Japanese Superfoods

What is superfood in Japan? Superfood indicates a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellness. It can also refer to a food that may help some medical conditions due to particularly high levels of certain nutrients. Examples are acai berries and chia seeds that supermodels and celebrities often incorporate in their diet. There are many Japanese superfoods that are low in calories yet filled with nutrients! The superfoods introduced here are not any premium ingredients but rather simple foods that can be purchased at the supermarket. Why not incorporate these delicious and accessible ingredients into your diet for a healthy lifestyle?

1. Edamame

You may have seen the green edamame in their pods as an appetizer at restaurants. Edamame is naturally gluten-free and low calorie, it contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron and calcium. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like edamame decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, overall lower weight. The isoflavones have been linked to a decreased risk for osteoporosis, while the calcium and magnesium in soy may help to lessen PMS symptoms, regulate blood sugar and prevent migraine headaches. Soy-food consumption has been associated with a lower risk of several specific age and lifestyle-related conditions as well as improving overall general health.

2. Natto

Natto is fermented soybean. Its benefits include, antioxidant, detoxification, water retention, boosting your metabolism, improving your skin tone and many other heath benefits. The most common way of eating it is as a natto-bowl topped on rice. Another way is to eat it as a sushi-roll, which may even be easier since you can buy it at the convenience store. If the slimy texture or the distinct smell are not of your taste, dried natto snacks may be a good option.

3. Miso

Miso, often eaten in the form of soup, helps to stabilize cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It is said to prevent osteoporosis and food poisoning, lower the risks of diabetes and adult-onset diseases and helps improve skin tone. There are many studies conducted worldwide on the benefits of miso.

4. Green Tea

Green Tea is a fat burner, immunity booster, prevention of diabetes, prevention of memory loss, lowering cholesterol, preventing bad breath, improving memory, preventing the flu, relieving stress… the list of positive effects goes on and on.

5. Nori -Seaweed

I’m sure you have seen the nori being used in a sushi-roll. It may just look like a sheet of black paper and by itself, it may not even live up to being a side dish, but it’s so nutritious! Nori is about 40% protein. Meats and fish are around 20% which makes the amount of protein in nori astonishing! A low calorie, high protein diet is the basic rule of weight loss. Furthermore, from its black appearance you may not think so, but nori is a great source of vitamin C. It has about 2.1 times the vitamin C of a lemon, and about three times the amount of a strawberry or a kiwi. Nori also has about three times the carotene of carrots, 14 times the vitamin B1 of eggs, 22 times the vitamin B2 of milk, and 7 times the fiber of burdock. Vitamin B1 is deeply related to the the brain and functions of nerves which makes it essential for mental health. Additionally, It helps to recover from fatigue for those who are wracking their brain at work every day.

6. Umeboshi- Pickled Sour Plum

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. In spite of its many health benefits, because umeboshi contains a lot of salt you want to limit the intake. Citric acid also has an anti-bacterial effect.

7. Hijiki – Seaweed

Hijiki contains many nutritional minerals such as magnesium, calcium and iron. The standard recipe where hijiki is used is “nimono” or a stewed dish. It is also good in salads or mixed in with rice. You can usually get this as a cooked dish in the deli section of a Japanese supermarket.

8. Okara- Soy Pulp

Okara is the remaining pulp of the soybean after the soy milk is extracted from it. It is a by-product made in the process of making tofu. It has a lot of fiber and is often eaten cooked. “U no hana” is another name for it. About 50% of the oils in the okara is linoleic (or omega-6) fatty acid which is an essential fatty acid that must be consumed for proper health. It is also rich in lecithin which, said to improve memory. Okara, which is low in calories and high in fibers and mineral can be a nutritious addition to mixed dishes and salads. As the okara itself can be a little bland, examples of creative ways to use it are to cook it in a patty like a hamburg steak or mixed in with cookie dough and baked into okara cookies.

9. Shiitake and Maitake Mushrooms

A wealth of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin C, as well as calcium and other minerals, these mushrooms have been shown to boost heart health, lower the risk of cancer, promote immune function, ward off viruses, bacteria, reduce inflammation, combat allergies, help balance blood sugar levels, and support the body’s detoxification mechanisms. They are also low in calories.

10. Goya- Bitter melon, Bitter gourd

Goya is the green, bumpy, cucumber shaped vegetable from Okinawa. As the English name suggests, it is quite bitter and can be an acquired taste. It has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese medicine for its blood purifying and detoxifying qualities. The bitter element has a cooling and cleansing effect on the body, which is especially good for the liver, gall bladder, treating kidney stones, and reducing water retention. The blood purifying properties believed to be present in goya can have a positive effect on the skin and reduce conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. You’ll often see it at Okinawan restaurants in a stir-fried dish called “Goya Champuru”.

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

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Article courtesy of:
Goin’ Japanesque!