This was a surprising assignment. Having lived in Japan for two extended periods of time, most of the food seemed fairly healthy to me. But when I thought about it some more I realized that I naturally stayed away from the unhealthiest foods. Anything deep fried or smothered in salty sauce just doesn’t appeal to me. It turns out that there are indeed some very unhealthy Japanese foods out there. Thankfully there are also plenty of healthy Japanese foods available too. Just avoid the unhealthiest options below, go easy on the high sodium soy sauce and remember to order plenty of healthy vegetables.
There are two problems with this dish. The first is that it tends to use beef with a very high fat content. The second is that the meat is usually dipped into raw eggs before eating. Not only is the high fat bad for your heart and waistline but the raw eggs could give you salmonella type food poisoning.
Anything with “Tempura” In the Name
Even vegetable tempura isn’t healthy. Granted, it’s not as heavy as a deep fried doughnut, but still, batter frying is not a heart healthy cooking method (tempura means batter fried), and all that fat probably negates the healthy benefits you would have derived from eating vegetables in the first place.
Anything with “Agemono” In the Name
Agemono indicates deep frying. There are even special pans for this deep frying technique, but that doesn’t make it healthy. Because of the resulting high fat content, deep fried equals unhealthy.
Anything with “Katsu” In the Name
Katsu indicates a fried pork cutlet. For example, you might see “tonkatsu” on a menu. This is really just a breaded, deep fried pork cutlet. Regular frying adds more fat than is healthy; deep frying is even more unhealthy.
Fugu / Blowfish
If prepared properly and in a low fat manner, this fish is probably quite healthy and tasty. It is considered a rare and prized delicacy. The trouble is that the fish is naturally poisonous and if not prepared properly it can kill you. Dead is not healthy.
Traditional Japanese style sushi is usually very healthy. The unhealthy part usually occurs when the sushi is Americanized for our fat loving palates or contains tempura, agemono or katsu in the name. For example, a tuna roll has just 140 calories and 2 grams of fat, but a shrimp tempura roll has 540 calories and 21 grams of fat. Worse yet, few people are content to eat one roll as their meal so you’re usually going to end up consuming a multiple of these calories. Three tuna rolls would be 420 calories, still a respectable calorie count, but three shrimp tempura rolls would add up to a whopping 1,620 calories.
This article was more challenging to write than the Unhealthiest Mexican Foods article. First I researched other similar articles. Next I tried to find nutritional information from three popular Japanese food restaurants, but as far as I could tell, they don’t publish their nutritional information. In the end I made choices based on an analysis of the information from the sources listed below and my personal experience. Foods that made the list were included because of either high calorie or fat counts or safety considerations. Please realize that there are many healthy choices at Japanese restaurants. All three of the Japanese restaurants did post menus (even if they didn’t post nutritional information) and there were plenty of healthy choices available. If you stay away from these unhealthiest Japanese foods and focus on healthier Japanese foods such as low fat soup and vegetable dishes your waistline and heart will likely thank you.
I hope you choose to eat Japanese food the healthy way and wish you the best of health!