Washoku vs Mediterranean diet: Italians do it well, but Japanese do it even better

Euromonitor International’s brand new system Nutrition enables users to observe how consumers in different countries compare in terms of nutritional values purchased from packaged food. In mature markets, where packaged food makes up a significant share of people’s overall diet, the exercise is particularly insightful. The comparison of the eight most industrialised countries, the G8, highlights striking differences in calories and other macronutrients purchased from packaged food in these nations.

Calories purchased from packaged food


Source: Euromonitor International

Italians are still fuelled up by pasta

Staple food is logically an important source of calories. If compared with other G8 countries, the calories sourced by Italians from pasta are unmatched in other countries.  In particular, Italians buy 8 times and 6 times more pasta per capita compared to American and British consumers respectively.  This translates in significant differences of nutrients bought from the category as opposed to consumers in other countries: with 199 Kcal per capita per day, Italians purchase 8 times more calories from pasta than the average US or UK consumers and 12 times the average Japanese.

Besides pasta consumption, Italian consumers tend to fit in the average of per capita purchases of calories from packaged food among G8 countries. With a total of 1503 Kcal per person per day, Italy ranks fourth in terms of calories purchased through packaged food, 230 Kcal less than the average German consumer, who ranks first, and  just below the average British consumer, who ranks third with 1570 Kcal purchased. Japan, however, ranks at the bottom among G8 countries in terms of calories per capita per day purchased from packaged food: the average Japanese consumers purchase ‘only’ 1086 Kcal per day from the category.

Italians and Japanese keep fats and sugar in check

A closer look to the macronutrients which are often regarded as ‘less healthy’, such as saturated fats, Italy once again fares better than most of the other G8 countries, as with 23 grams of saturated fats per person per day from packaged food the average Italian consumer purchases 14 grams less compared to her or his German counterpart, who ranks first with 37 grams per person per day.  Again, Japanese consumer, with only 4 grams of saturated fat per person per day from packaged food, fares much better than the Italians.

Excessive sugar intake is often considered as harmful for the health, and in some countries the intake of this macronutrient from soft drink can be significant. This seems not to be the case for the Italian consumers, who with 14.5 grams per capita per day rank only 7th among the G8 countries in terms of sugar purchased from the like of sodas and industrial fruit juices. Italians purchase 3 times less sugar from soft drinks than the average US consumers, who buy on average 50 grams of sugar per person per day from the category. So Italy is second last in this ranking, and by now it should be easy to guess what country is at the bottom of the rank: again, Japan fares better than any other G8 country with just 99 grams of sugar per capita per day purchased from soft drinks, about 3 times less than the Italian consumers and 10 times less than the US consumers.

Washoku vs Mediterranean diet

According to Euromonitor International’s Countries and Consumers data, with just 3% of the total population, Japan has the lowest percentage of obese population among G8 countries, way below the second lowest, Italy, where 11% of the population is obese.  The Asian and the Mediterranean countries fares much better than the US and the UK, which with 42% and 27% respectively rank first and second in terms of percentage of obese population among the G8 countries. Perhaps, after all the consideration that the Mediterranean diet enjoyed in the past from nutritionists, it is time now to investigate the potentials and the benefits of Japanese diet. The healthiness of Japanese diet played an important role in making “Washoku”, the traditional Japanese cuisine, gaining the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage status in 2013.

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