What skin-loving food should you include in your Japanese diet?
When visiting Japan, something you may become aware of is that so many women here have a wonderful complexion. Bright, dewy skin without any blemishes. You may ask yourself, “why is this?”, followed by, “and how do I achieve this?!”.
A lot of Japanese women have rigorous skincare regimens – similar to the infamous 10-step Korean one which includes cleansers, toner, essence, serum, sunscreen… If you pop into a drug store, you’ll be met with a myriad of skincare products. Skincare is taken seriously here!
But have you also considered that the best way to attain a healthy glow is through your diet? Japan may be renowned for the quality of its skincare, but even more famous is the country’s simple yet nutrient-packed diet. Japanese cuisine includes many healthy ingredients such as fish, rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables. The emphasis is placed on the balance and staying away from processed foods, that tend to have added ingredients which aggravates our skin (e.g. salt or sugar).
Nutritionists praise Japan’s diet for being one the best in the world. Studies have shown that the Japanese diet may contribute to living longer, a reduced risk of diseases and keeping your weight under control. Not only are many ingredients found in Japanese cooking beneficial to your insides, but also your appearance! Many of these ingredients are jam-packed with vitamins and minerals which can improve your skin’s overall condition as well as certain skin problems.
There are many ingredients used in Japanese cuisine with known skin benefits, but today let’s take a look at 5 in particular: tofu, green tea, aloe, salmon and seaweed. We’ll explore the root of undesired skin issues, such as dry skin or redness, and why certain compounds found in these foods are beneficial, for example, collagen and antioxidants being fundamental for anti-aging. We’ll also make a few suggestions on how to eat these tasty Japanese foods!
Sure, skincare products can work wonders for our beauty, but for longterm and natural beauty, we must take a look at what we put inside our bodies. With Summer being around the corner, let’s incorporate some Japanese ingredients into our diet so we can look our most glowing!
You may be aware that slow skin cell renewal causes the skin to lose firmness and radiance. This is caused by a depletion in collagen. Low cell turnover is also a cause of clogged pores, which can lead to acne. When our skin’s source of collagen decreases, we leave our skin vulnerable to appearing dull and emphasizing our wrinkles.
Protein is known to accelerate the rate which our cells renew and seeing as tofu is renowned for its protein content, it’s the perfect solution to tired looking skin! It’s also arguably a better source of protein than meat because the saturated fats in certain meats can lead to excess oil and enlarged pores.
If you aren’t familiar with this staple Japanese food, it’s made from the curds of soy milk. Don’t let the description put you off trying it, it’s delicious and versatile, and there are different kinds too! If you haven’t already noticed (by seeing it in supermarkets or restaurants), tofu is a big deal in Japan. There’s even a Japan Tofu Association! It’s packed with protein (which makes it a fantastic food for veggies!) and is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
Tofu can be eaten in a variety of ways. It can be eaten on its own (topped with soy sauce or green onion and bonito flakes), or in hot-pots (typically with broth, vegetable, and beef). In actual fact, you really can put it with anything as it has such a mild flavor and texture!
GREEN TEA 緑茶
Much like tofu, you’ll see green tea everywhere in Japan. Just head to the tea aisle of a supermarket, and you’ll be met with a plenitude of different types! Steamed, roasted, ground, loose leaf, blended with roasted rice… Have you also noticed how frequently the beverage is drank here? For many, it’s a daily ritual. And what’s more, it can be enjoyed in both hot and cold weather, as it can be drunk heated or chilled.
Another cause of anti-aging to be on the defense against is free radicals. These are molecules that damage your skin by depleting collagen and causing hyperpigmentation (i.e. dark patches). Free radicals are impossible to avoid – two major causes being sunlight and environmental pollution. However, we can improve our chances of avoiding such damage with the help of antioxidants. Two well known sources of antioxidants are vitamin C and vitamin E, and both of these are found in green tea. By regularly drinking green tea, we can improve our chances of fighting off signs of skin damage.
Green tea also increases levels of benzoic acid in the body, an anti-inflammatory which can reduce the redness and puffiness caused by sun damage. If you suffer from irritated and sensitive skin, drinking green tea may help soothe your skin. The effect of depuffing can also make your skin appear brighter and more youthful!
