The Bianco Guide To Superfoods Of Japan
The Biancissimo family is growing exponentially and from all corners of the world people are joining the family. In this guide and article I would like to introduce you to a very special person that shares and holds the same love in her heart for Japan as myself, assists me with my Russian translation and will now contribute her very own special part to Biancissimo moving forward!
Lena is a medicine student from Russia, who’s traveled to Tokyo (to eat and chill) to discover and better explain the Japanese world of supplements and nurturing foods to us in her very own but very Bianco way. On top of that Mr. Pezz joined the Biancissimo team of talented illustrators and created the cover for this article in the most badass and lovely way I could dream of (Check the nato on my head). I’m more than excited to have these two G`s on my team, so welcome to one of my favorite guides ever!
The Bianco Guide To: The Weirdest And Most Wonderful Superfoods Of Japan
Japan is a nation that is seriously serious about food. Well, you already know that from Bianco. They are as well very serious about their health. I mean, not a vegan smoothie for breakfast serious... A national day of celebration for one or another vegetables serious. Vitamin/collagen/placenta drinks in the usual vending machines serious. No GMO products in the country serious. Chuck fucking Norris serious.
So, naturally, the Japanese, well, just like the rest of the world, are obsessed with healthy foods and organic supplements. Or should I rather say, the rest of the world is obsessed with the following matter just like the Japanese? One way or another, the last ones claim to know how to do it right... Do they really? God knows, but they do live a hell of a life’s time, so fair play I say.
This guide will take you through the healthiest, weirdest, ugliest and most wonderful superfoods and supplements of Japan. Close your eyes, open your mouth and get on your knees to praise the Japanese for letting us get behind the curtains of the healthiest nation in the world. Here we go…
Fermented soybeans mixed with a bunch of bacteria. It is one of those cases when you must try it yourself, because no words can describe it properly enough. You either love it or you hate it. The ultimate foodie or vomit reflexes. Die or let live.
In either case, this superfood is a revolution. Revolution with the smell of a homeless person, taste stronger than Muhammad Ali, texture slimier than an after-rain slug. Nothing personal, no politics here so please do not confuse Natto with NATO, because contrary to the NATO, Natto actually solves all of your problems, even one’s you weren’t aware of. It is incredibly rich in fiber, protein, minerals, and numerous vitamins. Almost every benefit at once. The added bacteria produces enzymes, which in their turn produce vitamin K (very important for our bones). In fact, so much of vitamin K that in the regions where Natto is consumed more often than in other areas of Japan, bone fractures are a considerably much more seldom event.
I’m not going to list the rest of the vitamins and minerals, but I am going to go through some health benefits. Helps with: vitamin B deficiency, pain, cancer, fatigue, infertility, endometriosis, gastrointestinal disorders, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, constipation, muscle spasms, heart conditions. It’s not a super food, it a reLOVEution.
Where to get: any food store
Umeboshi looks like sweet wrinkled baby bottoms, but tastes the complete opposite. Not that I’ve tasted any baby bottoms. I hope nobody ever has. I just meant they are sour. 150 lemons combined with apple cider vinegar sour.
Japanese usually eat umeboshi during their main meals, probably to prevent crying. However if you are into sour shit like me - Umeboshi is going to bring your taste buds to some wonderful places.
It reduces acid levels in your stomach and helps produce more alkaline, which is great, because heartburn, nausea and stomach ulcers are no fun at all. Also helps with a runny nose. Yay. Put away that nose spray.
However, it's made famous for helping with alcohol poisoning and hangovers. Leave it for the morning after and don't wrinkle your face. It's not a baby bottom.
Where to get: any food store/ food markets
LIVER DRINKS AKA "HEPATOLYSE"
If you are not ready for Umeboshi during your hangover, because, to be fair, you do feel shit enough - Japan’s got your back, honey.
Head to the next convi and grab a little bottle with elixir of life. Not really, but it is going to postpone your liver's grandiose adieu party. This drink contains a liver extract – hydrolysate, which is claimed to help with alcohol intoxication. It also includes a couple of fruit extracts, turmeric (don't spill it on your clothes, yellow turmeric stains are ever lasting), niacin, Vit B6/B2 - vitamins that take care of your nerves, what whiskey sour only pretends to do.
Anyway, just look at that guy on the bottle, he was buzzing in one of Shibuya's karaokes till 5 am and went back to work at 6. Now you know his secret.
