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‘Tis the season to be merrymaking! With Bonenkais (year-end parties) aplenty and Shinenkais (new year parties ) approaching, maintaining a healthful eating plan seems a little daunting. But you might be well surprised at the wholesome and tasty Japanese Superfoods that can be found at your favourite Izakaya.
What exactly are ‘Superfoods’? Some foods have been termed ‘Superfoods’ for their nutrient-dense qualities, which provide multiple health benefits to your body. Some are packed with vitamins and minerals, whilst others have a high level of antioxidants that boost your body’s immune system. It seems highly unlikely that such powerful foods can be so readily found in Izakayas, but wonder no more and have a look at our list of Japanese Superfoods that may offer relief to the symptoms of overeating that come with the festivities.
1. Shichimi Togarashi
No self-respecting Izakaya tabletop will be without this humble bottle of spice. Also known as nan-iro togarashi or simply shichimi, this seven spice blend contains a number of Superfoods that quite easily goes unnoticed. A typical blend may contain red chilli pepper, ground sansho (Japanese pepper), orange peel, black sesame seed, white sesame seed, hemp seed, ginger and nori. Red chilli pepper contains capsaicin, which has an anti-inflammatory effect, whilst peppers can help clear sinus congestion, promote blood circulation, relieve muscle pain, assist with weight loss and aid digestion. Ginger too aids with digestion, bloating, joint pain, nausea, colds and sore throats that come with the colder weather. Sesame seeds, apart from having a delicious nutty flavour, are high in vitamins and minerals, and they are great for heart and lung health and beautiful skin. Nori, a type of seaweed, is high in iodine and iron, essential for good thyroid function and production of red blood cells.
A common side dish with that first mug of beer, these legumes are nutritious as well as delicious. A mere half cup of edamame beans has 9 grams of fibre, 11 grams of protein and a super dose of antioxidants at only 120 calories.
This mild tasting seaweed can be found as part of a salad on most Izakaya menus. Apart from being a refreshing start to your meal, it makes for a nutrient-dense addition to your diet. Apart from containing fucoxanthin, which helps in burning fatty tissue, Wakame is also a rich source of calcium, iodine, niacin, thiamine and omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Raw cabbage with Miso
A popular simple side dish at many Izakayas, eating raw cabbage with Miso is actually very healthy. Cabbage is an excellent source of sinigrin when consumed displays unique cancer preventive properties with respect to bladder cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Together with Miso’s live lactobacilli properties, this is one side dish that packs a healthful punch. Miso’s lactobacilli balances the acidity in the gut from consuming alcohol and reduces inflammation in the liver. Put simply, Miso will help you recover more quickly from a night of fun.
Commonly served at the end of a meal, this humble cup of tea is more than an elegant finish to your meal. Low in caffeine and tannin, this roasted tea provides a restful end to the evening. Hojicha is traditionally roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal, giving it a beautiful reddish brown colour. Though some catechins and antioxidants are lost in the roasting process, Hojicha retains many other benefits of green tea, such as its ability to strengthen the immune system and bolster cardiovascular health.
Now all that is left to do is to usher in the New Year with a “Kampai”!