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Goin’ Japanesque!

7 Superfoods from Japan: How About a Natto Bowl instead of Acai Bowl?

We hear the word “superfood” more and more nowadays. Superfood often indicates a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being or a food that may even help some medical conditions due to the particularly high levels of certain nutrients it may have. We often hear of the benefits of acai berries and chia seeds from supermodels and celebrities incorporating these foods in their diet.

Well, in fact there are many superfoods of Japan that are low in calories yet are filled with nutrients! I’m sure most of you have already heard of or tried edamame (soy bean) which you often see at Izakaya. Edamame is a superfood because of the high levels of protein, potassium, Vitamin B1 and iron which makes it a super nutritious yet low calorie food. 

The superfoods introduced here are not any premium ingredients but are rather simple foods that can be easily incorporated into your daily diet. Why not incorporate these delicious and accessible ingredients into your diet for a healthy lifestyle? 

 

1. Natto

natto
Natto is not just simply “good for your health”, it’s benefits include, antioxidant, detoxification, water retention, boosting your metabolism, improving your skin tone… the list goes on. It’s good as baby food, and for adults, you can boost its health benefits by eating it with kimchi or egg.

The most standard way of eating it is eating it as a natto-bowl topped on rice. You can also eat it as a sushi-roll, which may be more accessible since you can buy it at the conbini. If you are not really a fan of the slimy texture or the distinct smell, the dried natto snacks may be a crunchy and easier way for you to try it.

In fact, the benefits of natto are not only for eating. Recently, other benefits of natto such as its use in eco-friendly detergents and water-cleansing powers are being studied. Its water retention powers are also being studied for use in cosmetics.

 

2. Miso

miso
Miso helps to stabilize blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is said to lower the risks of diabetes and adult-onset diseases and helps improve skin tone, prevent osteoporosis and food poisoning. Studies on the benefit of miso are conducted worldwide!

Miso soup and rice is a standard in the Japanese diet. The Japanese incorporating superfoods in the daily diet must have some correlation to the Japanese being known for longevity. I too drink miso soup every day. The instant miso soup where you pour out the packets of miso and ingredients in a bowl and pour hot water over them is a simple way to enjoy different kinds of miso soup everyday!

Another way to enjoy miso other than soup is to use it as a dip on vegetables. Morokyu, which is “cucumber and miso” is a dish you often see at izakaya too. Related: Try Eating Miso: The Japanese Super Food

 

3. Green Tea

greentea
Immunity booster, fat burner, prevention of memory loss, prevention of diabetes, lowering cholesterol, improving memory, preventing bad breath, relieving stress, preventing the flu… the list goes on and on. Green tea is already a popular drink outside of Japan.

greentea2
There’s also caffeine in green tea so if you are a coffee drinker, why not try changing your coffee habit to a green tea habit? It’s nice to drink it as an iced tea in the hot days of summer too.

 

4. Nori -Seaweed

onigiri
Many of you may be surprised to hear that nori is a superfood. I know it looks like black paper and by itself, it may not even live up to being a side dish but it’s so nutritious!

First of all, did you know that nori is about 40% protein? Even meats and fish are around 20% so the amount of protein in nori is astonishing! A low calorie, high protein diet is the basics of weight loss but one sheet of nori has about a fifth of protein of an egg so it is quite an amazing source of protein.

Additionally, you may not think so from its black appearance, but nori is an amazing source of vitamin C. It has about 2.1 times the vitamin C of lemon, about 1.75 that of acerola juice, and about 3 times the amount of kiwi or strawberry.

Other than that, nori has about 3 times the carotene of carrot, about 7 times the fiber of burdock, about 14 times the vitamin B1 of eggs, and about 22 times the vitamin B2 of milk.

Vitamin B1 is a vitamin that is deeply related to the functions of nerves and the brain so it is essential for mental health. It also helps to recover fatigue for those of you who are wracking your brain every day at work.

You often hear “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. In Japan, you could say “2 sheets of nori a day keeps the doctor away”!

 

5. Umeboshi- Pickled Sour Plum

umeboshi
The sour umeboshi contains a lot of citric acid. The benefits of citric acid include recovery from fatigue, helping your body absorb necessary minerals and preventing hardening of the arteries and some liver diseases. Though there are many health benefits, you want to limit the intake because umeboshi contains a lot of salt. Other than the health benefits, citric acid is also known for its anti-bacterial effect.

The karikari-ume, which is a crunchy type of umeboshi can be eaten like a snack. It was a perfect snack to take for strenuous activities such as mountain climbing. The citric acid and sour taste was very refreshing! 

 

6. Hijiki – Seaweed

hijiki
The hijiki contains many nutritional minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. Nutritious seaweed is not limited to the hijiki. Other seaweed such as konbu and wakame are also high in mineral nutrients. They are effective in preventing anemia and helpful in maintaining digestive health.

The standard recipe where hijiki is used is “nimono” or a stewed dish. It’s also good in salads or mixed in with rice. Perhaps the “furikake” which is a ready-made seasoning that you can buy and sprinkle over rice is easy to incorporate into your diet.

 

7. Okara- Soy Pulp

okara
Okara is the remaining pulp of the soybean after the soy milk is extracted from it. It is a byproduct that is made in the process of making tofu. It has a lot of fiber and is often eaten cooked. Another name for it is the “u no hana”.

About 50% of the oils in the okara is linoleic (or omega-6) fatty acid; an essential fatty acid that must be consumed for proper health. It is also rich in lecithin which is said to improve memory.

okara-hamburg okaracookie
The okara, which is low in calories and high in mineral and fibers can be a nutritious addition to salads and mixed dishes. Because the okara itself can be a little bland, some creative ways that it can used is to cook it into a patty like a hamburg steak or mixed in with cookie dough and baked into okara cookies.

 

Some of the superfoods that are popular overseas can be difficult to purchase in Japan, may get quite pricey and may be difficult to incorporate into your everyday cooking. But don’t let that prevent you from eating these superfoods on a daily basis. In Japan, these traditional Japanese superfoods are easily accessible and reasonably priced. Enjoy these traditional Japanese ingredients for a healthy and delicious diet!

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Kimi

About the author

Kimi is a Japanese living in Tokyo. She has spent half her life living overseas in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Her hobbies are traveling, eating, drinking and beautifying. She enjoys yoga and has a daily goal of running 6.5 km to offset her love of beer and junk food.

View all articles by Kimi
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