Where to get: convenient stores like 7/11, Family Market or Lawson
Another genie in the bottle. Usually, those are considered rather as a product of the beauty industry than an apothecary good. In Japan, though, collagen supplements are a religion.
For those, who are not too familiar with the topic: collagen is the main component of our skin, bones, nails, cartilage and hair. Even though it is still highly argued in the scientific world if collagen from supplements actually reaches its place of destination or is destroyed by stomach's acid, Japan is consuming them like children candy on Halloween. Another Japan's passion, cosmetics, intercrosses here with their health obsessions.
The most popular collagen supplements in a form of a drink are produced by a cosmetic brand Shiseido and contain not only fish collagen peptides, but also a wide variety of 'beauty components' like hyaluronic acid, keratin, vitamin B2, konjaku (another Japanese superfood) and GABA (amino acid neurotransmitter). For what reason exactly they add an inhibitory neurotransmitter there, I'm not quite sure, but it does have a very pleasant calming effect. Even though there is still no scientific solid proof on this one, the ones who tried swear on it with their shiny silky skin. Go figure.
Where to get: convenient stores like 7/11, Family Market or Lawson
Shiitake mushrooms do not only look like creatures from another galaxy, but are also good for you. I don`t mean your usual mushroom fiber healthy. I mean preventing bloody cancer healthy. I mean scientifically proven preventing bloody cancer healthy. That`s the shit and as a future doctor I completely dig it.
Apart from that, shiitake mushrooms boost your immune system, energy and brain function. They promote your heart and skin health as well.
Their price range depends on where they were grown, the most expensive ones usually grow in mountains absorbing crystal clean air and water from icy cold springs. You can buy them raw or dried, which means you can bring them home. In large quantities. At least, that's what I did.
Where to buy: any food store/food market
SWEET BLACK SOYBEANS AKA KURONANE
You know how they sell those scam foodies on telly, promising that you will lose weight by eating… The biggest fraud of the century, isn’t it? Dear people, we all know, you can only lose weight by not eating. Unless… it’s sweet black soybeans.
Fraud? Not really. Black soybeans contain polyphenols and isoflavones that promote lipid metabolism, saponin that reduces your cholesterol levels. The Japanese eat them during their New Year’s Celebration period. Makes sense doesn’t it… You will never need to complain like Ross from ‘Friends’ that you are still wearing some holiday weight in case of climbing a fire exit.
You can add them into rice or even make tea out of them, without losing any precious components. Winter is coming so, my sweet soybeans, get prepared, fix up and look sharp.
Where to buy: any food store/ food markets
Goya or bitter melon is another generic superfood. However, I’d say it looks more like a bitter gherkin, that went through Chernobyl… or chemo therapy… or nuclear waste drainage system.
It is mostly eaten in Okinawa region, which is considered the healthiest part of Japan. May be you’ve heard of famous Okinawa diet – for those, who want to live forever.
As the name says it – goya or bitter melon is bitter. Even if you don’t like bitter, it’s worth making yourself eat it anyhow. In the end, we, humans, are the creatures of habit and after a couple weeks of daily choking on Goya, you will not want to live without it. Your body will thank you.
The twisted gherkin will boost your immune system, help with asthma, skin conditions, lower your cholesterol and blood sugar. In addition, it has anti-cancer super powers.
Where to get it: any food store/ order it in restaurants that are serving food from Okinawa
Probiotics are the new vitamins. I know, you'll say, I know. I know and religiously have my Actimel/Danone bottle every morning. Fuck that shit. The Japanese make probiotic drinks for decades and have millions variations of them and most importantly, in comparison to Actimel/Danone, they don't contain anything that will make you actually worse, not better.
Calpis is a soft drink produced by lactic acid fermentation. It's has a very light hint of sweetness and the Japanese usually drink it during heatwaves. They believe it restores your strength.
In 1919 a humble Japanese farmer said ‘may the force be with you’ and put some stars on the bottle and started his business with Calpis. He definitely didn't say that and he probably wasn't a farmer. Unless he had R2D2 as a pet. But the dots on the bottle do represent stars in the Milky Way. True story.
Anyhow, it's 2017 and Calpis is still there, keeping Japanese life expectancy at the top. I hope it does the same to ours. Get it.
Where to buy: any convenience/food store
In truth, most of these superfoods taste completely minging. At least to me. But is it any harder than going for a jog at 6 AM? Is it any worse than injecting botox into your forehead? Definitely much cheaper. In any way, there are so many of them that you can always find something that floats your boat. Mind over matter. Live forever. Or get ridiculously drugged before you consume any of them.