Home Diet and Nutrition Articles The Secret Behind Japan’s Highest Life Expectancy in the World

The Secret Behind Japan’s Highest Life Expectancy in the World


The Japanese top the global table for life expectancy as per the WHO 2015 survey: on average, they can expect to live for 83.7 years (India comes 125th, with an average of 68.3 years).

So, what is the secret behind Japan’s highest life expectancy. Diet. Yup, their diet is lean and balanced, consisting mainly of fish, seafood, whole grains, vegetables and tofu.

The processed Western foods like soft drinks, cakes and pastries, burgers, pizza, and chips, that science is now linking to an array of health issues are largely absent from Japanese plates. However, when it is consumed the portions are Japanese-sized and not American-sized and are an occasional treat rather than daily fare.

According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates among lead economies, coming in at three percent of the total Japanese population.

Traditional Japanese Diet

A traditional Japanese home-cooked meal includes a piece of grilled fish, such as salmon or mackerel, a bowl of brown rice, simmered vegetables, a small bowl of miso soup, green tea and a piece of fruit. The Japanese consume twice as much fish as Americans, and most meals are served with rice.

Soy, in the form of tofu, edamame, miso and soy sauce is a staple, as are vegetables such as eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Seaweed, including nori and wakame, is another main component of the diet.

Fuji apples, persimmons and tangerines are typically served for dessert. Portions tend to be small, and many Japanese stop eating before they’re full.

Starting Young

Schools in the country adhere to strict dietary guidelines, with lunch plans consisting of very little refined sugar. Naomi Moriyama, author of Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Children: Why Japanese Children Have the Longest, Healthiest Lives — And How Yours Can Too told Today, “this way, believe me, children learn to like the healthy, delicious choices put in front of them.”

The kids help prepare and serve the lunch; and food education is part of the curriculum. Students visit local farms, and learn about nutrition, cooking, table manners, and social skills. It all puts children on a path of healthy lifetime habits

Physical Activity

The Japanese have physical activity built into their lives from a very early age. More than 98 percent of Japanese children walk or bike to school, according to the World Health Organization.

That means most Japanese kids are meeting the recommendations for children to get 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day just by walking to and from school. It sets up a life-long habit of regular exercise.

Inspire Your Kids

Japanese parents inspire their children from infancy to try to enjoy a wide variety of different healthy foods, including many different fruits and vegetables. Kids often eat meals together with their family as a regular ritual.

Rather than being “authoritarian” parents, who forbid sugar or say things like, “Finish everything on your plate or there’s no ice cream,” the Japanese strive to be “authoritative” parents. They model healthy eating and don’t over-react when a child refuses a new food or doesn’t finish everything on their plate.