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Japanese Diet

In 1985 the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare issued dietary recommendations calling for:


     • Reduction of total fat to 20 to 25 percent of calories.

     • Reduction in saturated fat intake.

     • Increased use of vegetable and fish oil.

     • Restriction of salt consumption to 10 grams or less a day.

     • Adoption of a varied diet (at least 30 foods daily).

     • Home cooking.

     • Creation of a pleasant eating environment.

     See Colitis, Isoflavones, Pancreatic Cancer.

Source: Japanese Ministery of Health and Welfare, Tokyo, 1985.


• Cancer Rates Rise in Japan with Modern Diet

Epidemiologists reported that cancer of the lung, breast, and colon increased two to three times among Japanese women between 1950 and 1975. During that period, milk consumption increased 15 times; meat, eggs, and poultry climbed seven and a half times; and rice consumption dropped 70 percent. In Okinawa, with the highest proportion of centenarians, longevity was associated with lowered sugar and salt intake and higher intake of protein and green and yellow vegetables.

Source: Y. Kagawa, “Impact of Westernization on the Nutrition of Japan,” Preventive Medicine 7:205-17, 1978


• Heart Disease Rates Rise as Japanese Migrate West

Scientists observed that coronary heart disease prevalence and incidence rates tripled among Japanese within a generation of their migration to the West Coast of the United States and doubled in Japanese who migrated to Hawaii.  These changes coincided with a change in the immigrants’ diet, especially levels of saturated fat and serum cholesterol.

Source: T. L. Robertson et al., “Epidemiologic Studies of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke in Japanese Men Living in Japan, Hawaii and California,” American Journal of Cardiology 39:239-43, 1977.


• High-Fat Food and Rising Disease in Japan

With over a thousand McDonald's in Japan, high-fat food is taking its toll. Between 1955 and 1992, according to a Japanese Government report, the consumption of fat rose from 8.7 percent of calories to 25.5 percent and a higher rate of chronic diseases.

     Between 1960 and 1991, grain intake in Japan dropped from 14 ounces a day to less than 10 ounces. Rice fell from 10 ounces to 7 ounces, while milk and dairy products rose from 2 ounces to 8 ounces to supplant grain as the most consumed food item. Low-fat dairy products are virtually unavailable. During the same period, meat consumption rose from less than an ounce to 3 ounces and fat and oil intake tripled, rising from less than half an ounce to 1.5 ounces. Sodium consumption, however, has fallen, from 20 grams on average to 13 grams per day.

     As a result of these dietary changes, the mortality rate from colon, lung, rectal and liver cancer has risen among men and breast cancer in women has increased. (Deaths from stroke and stomach cancer have fallen, evidently as a result of less salt consumption.)

     "In Japan housewives still stay home,” Dr. Takashi Sugimura, president emeritus of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo, explained, describing the different rates among men and women. "But men have many outside dinners and meetings, and food is Western style because it is easier and more convenient for the hotel or restaurant to prepare."

     Declining health among children is particularly troubling. A recent study showed that Japanese children aged 8 to 14 had higher cholesterol levels than American children. "The Government is concerned; pediatric cardiologists are concerned," said Dr. Teruo Omae, president of the national Cardiovascular Center in Osaka. "They are warning that the situation is very risky and that children will have a greatly increased risk factor for heart disease."

Source: Marian Burros, "High-Fat Food Is Taking Its Toll in Japan," New York Times, April 13, 1994.


• Cancer Rises as Japanese Migrate West

An epidemiological study indicated that dietary habits and environmental influences are the chief determinants of the world’s varying cancer rates and not genetic factors. Data showed that in the course of three generations, Japanese migrants in the United States contracted colon cancer at the same rates as the general American population. In contrast, the regular colon cancer rate in Japan remained about one-fourth the American incidence.

Source: W. Haenszel and M. Kurihara, “Studies of Japanese Migrants,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 40:43-68, 1968.


Jewish Diet

Dietary wisdom stands behind the Bible, from the story of the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis to how Daniel refused the rich meat of the king’s table, from the story of how David built the Temple in Jerusalem to the prophecies of Isaiah that they shall turn their swords into plowshares. Keeping a dietary code—Kosher—is a principal reason why the Jewish people were able to survive as a people for thousands of years. Today, an awareness of natural foods is spreading in the Jewish community, and  dietary heritage is  being  rediscovered. Healthful, traditionally prepared, largely vegetarian food is known as eco-kosher.  See Daniel, Diabetes, Middle Eastern Diet.