When you hear that word ‘aloe’, it may remind you of, much to your mother’s horror, getting sunburn as a child and being told to apply heaps of aloe vera gel to your skin to cool it down. It’s a wonder ingredient for the skin, cooling you down when the skin has been exposed to too much sun. But in Japan, not only is it used topically, but it’s also in a lot of food and drink! A popular ingredient in Japanese drinks, yoghurts and desserts is aloe, a jelly-like product that comes from a succulent plant. It’s mild in flavour and is a satisfying thirst quencher in the summer.
Aloe is 99.5% water, the remaining .5% containing multiple vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Because of its high water content, it’s extremely hydrating to the skin. Eating aloe can help your skin stay soft and supple. It’s a fantastic source of vitamins A, C, E. If you suffer from skin discolouration (e.g. sun damage, acne or under eye circles), the vitamin A & C in aloe is known to even out skin tone and heal blemishes. Whereas the vitamin E improves moisture retention, by sealing up cracks that can cause dry and tight skin.
If you are after that dewey glow that a lot of Japanese women have, aloe could be your answer!
A staple of the Japanese diet is fish. A popular one being salmon. Whether you eat it cooked in a bento (lunchbox) with rice and pickles, or eat it raw in sushi, your skin will love you!
Salmon is loaded with collagen – the protein makes up a whopping ⅓ of the fish’s weight! As we’ve previously discussed, collagen is key for renewing your skin cells. Salmon also contains astaxanthin, a chemical compound which produces the salmon’s pink hue. This compound contains antioxidants and anti inflammatory properties. Both of these work wonders on damaged skin. Antioxidants protect the skin from environmental pollutants such as UV rays and air pollution, while anti inflammatories will soothe sensitive skin issues like redness and dry skin.
Salmon has been long praised as one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids will make your skin glow! Dry skin can be extremely frustrating as it may make skin appear tired and damaged. A remedy to dry skin is upping your skin’s sources of moisture. Without a good amount of natural oil to act as a barrier, your skin is vulnerable to environmental damage and aging. In actual fact, a leading cause of dry skin is a diet deficient in omega-3. By including salmon into your diet, you can improve your skin’s moisture.
Seaweed is featured in many popular Japanese dishes and much like tofu and green tea, there are countless varieties. Crunchy, dried nori is wrapped around onigiri, flavourful kombu as a filling of onigiri, and delicate wakame used in miso soup are just a few culinary uses of seaweed.
This Japanese superfood includes an array of key nutrients which your skin can benefit from in many ways. It’s naturally very hydrating, as it contains humectants – substances which retain moisture. Because moisturising is something we can do in order to retain youthful looks, humectants are also often featured in skincare.
When examining the skin health benefits of tofu, we discussed how eating protein containing collagen is integral to slowing down the aging process. Amino acids also contain collagen, and seaweed is chockablock full of them! The minerals featured in seaweed, e.g. zinc and magnesium, improves your skin’s natural defense against environmental damage too, as well as calming down problematic skin conditions such as acne and rosacea (redness).
Be sure to add these Japanese skin-loving ingredients into your cart on your next food run!
The Japanese diet emphasizes fresh and simple ingredients such as fish, vegetables, soup and rice. It’s about balance: not eating too much of anything, and reducing the amount of additives such as salt and sugar. The likes of salt and sugar can lead to inflammation which causes puffiness, irritation and redness. Therefore, we should try to stay away from anything that can trigger such things. We can also look towards the Japanese diet for ingredients which not only won’t irritate us, but actually improve the condition of our skin!
There are heaps of ingredients used in Japanese cuisine which can lend us a helping hand at keeping our skin blemishes free and fresh. We homed in on five well known and widely used ingredients: tofu, green tea, aloe vera, salmon and seaweed.
The next time you visit the supermarket, be on the lookout for these superfoods that will not only benefit your overall health, but also your nourish your skin. Having a variety of foods which contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals is a healthy and tasty alternative to beauty products – it’s even cheaper too!