Disadvantages of Japanese Diets

by Tammy Dray

About Tammy Dray

Aside from writing experience, I also have coaching/teaching experience, both as an writing coach (currently teaching three workshops at www.coffeehouseforwriters.com) and an ESL (English-as-a-Second-Language)teacher abroad. I'm a certified Nutrition Consultant and fitness trainer and a longtime contributor to health/wellness publications, from Self to Marie Claire. I am fluent in Spanish and have worked as a translator and a language instructor. I also have two books forthcoming in 2008.


The Japanese diet is a very healthy one. High in omega-3 fatty acids and consisting of small portions, the diet is good for your heart and your waistline. In fact, less than 5 percent of the Japanese population is obese, compared to over 20 percent in the United States, according to the International Obesity Task Force. Despite its many advantages, the Japanese diet has a few negative aspects as well.

High in Carbohydrates

The Japanese diet is traditionally high in carbohydrates. The Japanese eat rice or noodles with every single meal. They eat both white and wheat flour noodles, but mostly white rice. The high amount of carbs could be a problem for people who have blood sugar problems or who are trying to control their weight. Although the Japanese eat lots of carbs and stay thin, that may be due to the rest of their diet choices, such as eating lean proteins and other low-fat foods.

High in Soy

The Japanese diet is very high in soy and soy products, including soy sauce, tofu, fermented soy and edamame. Soy is a controversial food. Some experts say it’s good for you, and some say it can be dangerous if you eat too much of it. According to a 2009 article in “Scientific American,” too much soy could affect hormonal levels, especially in women, since soy is high in estrogenic compounds. Soy also has a negative effect on thyroid function. Because studies on soy are inconclusive, consider erring on the conservative side and eating soy in moderation.

Somewhat Low in Fiber

A high percentage of the vegetables consumed in Japan are sea vegetables. These are rich in nutrients, but not necessarily high in fiber. Fiber is important for regularity as well as colon health. Other vegetables abundant in the Japanese diet are root vegetables, such as yams and radishes. Fruits are usually consumed as dessert, although not frequently.


Japan’s diet is largely based on seafood, which can be expensive in the United States. This includes not only fish, but also more exotic items, such as nori, kombu and wakame. While the Japanese diet is rich in vegetables, many of the vegetables are exotic and might be hard to find or especially expensive in America. Examples include daikon radish, bamboo shoots, lotus roots and shiitake mushrooms. In the United States, these foods are usually available only in health-food stores or specialty shops, and they’re often imported.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.