• Traditional Teachings

In a study of diet and Judaism, a Hassidic teacher explores traditional Jewish teachings on healing and diet in the Bible, Talmud, Kabbalah, Maimonides, and the Hassidic teachings of Rebbe Nachman.

Source: Avraham Greenbaum, The Wings of the Sun, Breslov Research Institute, 1995.


• Jesus’s Way of Eating

Jesus’s way of eating—bread, fish, and vegetables—was essentially macrobiotic, and his teachings show a deep understanding of food and the relationship between heavenly and earthly nourishment. In a study of the Gospel of Thomas and other teachings of Jesus, two educators explore diet in Judaism and early Christianity and describe the use of the term “makrobios” by the council of rabbis in the Septuagint in the 4th century B.C.E.

Source:  Michio Kushi and Alex Jack, The Gospel of Peace, (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1992).


• Columbus’s Jewish Heritage and the Role of Diet in the Discovery of America

In a study of Christopher Columbus, a holistic teacher surveys Jewish and Christian dietary practices during the Spanish Inquisition, Columbus’s probable Jewish origins, and the dietary conquest of America, as well as an interpretation of the story of Noah’s ark in the Bible.

Source: Alex Jack, Profiles in Oriental Diagnosis, Vol. I  (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1995).


Kaibara, Ekiken

In 1713 Japanese physician Ekiken Kaibara recommended a balanced diet to protect against chronic disease. “A person should prefer light, simple meals. One must not eat a lot of heavy, greasy, rich food. One should also avoid uncooked, chilled, or hard food. . . . Of everything one eats and drinks, the most important thing is rice, which  must  be  eaten in ample amounts to ensure proper nutrition . . . . Bean paste has a soft quality and is good for the stomach and intestines.”                        

Source: Ekiken Kaibara, Yojokun: Japanese Secret of Good Health (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 1974).



Kale is a dark, green leafy vegetable with tight, curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stalk. It has a full, sweet taste, cooks up very tender, and gives strong energy. Especially beneficial to the liver and gallbladder, kale is an excellent source of calcium and iron, creates strong bones and teeth, and helps prevent osteoporosis. See Macular Degeneration, Vegetables.


• Kale Protects Against Cancer

In a study of the cancer-prevention properties of kale, water celery, and asitabia Korean scientists at Yonsei University reported that in mutagenicity assays extracts of these common Asian vegetables exhibited strong antioxidant activity, protected against genotoxic damage in human colon cancer cells, and inhibited free radicals and other processes associated with tumor development.

Source: D. Kwon et al., “Antioxidant and Antigenotoxic Activities of Angelica Keiskei, Oenanthe Javanica and Brassica Oleracea in the Salmonella Mutagenicity Assay and in HCT116 Human Cancer Cancer Cells,” Biofactors 26(4):231-44, 2006.


• Kale Higher in Calcium Than Milk

Researchers from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, reported that the calcium in kale is readily absorbed by the body and more efficiently than the calcium contained in milk. In studies of 11 women, the absorption of calcium from 300 mg. of kale averaged .409, while from a similar amount of milk calcium absorption averaged .321.

     “We interpret our findings as evidence of good bioavailability for kale calcium and probably for the loss of low-oxalate vegetable greens as well,” the researchers concluded. Other greens they listed included broccoli, turnip, mustard, and collard greens.

Source: Robert P. Heaney and Connie M. Weaver, “Calcium Absorption from Kale,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 51: 656-57, 1990.



• Lowers Risk for Diabetes 

Kanten, the traditional Japanese gelatin made from agar agar seaweed, has been hailed as a key food to reduce obesity and chronic disease. In a study of 76 overweight patients given a balanced weight loss diet, Japanese scientists reported that those given a small serving of kanten before their dinner lost 4.4 percent of their body weight over 12 weeks compared to 2.2 percent by controls.

Source: Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism.


Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard, stony masses that form in the urinary tract and may cause pain, infection, bleeding, or obstruction of urination. Stones are composed primarily of calcium and vary from invisible to normal sight to 1 inch in diameter. Every year about 1 of every 1000 adults is hospitalized in the U.S. because of kidney stones. A high level of oxalate in the urine from foods such as spinach, rhubarb, cocoa, pepper, nuts, and tea may contribute to calcium stone formation. See Vegetables.


• Animal Protein Linked to Kidney Stones

In a case-control study in Italy, researchers assigned 60 men with recurrent calcium oxalate kidney stones to a diet of ordinary calcium, but reduced animal protein and salt. The other 60 men were put on a low-calcium diet. After five years, the low-animal protein diet had nearly half as many relapses compared to the low-calcium diet. Calcium levels in the urine decreased in both groups. However, urinary oxalate excretion in the men on the low-animal protein diet decreased.

Source: L. Borghi et al., “Comparisons of Two Diets for the Prevention of Recurrent Stones in Idiopathic Hypercalciuria,” New England Journal of Medicine 346:77-84, 2002.


• Dietary Approach to Kidney Stones

Increase of fiber and reduction of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and animal protein significantly reduced the excretion of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid in the urine. Researchers recommended this dietary approach as a way of treating and managing kidney stones.

Source: P. N. Rao et al., “Dietary Management of Urinary Risk Factors in Renal Stone Formers,” British Journal of Urology 54:578-83, 1982.



Kombu, a large, thick sea vegetable of the kelp family, cooks up dark green and has a mild taste and firm texture. It strengthens the blood, eliminates toxic wastes (including radioactivity) from the body, and as a food or compress can help prevent and reduce tumors, especially those of the breast. See Breast Cancer, Infertility, Nuclear Radiation, Sea Vegetables.


• Anticancer Effect

Japanese scientists reported that several varieties of kombu and mojaban, common sea vegetables eaten in Asia and traditionally used as a decoction for cancer in Chinese herbal medicine, were effective in the treatment of tumors in laboratory experiments. In three of four samples tested, inhibition rates in mice with implanted sarcomas ranged from 89 to 95 percent. The researchers reported that “the tumor underwent complete regression in more than half of the mice of each treated group.” Similar experiments on mice with leukemia showed promising results.            

Source: I. Yamamoto et al., “Antitumor Effect of Seaweeds,” Japanese Journal of Experimental Medicine 44:543-46, 1974.          



Kuzu root powder, the principal starch in Far Eastern and macrobiotic cooking, is used to make sauces, thicken casseroles, and add body to desserts and special dishes. It is also used to make medicinal remedies such as ume-sho-kuzu tea (made with umeboshi plum shoyu, and bancha twig tea). In the U.S. its vine grows prolifically and is known as kudzu. The subject of current medical research, kuzu is high in genistein and daidzein, isoflavones that have strong antitumor effects. See Isoflavones.


• Medicinal Use 

In his book on home remedies, macrobiotic educator Michio Kushi describes the traditional use of kuzu to help balance energy and presents recipes for various medicinal drinks.

Source: Michio Kushi, Basic Home Remedies (Becket, MA:  One Peaceful World Press, 1995).


• History East and West

Two foods researchers recount the history of kuzu, how it came to the West, and its practical uses, including recipes.

Source: Bill Shurtleff and Aikiko Aoyagi, The Book of Kudzu,  (Garden City Park, N.Y.: Avery, 1985).


• Kuzu Reduces Cravings for Alcohol

Kuzu has been used for millennia in China to treat alcohol abuse or lower the desire for alcohol. Researchers reported that kuzu has active ingredients that reduced alcohol consumption by 50 percent in laboratory experiments. “In all cases, the medications were considered effective in both controlling and suppressing appetite for alcohol and improving the functions of the alcohol-affected vital organs,” noted Dr. Wing-Ming Keung, co-director of the study at Harvard Medical School. In a more recent study, researchers identified two isoflavones, daidzin and daidzein, in kuzu that produced this effect.

Source: “Chinese Herb Remedy Curbs Alcohol Desire,” New York Times, November 2, 1993; W. M. Keung and B. L. Vallee, “Kudzu Root: An Ancient Chinese Source of Modern Antidipsotropic Agents,” Phytochemistry 47(4):499-506, 1998.

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