If you’ve noticed that Japanese people look trim and healthy, you’re right. Sumo wrestlers aside, Japanese people typically follow a diet comprised mainly of rice, lean proteins and vegetables, a regimen that would make even Jenny Craig crack a smile. But when so-called Japanese foods travel overseas, especially to the United States, they tend to pick up shady nutritional hitchhikers, such as calories, sugar and fat.
Fortunately, with so many healthy Japanese foods to choose from, you can say “sayonara” to fat- and calorie-laden menu choices at Japanese restaurants by avoiding these less healthy Japanese dishes that have become popular in Americanized Japanese restaurants.
Unhealthiest Japanese Foods #1: Sushi
Why It’s unhealthy: Sushi can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on what ingredients are in the sushi roll you order. Whenever possible, it’s healthier to eat sushi made with brown rice instead of white, the latter of which is a relatively empty calorie food stripped of vitamins and fiber. The least healthy sushi rolls usually contain cream cheese, often found in Philadelphia rolls, or shrimp tempura. A shrimp tempura roll, for instance, has 508 calories and 21 grams of fat, compared to a Tuna (Maguro) Roll that has 184 calories and only two grams of fat.
Another snag to eating sushi is the danger posed by raw fish. According to AsiaMs.net, “In the U.S., 56% of all food poisoning results from eating raw seafood. The fattier the fish the more toxins it can harbor.”
Unhealthiest Japanese Foods #2: Potstickers (fried dumplings)
Why It’s unhealthy: Potstickers are like deep fried ravioli without the cheese. Essentially they are fried dough pockets containing veggies, meat, seafood and/or other fillings. A dish whose primary ingredient is white flour-based dough deep fried in oil cannot be turned into a health food, even if you throw in some healthier ingredients, such as vegetables.
Unhealthiest Japanese Foods #3: Tempura
Why It’s unhealthy: The word tempura may sound light and airy, but-like potstickers-tempura is essentially a fried food. To transform them into tempura, foods that start out healthy, such as vegetables and shrimp, are dipped in batter and fried. Like a sponge, the tempura coating soaks up the oil, which turns into fat in your body.
Unhealthiest Japanese Foods #4: Sukiyaki
Why It’s unhealthy: Good sukiyaki is made with fatty beef, especially a type of beef called Shimofuri — a word that literally means frost-like because the meat is heavily marbled with white fat. Although the high fat content makes the beef more tender, highly marbled beef is loaded with unhealthy saturated fat. The only reason you don’t see the fat in sukiyaki is because the beef is cut into very thin slices. Unfortunately, chefs shy away from using lean beef in sukiyaki because it makes the dish leathery and tough.
Unhealthiest Japanese Foods #4: Katsu
Why It’s unhealthy: Think Japanese version of KFC – Katsu is Japanese fried pork (tonkatsu) or chicken (chicken-katsu). As with tempura, the katsu coating soaks up the oil in which the dish is cooked, turning into fat in your body. Aside from the high fat content of katsu, the ketchup-based katsu dipping sauce is relatively high in sugar.
Healthy Japanese Food Tip: Use chopsticks
Although these Japanese foods are less healthy than grilled shrimp or miso soup, as with any culinary indulgence, the dose makes the “poison.” Occasional splurges of tempura, sukiyaki or Philadelphia rolls won’t send you to the hospital.
A good way to “have your katsu and eat it too” is to use chopsticks when you eat at a Japanese restaurant or dine on Japanese food at home. Even if you’re adept at using these stick-like utensils, you’ll eat more slowly than if you use a fork, causing you to consume less fat and calories since your stomach has enough time to signal your brain it’s full before you clean your plate.
“Marketing Beef in Japan” by William Alexander Kerr and Kurt K Klein, p. 20 http://books.google.com/books?id=uCP9Rgj_H_YC&printsec=frontcover&dq=marketing+beef+in+japan&source=bl&ots=jzTrqyR3Xn&sig=-9bxekmKVLNhfMenEwJ5auZSfYw&hl=en&ei=NcaHTKuvLZL4swO7v-2SCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false