Ross Cameron is a walking encyclopedia on Japanese diets. We casually chat about the benefits of such an enriched diet. I really can’t help noticing that he oozes radiance and of Japanese ki; something that you would only ever expect from a true Japanese man. Ross is not Japanese but has dealt with business exchanges via Japan. He has visited the country on numerous occasions over the past 6 years. He is currently engaged to a lovely Japanese lady. He breathes and walks Japan.
What is your view of the Japanese diet?
‘Traditional Japanese diets have a lot of merit. I stress the word traditional as many people may eat a quick take-away meal but this is not the same thing. Yes the Japanese culture may be changing and yes, there is a trend towards convenience stores and fast food.’
‘But takeaway Japanese does not necessarily reflect the essence of the Japanese diet,’ he explains whilst we sip on our refreshing glasses of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough Sounds.
What will you eat on a typical business day in Japan?
‘For breakfast I would eat a traditional meal of miso soup with cooked fish. This is one of the benefits of the Japanese diet. You never miss breakfast. You always eat it. The Japanese understand how important breakfast is to kick start your metabolism.
Another advantage that I love about Japanese breakfasts is that they are not sweet and packed with sugar. I’ve even met Krispy Kreme management through my work who complain that their number one challenge was to convince America that doughnuts are not just a breakfast food! You might be surprised to learn that their biggest sales are made prior to 10am.’
And I am shocked, very shocked that doughnuts are eaten for breakfast, but we continue with the interview all the same.
‘I used to eat a sweet breakfast. I grew up eating breakfast cereals. Now I make a concerted effort to not eat sugary cereals.’
Do you feel differently after a savoury breakfast?
‘After a Japanese based breakfast I am not hungry till lunch. I don’t experience the dives in energy levels like I did after a sweet breakfast option. I absolutely love that in Japan breakfast is not treated like a separate meal. You could potentially eat what you eat for lunch at breakfast.’
What’s for lunch?
‘I used to eat sushi and this is not the typical slices of sushi that you can find in London. There are two types of sushi. In Japan I might have a hand rolled type called temaki. This is similar to the usual sushi that you can find in the shops here.
The second type of sushi in Japan is called Nigiri, which is a ball of rice with a portion of raw fish on top. This is a much larger serving of fish. There’s also a huge variety of fish and seafood. My favourite is squid which is typically known as ika. I will also enjoy miso soup as part of this meal.’
Any 4pm snacks?
Snacking is traditionally not a common practice in Japan. I think this is a positive about the diet. I read a study recently that revealed that some periods of fasting can be beneficial in relation to long term risks of diseases.
The best aspect to a Japanese diet is their traditional belief ‘HARA-HACHI-BUN’. This is the center of Japanese culture and is thought to increase longevity. The philosophy behind this expression is that the Japanese know to stop eating once you are about 80 percent full. Always leave a little bit of space in your tummy. After all, it does take approximately 20 minutes for your brain to register that it is full. For this reason it is advantageous to leave your stomach ‘almost full’ instead of ‘full’.
What’s for dinner?
Definitely something light. I might go to a restaurant like an izakaya. I might eat tofu with soy sauce and a side dish of gobo. This is essentially burdock root and is high in fibre. I may have beer in which case I will choose not to have rice. It’s rare to have beer and rice in the same meal in Japan. My Japanese friends will typically say “I’m having a beer so no rice.’
Japanese diet in a nutshell
‘Red meat is seldom eaten in comparison to the Western diet. Instead the diet is rich in vegetables, legumes and seafood. I believe that they eat a lot of complex carbohydrates and although they eat rice, you only eat a small portion. They key is in the portion sizes, rather than the glycaemic index of the carbs itself.’
What are your favourite dining memories in Japan?
‘There is a restaurant in Kyoto which opens only in the summer. It is a gem up in the hills amongst the bamboo forest outside the city. You naturally eat outside but what makes this experience special is that you eat out on a flat raft on a river. You sit on a tatami and you enjoy a lovely meal based on fish and vegetables.
I love the Japanese diet because even if you eat a large meal you just don’t experience that ‘stuffed feeling’. You feel satisfied without the need to unbuckle a notch on the belt. Better still, you can enjoy a romantic long walk with a loved one after dinner rather than the dreaded “food coma” associated with a large Western meal.