occasions.

Michiko Tomioka, MBA, RDN is a certified nutritionist and longevity expert. Born and raised in Nara, Japan, her approach focuses on a plant-based diet. She has worked in nutritional roles at substance recovery centers, charter schools, and food banks. Follow her on Instagram @michian_rd.

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