Here's why people are obsessed with the Japanese diet

Sushi rollsGetty/Sergi AlexanderThe Japanese diet includes a lot of carbs (such as white rice and buckwheat noodles), as well as fish and sea vegetables. A recent study linked the diet to a 15% lower premature mortality rate.

The Japanese diet — full of carbs, fish, plants, and pickled foods — has been gaining in popularity lately, particularly since a study revealed its link to a longer lifespan.

In fact, the March study, published in The BMJ, found that people who followed the Japanese government’s dietary guidelines had a 15% reduced mortality rate, TIME reported.

The Japanese diet is not based on restriction. Instead it’s about mindful eating.

That’s likely because the Japanese diet not only includes a healthy lifestyle, but also mindful eating, according to registered dietitian nutritionist Rebecca Scritchfield, host of Body Kindness podcast.

“Japanese people eat grains, vegetable, fish ( protein), milk products and fruits in a healthful way,” Scritchfield told INSIDER. “They are not avoiding any carbs as American usually do; Japanese diet is not based on restriction.”

Seaweed saladFlickr/Michael OcampoThe Japanese diet involves a lot of foods that are high in fibre, calcium and iron (such as seaweed, pictured here in a salad), as well as protein and vitamins, a dietitian nutritionist revealed.

The Japanese diet places a lot of emphasis on reasonable portion sizes.

Eating well has long been a key component to the Japanese lifestyle, according to the nutrition expert. The cultural practice of “hara hachi bu,” which she says is still followed by the people of Okinawa, advises eating only until a person is 80% full.

“The idea is, enjoy your food, don’t eat too much. Overall as a culture, they’re very cognisant of portion sizes, but it’s not about dieting,” Scritchfield said.

The diet is made up mostly of healthy carbs, fish, sea vegetables, and fermented foods.

The diet includes carbs (such as white rice, buckwheat noodles and rice cakes), fish (which are high in omega 3 fatty acid and reduce the risk of heart disease) and sea vegetables — particularly seaweed, which has fibre, calcium and iron.

It also entails a lot of fermented foods, including fish and soybeans, which help support a healthy gut microbiome.

“Your health and your wellbeing really begin in your gut, because the bacteria it’s producing helps improve your immune system so you don’t get sick as much,” Scritchfield said.

KiwiFlickr/Andreas DantzThe diet also includes kiwi, the expert revealed. The fruit helps with digestion.

The Japanese diet also entails a lot of kiwi fruit, which is packed with vitamin C and helps with digestion, as well as kefir, which is a dairy-based fermented product.

“That’s the point: They don’t eliminate any one thing but they eat a lot of sea vegetables, a lot of fish, they eat their kiwi fruit and they drink their kefir, and those are all really valuable things,” Scritchfield said.

The diet won’t necessarily lead to weight loss — but it will lead to healthy eating.

But for people looking to the Japanese diet for weight loss, the nutritionist explained that changing your eating patterns doesn’t always lead to shedding a few pounds.

“The real reward is that you have more energy and you feel better, because you’re eating better,” Scritchfield said. “If you lose weight, it’s probably a side effect of many changes that you made, not only of the quality of your food but also by stopping overeating.”

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