Taking care of your health is so crucial these days, and nutritional foods can help you find balance in your diet and keep your immune system strong. Our bodies benefit from certain plant-based foods that are rich with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Fortunately, traditional Japanese cuisine has long included healthy and delicious components to increase nutrient intake — and it could be why citizens of Japan have such a long life expectancy!
Here are five beneficial superfoods to consider adding to your diet.
You’ll recognize matcha for its dark green hue, made from powdered green tea leaves. This process results in high antioxidant and nutrient content, along with additional boosts for liver, brain and heart health. For centuries, matcha was consumed as part of elegant tea ceremonies, and now it’s available in baked goods, sweets and coffee shop lattes. You can try it for your next serving of tea at home or in matcha pesto pasta or sweet pea and matcha soup.
The yuzu is a zesty citrus fruit that looks like a lemon but has much higher vitamin C levels. It’s also a high-antioxidant food. Not many people eat it whole, but its juices are often included in seasonings, sauces, dressings, desserts and drinks, from sodas to alcoholic beverages. The grated peel makes a bright, appealing garnish and flavoring, and the invigorating fragrance could help lower stress.
Kaiso is the Japanese term for any marine-growing plant and is prepared in a wide variety of styles in the country. You may be the most familiar with nori, the dry seaweed used to roll up sushi. Another variety is hijiki, a mild-tasting addition in Japanese salads and stir-fry. Thin wakame seaweed is typically dried and rehydrated for soups. Kombu is the umami-rich main ingredient for a traditional soup stock called dashi. Whichever way you choose to enjoy seaweed, it’s a low-calorie source of A, B, C and E vitamins, fiber and iodine.
Served either hot or cold, soba noodles are formed from buckwheat flour and make a tasty ingredient for many dishes, including soups. Pure buckwheat contains no gluten from sources like wheat noodles, so it’s a great alternative for those who are sensitive to gluten. Some soba noodle varieties have wheat flour blended in, so be sure to check the package. Low in fat but high in thiamin, manganese and soluble fiber, soba noodles are definitely worth a try over your typical pasta.
Miso is a big staple of Japanese cuisine and loaded with protein. It has several B vitamins, niacin, zinc and manganese plus probiotic bacteria to support gut health. It comes from fermented soybeans, salt and a cultured grain called koji, derived from rice, barley or soybeans. Miso gets its color and taste from the ingredient ratio, brewing process and aging time — shiro (white) at the earliest, then tansyoku (light) and aka (red). Traditional uses of miso include a marinade, glaze, dip, spread or sauce, but most commonly as soup.
If you’re interested in trying some delicious miso soup, we offer a gluten-free White Miso Soup Mix that you can prepare anytime, anywhere. Just add boiling water to this convenient single-serving soup mix or cook with it as an accompaniment to a healthy meal. Check out our recipes for more inspiration and read our blog for tips on making Japanese dishes at home.