By Ailin Oishi- Stamatiou
Japanese people are known for their longevity and life expectancy.
In a 2013 Health Ministry data study, it was reported that Japanese women can expect to live to an average of 86.41 years (ranked 1st in the world) and Japanese men can live to an average of 79.94 years (ranked 5th in the world).
Why do Japanese people have such a long life expectancy with those in Okinawa prefecture living past 100?
In addition to longevity, Japanese people have lower incidences of chronic age-related illnesses compared to the Western population. Is it their good genetics, healthy diet, active lifestyle, universal health care system or is it due to a super food?
It is well known that the Japanese diet is low calorie, rich in fruits, vegetables and fish. Food is considered a medicine in Japan. However one food stands out: seaweed. Seaweed is not a plant but a combination of algae, single or multi-cellular organisms grouped into mats or clumps. These species contain high concentrations of fucoidans, which have been shown to facilitate tissue regeneration, cell-to-cell communication and enhance immune function helping to combat cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, metabolic syndrome and other degenerative disorders.
In Chinese medicine it has been used to improve digestive health, heart health, regulate hormones detoxify the body and is used as an all-round tonic with its anti-viral/bacterial properties.
Not only are there many health benefits to seaweed consumption it has also been touted to improve skin complexion, add gloss to your raven-locks and help to keep you slim.
There are many varieties of edible seaweed: wakame, mekabu, kombu, umi-budo, arame, hijiki, mozuku etc that comes in red, green and brown varieties.
Most edible seaweed is harvested from marine algae, since freshwater algae can be toxic.
Seaweed is a complete protein that is low in calories and fat, rich in fiber, antioxidants, nutrients and contains high levels of iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc Vitamins A/B/C/D/E/K and omega-3 fatty acids relative to other foods.
It is used extensively in coastal cuisines like New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, the Pacific Islands and South American and has been a staple in Asian diets since prehistoric times.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Japanese cultures have been consuming sea vegetables for more than 10,000 years.
Try to look for organic certified brands of seaweed harvested in pollutant free waters.Add seaweed to your diet by sprinkling dried kelp flakes instead of salt on your food, adding wakame or kombu to your soups and noodles, eating mekabu wakame inspired salads, trying Kombu tea, using kombu stock instead of fish stock in your cooking and rolling your own version of sushi with dry nori. Aim for 4-6 grams of seaweed consumption a day or one 2 tablespoon serving a week to reap the health benefits.
But don’t go overboard, a little goes a long way and too much of anything can be unhealthy.
Dr. Ailin Oishi-Stamatiou, BSc Hons, DC, is a licensed and registered chiropractor who practices in Leaside, Toronto. She is bilingual in Japanese and English. More info at: www.droishi.com