13 March 2013

Hungry Planet - Japan

These two pictures are from the book Hungry Planet - What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. This is really a wonderful book where you can see the type and amount of food consumed by families in different countries of the world.

Today's topic will be to compare two families from Japan (it is a country close to my heart as I lived there for 6 years and it is the birth place of my children). One family is a "modernized" one, living in Kodaira, near Tokyo, and the other one is a traditional Okinawan family.

I made per capita, per week calculations (based on the list given in the book) about the proportions of food consumed (I did not include condiments):
  • starchy food (rice, noodle, potatoes etc.)
  • sweet food (cakes, cookies, candies, sugar, honey etc.)
  • meat, fish, eggs (pork, beef, seafood, fish and eggs)
  • dairy (cheese, butter, milk not included)
  • fruits
  • vegetables (seaweed, legumes included)

First, let's see the "city-dwellers" of Kodaira.

You can see their PICTURE here.

This is an average Japanese family of four (father, mother, two kids).

16kg of food consumed per person, per week:
  • 21% starchy food
  • 22% sweet food
  • 16% meat, fish, eggs
  •   1% dairy
  • 17% fruits
  • 23% vegetables

And here is the Okinawan family:

You can see their PICTURE here.

Almost 9kg of food consumed per person, per week:
  • 15% starchy food
  •   0.5% sweet food
  • 16% meat, fish, eggs
  • 10% dairy
  • 10% fruits
  • 43% vegetables

I think it is much more relevant to see the proportions, rather than the weight or calories consumed. We can further group these food types like this:
  • starchy foods, sweet foods, fruits
  • meat, fish, dairy, vegetables

My goal was to compare the proportions of sweet foods versus more healthy choices, like meat, fish and vegetables. The change from traditional to modern diet is striking.

The Okinawan traditional family consumes:
  • 30% starchy foods, sweet foods, fruits
  • 70% meat, fish, dairy, vegetables (almost half of this is vegetables)
The modern family consumes (diet heavy in sugar and starches):
  • 60% starchy foods, sweet foods, fruits
  • 40% meat, fish, dairy, vegetables

The transition from traditional diet to a modern diet is - as everywhere on this planet - from more protein, fat and vegetables to more starches and sugar.

The beverage consumption shows the same pattern:

Traditional family (1.1 litres of beverages /person /week):
  • 27% milk
  • 73% sugary drinks and alcohol
Modern family (4.7 litres of beverages /person /week):
  •   4% milk
  • 96% sugary drinks and alcohol

The modern family's consumption is almost double in weight of the traditional family. The proportion  beverage consumption between the two families is even worse. 

In Japanese culture there is a saying: 

腹八分目: hara hachi bun me, eat until you feel 80% full. This is a self imposed calorie restriction. They know that overeating is unhealthy.

Okinawa is home to the world's highest known concentration of centenarians. However, they have the worst incidence of chronic diseases in Japan among the younger population who no longer eat a traditional diet, but  have modern eating habits (heavy on starches, sugary drinks and processed food).

No comments:

Post a Comment