It's widely known that the Japanese live long and healthy lives.

No-one can quite put their finger on why - but experts believe it's down to their immaculate diet.

A favourite cuisine among celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Madonna - sushi, miso and pickled vegetables are thought to be the reason behind their glowing figure.

Here, London-based nutritionist Cassandra Barns reveals the five foods in the Japanese diet that could help us live longer.



Fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, responsible for keeping the heart healthy.
But not only do they keep the blood flowing, they also benefit the brain, eyes and reduce inflammation.

As high inflammation is a characteristic of most chronic disease - from arthritis to heart disease to Alzheimer's - keeping it under control may be a key factor in maintaining good health into old age.

As a bonus, fish are rich in selenium, which is vital for our antioxidant defences and immune system, and B vitamins that help to keep our brain chemistry in balance.

Miso and umami paste

One of the secrets of the health of Japanese women is believed to be down to their consumption of fermented soya foods.

Containing isoflavones, miso and umami paste are considered to be helped to women after menopause.

The compounds act as phytoestrogens - plant substances that have a weak oestrogen-like effect in the body.

Consumption of soya isoflavones has been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer in women after menopause.

And they are known to better bone mineral density, reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fracture and improve cardiovascular health.

Ms Barns added: "Rather than just any soya, the Japanese tend to consume traditional fermented soya foods such as miso, tempeh and natto.

"One of the benefits of the fermentation process is that the isoflavones are naturally converted into a form that's much easier for the body to use.

"It also increases the vitamin K2 content, which plays a role in bone health and heart health too."

She recommends Clearspring's Japanese Umami Paste as a form of fermented soya that can be great for adding flavour to food.


Seaweed is a deemed to be a true superfood.

It's rich in minerals, including iodine, zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and dozens of other trace minerals we need for our immune system, antioxidant defences and heart health.

Ms Barns said: "Many of us don't get enough of these minerals in our normal diet, even if we eat plenty of vegetables, because the soil they grow in can be depleted.

"This doesn't apply to vegetables that grow in the sea, of course!"


Matcha is a traditional powdered green tea made from the fresh leaf tips of the tea plant.
Green tea - matcha in particular - is high in a specific type of flavanols called catechins.

These substances are thought to boost our body's antioxidant defences.

They also potentially help to protect against degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and even cancers.

Ms Barns added: "In addition, matcha tea contains higher amounts of a substance called theanine, which has been found to have a relaxing effect on the mind and may help protect against the negative effects of stress."

Pickled vegetables

Traditionally fermented pickled vegetables are a great source of natural probiotics.

They can favour digestive health, help to digest and absorb the nutrients in the food we eat, which then benefits all areas of our health.

And as around 75 per cent of the immune system resides in our gut, improving our gut flora may specifically benefit the immune system.

Not only helping to fight against infection, but also helping to prevent conditions associated with over-activity of the immune system, such as autoimmune diseases.

Ms Barns said: "However, most pickled vegetables you buy in a supermarket or grocery store are not traditionally fermented, just pickled with vinegar or salt and pasteurized to kill off any bacteria and yeasts.

"So if you want to copy the Japanese with this one, you may need to look into making them yourself!"