Mention that you’re serving oden for dinner, and you can be sure The cornerstone of the Japanese diet is rice, and the mainstay of the traditional Japanese meal is a serving of rice and a bowl of miso soup. Even as times change, this combination continues to be at the heart of Japanese cuisine with main accompanying dishes including fish, and foods made from soybeans (think tofu). Side dishes include vitamin and mineral rich foods such as in-season vegetables, seaweeds and kanbutsu, or traditional dried foods. Fermented items like natto (fermented soybeans) and pickled foods are also indispensable to the typical Japanese diet. It's said that this diet which most Japanese still follow is the reason they have the longest life spans of all the people on the planet.

Rice is a grain that is low in calories. It contains a significant level of healthy carbohydrates along with protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, B1 and B2 vitamins and dietary fiber. While not a complete nutrition source in itself, the combination of rice eaten with accompanying dishes like those listed above creates a wonderful synergistic effect, allowing for greater digestion and absorption of nutrients than if each food was eaten separately.

Lately, there are also an increasing number of nutrition experts advancing the idea that in order to prevent obesity it is important to change the type of carbohydrates that we ingest from those of mostly wheat (as in American and European diets) to rice. Most bread is manufactured with, along with wheat flour, one or more of the following: salt, butter, sugar, milk, nonfat milk powder, yeast, etc. which inevitably leads to a higher calorie product than rice. Furthermore, the body digests and absorbs bread more quickly than rice, which leads to elevated blood sugar levels and a tendency to gain body fat. Rice, on the other hand, is not pulverized into powder like wheat flour; the entire grain is eaten. This means that: i) we chew more than we do with bread or pasta and, ii) the body digests and absorbs nutrients more slowly, resulting in a pleasant feeling of fullness and satisfaction which may also prevent us from eating too much! The increased chewing is also thought to stimulate certain brain functions, and help support health in general. Also, the fact that only water is needed to produce a delicious palatable product is another of rice's merits. The result is a lower calorie food than bread, with no added salt or fat.

Currently we are in the season when the new rice crop starts appearing in stores. One notable difference between new crop rice and rice harvested later is that since the new crop rice has a higher moisture content and softens easily, less water is needed when cooking. In fact, we can reduce the amount of water about ten percent of what we would use for older rice. Also, letting the rice soak for thirty minutes or so prior to cooking helps to ensure a great texture and flavor. Once the rice has finished, remember to lightly mix it so it won't clump together.

The Japanese diet is considered the ideal diet by many people, and it is easy to see why—low in calories, fats and sugars, it consists mainly of seasonal, light foods eaten in healthy, balanced proportions. And it doesn't call for exotic or hard to find ingredients, either, but common grocery items that can be easily obtained. This is why these foods make up the bulk of the menus of every typical Japanese household—freshly cooked rice, miso soup with cubes of tasty tofu, savory grilled fish, and lightly cooked greens. Marukai has all the ingredients for you to make a delicious typical Japanese dinner tonight!