Even if you don’t like seafood, your local sushi restaurant features an array of medicinal plant-based foods that regularly accompany each meal. This article will highlight ten healthy vegetarian items commonly found in Japanese cuisine along with their key health properties.
Part I – Seaweed Products
* Dulse – Palmaria palmata (Palmariacea)
A red seaweed, dulse contains calcium, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, protein and zinc. Dulse also contains Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C and E. Useful in treating an underactive thyroid, dulse is also low in sodium. Dulse is a seasoning and is often used in seaweed salad.
* Nori – Porphyra (Bangiaceae)
Available in red and green pigment, nori is a seaweed that contains the polysaccharide Galactan along with the B vitamins choline and inositol, the omega 3 fatty acid eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), and the amino acid taurine. Nori contains copper, iodine, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Nori helps treat ulcers, fights cancer and lowers cholesterol. Sheets of nori are used to wrap rice and ingredients in sushi rolls.
* Wakame – Undaria pinnatifida (Alariaceae)
Available in both brown and green varieties, wakame is a seaweed collected off the coast of Japan. Wakame contains the antioxidant fucoxanthin, a pigment known to boost the metabolism. Wakame reduces cholesterol, stimulates the liver, fights diabetes and helps treat prostate cancer. Used in miso soup, wakame is an invasive weed in New Zealand and California.
Part II – Soybean Products
* Soy – Glycine max (Fabaceae)
Soy contains lecithin, which protects against mental fatigue. Soy contains Vitamins A, B, and C, along with iron, phosphorous, potassium and protein. Soy boosts the immune system, helps treat diabetes, improves kidney function and promotes healthy vision and strong cardiovascular health.
Note: There has been much recent controversy regarding soy and there are several important considerations:
1) Soybeans should be organically grown. Non-organic soybeans are often bathed in solvents such as hexane.
2) Soybeans should be locally grown if possible (versus grown in China and shipped 12,500 miles). At least find companies that are willing to reveal the actual sources of their soybeans along with proof of organic certification. Recent studies suggest this is easier said than done.
3) Soybeans should be fermented. Unfermented soy such as soy milk and tofu are not recommended as these contain higher levels of estrogen-mimicking chemicals called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens may cause boys to exhibit female traits and also may lead to breast cancer in women. Choose only fermented soy products such as the following three:
* Tamari (Soy Sauce)
A concentrated, fermented soy product, tamari has been used in China for about 3000 years. Tamari contains antioxidants, along with Vitamin B6, iron, phosphorous, protein and the amino acid tryptophan. Soy sauce should be refrigerated after opening.
Made by fermenting soybeans with the Rhizopus mold, tempeh contains antioxidants, isoflavones, saponins, fiber, protein and every required amino acid. Tempeh aids digestion and boosts the immune system.
Miso is a product made from soybeans (or other grains) fermented with the Koji mold. Miso contains Vitamin K, B6, B12, calcium, copper, iron, phosphorous and zinc, along with protein and amino acids. Miso comes in several varieties, including Genmai, Hacho, Mugi, and Shiro. A must for those building a storable food supply, 12 ounces of miso paste is enough to make several gallons of soup. Unlike canned and processed foods, miso is a living food.
Part III – Condiments
* Wasabi – Wasabia japonica (Cruciferae)
A plant that contains antioxidants called isothiocynates, wasabi also contains calcium and potassium. Wasabi stimulates digestion, detoxifies the liver, and fights prostate cancer. Wasabi is the spicy green paste served alongside most sushi orders. However, most restaurants do not serve real Wasabi, which is rare and expensive, opting for dyed Horseradish instead.
* Ginger (Pickled) – Zingiber officinale (Zingiberaceae)
Ginger contains soothing compounds called Gingerols. Ginger also contains Vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Ginger stimulates digestion, relieves arthritis, treats nausea, and is safe for pregnant women. Ginger helps fight cancer of the ovaries and colon, and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
A blend of miso, burdock, carrot, lotus root and sesame, tekka is a little-known but delicious condiment. Having the look and feel of chewing tobacco and the flavor of concentrated soy sauce, tekka is the perfect companion for rice. A good source of iron, tekka contains lotus root, which helps soothe stomach and colon inflammation, along with burdock root that is known to help purify the blood.
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants – Dorling Kindersley and Andrew Chevallier
Healthiest Staples of Japanese Cuisine
Soy products bathed in Hexane http://www.naturalnews.com/026303.html
Soy products get poor scores http://www.naturalnews.com/026294.html