[From May Issue 2014]
Erica ANGYAL Nutrition Consultant
“Many Japanese think their longevity and beautiful skin are due to their genetics. But that’s not the case, the traditional Japanese diet has had a huge effect,” says Erica ANGYAL. Erica is active as a nutrition consultant in her home country, Australia, and in Japan. The first time she felt the beneficial effects of Japanese food was during her high school days when she stayed for one year in Oita Prefecture as an exchange student from Australia.
“Because I was 15 years old, I had pimples. But I was very impressed as after a month of eating my host family’s cooking, my pimples were completely gone.” She says that the experience resulted in the work she is doing now. However, she also feels that the cooking commonly seen in Japanese homes 30 years ago has changed greatly.
“I was really surprised when I saw what young models for a magazine project actually eat.” She was shocked by the fact that most of their diets lacked critical nutrients; though meals of just jam and toast contained enough calories, the diets of these models were virtually devoid of nutrition. All through the week, many of the models only consumed ready-made meals such as bentou (lunch boxes) that can be bought at convenience stores – food that contains a lot of artificial additives and chemicals. Erica is worried that such food is addictive.
Erica says that she regrets that there is disparity between the fact that Japanese food is receiving worldwide attention and the fact that the diet of young people in Japan is becoming westernized. The Western diet promotes weight gain and it also increases the risk of all lifestyle diseases. The traditional Japanese diet is well balanced and varied with its use of seasonal ingredients.
But, according to Erica, this conversely caused Japan to fail to keep up with preventative nutritional science. Although time has passed and the dietary lives of people have greatly changed, knowledge of preventative nutritional science has not spread. Erica worries that this will lead to a situation in which lifestyle diseases become more common; immune systems are weakened, and gynecological problems and mental imbalance arising from hormonal imbalances increase.
She says that the ideal Japanese meal is the breakfast served at Japanese style ryokan (inn). “The variety of items, including boiled spinach, eggs and fish, promotes good hormonal balance. Although there are people who believe that it’s possible to get adequate nutrition from eating snack foods fortified with nutrients, you won’t be receiving the amazing synergistic effect of the nutrients found in whole foods.” She says that the Japanese breakfast of vegetables and fish is now attracting attention in countries such as the U.S. and the number of celebrities adopting this diet is increasing.
Erica feels that young women in Japan are losing the vitality that should come from within. Her advice to them is to look at their breakfast again. “It does not have to be perfect. You can add nattou (fermented beans) or an egg to your rice, or drink soy milk. I suggest that you add some protein.”
Erica has been giving nutritional guidance to many young women including the finalists of Miss Universe Japan. Her book, written in Japanese, “Diet to Become the Most Beautiful Woman in the World” was translated into other languages and has become a bestseller. From now on she hopes to show women, particularly young Japanese women, how it’s possible to become beautiful through a good diet.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo