Health

I Only Exercise So I Can Eat More

God, I love weekends. Especially when they’re not winter! Yesterday was 25 degrees celsius so I biked 20km for local oranges and organic French bread. Oh and I ate a baked sweet potato on the way. These by the way, are amazing. Their season is almost over but in the winter, you’d find them sold everywhere. I don’t know the exact oven they’re cooked in  but whatever it is, it cooks the shit out of them and leaves them all soft and squishy and some places sell it (hot baked sweet potato) with ice-cream! Yum yum oishii.

PS the flying fish are for “Boy’s Day” whatever that means and the last picture is a Persian breakfast. You can read all about that HERE.
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Eating NZ In Japan

As you may or may not know, my parents visited me recently here in Japan. And, they brought an entire SUITCASE of food just for me! OK, and maybe some for my friends… The funniest thing they managed to get through was goat’s cheese! I couldn’t believe it! 1.How does Japanese immigration allow that? and 2.How did it not go off?! As in become mouldy not beep beep in the sensor. Cheese don’t do that. Anyways, I won’t complain. I have been eating NZ in Japan. Today I had a smoothie bowl made with ViBERi blackcurrants and topped with Pic’s Peanut Butter. I ate it by myself on the grassy patch in the centre of my apartment complex and though highly optimistic, I/it did not lure any boys to the yard.

In a food processor, simply blend the following until smooth and creamy:

1 large frozen banana
1 cup freeze-dried or frozen ViBERi blackcurrants.
3/4 cup milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond)
1 tsp pure maple syrup (optional)

Finish with a large dollop of Pic’s Peanut Butter and whatever else your heart (and stomach) desires. I used fresh banana, chia-seeds, shredded coconut, macadamia nuts, more blackcurrants and raw almonds.
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How To Eat Healthy In Japan

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Basically, the idea that you all have, and I had, before coming to Japan is that Japanese food is healthy. Well, it is if you’re only eating tofu, seaweed and sashimi…which no one is. Instead, with the introduction of Western foods and Japan’s own variation on Western foods, Japan’s food has become processed, often fried and almost always packed with excess sugar and salt. Actually, I am repeatedly flabbergasted by just how “unhealthy” people eat. In particular, my colleagues. But but but before you hate-mail me, let me explain that I understand there is no one definition of “healthy” and that there is no ONE right way to eat. But drinking a carton of cow’s milk alongside cup noodles and one or three cherry blossom flavored sweets daily, can’t be it.

1. Stay away from supermarket bread
Read article here or just know that if you search for a million and one years, you will not find legitimate brown bread in the supermarket. What you will find is a soft cake-like thing packed with chemicals and sugar. Don’t do it. Trust me. Try instead to bake your own, it can be done, in even the small toaster-ovens (no one has a regular sized oven in Japan unless they’re an avid foodie or rollin’ in the monaaay). Or, Google your nearest Organic bakery. In Okayama, I’ve found real bread like the ones that actually require the use of teeth, in Cotan, Opusuto and Hugo et Leo. In Tottori, Ritotto Marche. Fingers and toes crossed there are also some health conscious folk who also happen to bake, around where you are living.

2. Brown rice.
Like the cake bread, Japanese people like their rice white and squishy. In fact, many have never even eaten brown rice! Can you believe it? In a country where there are more rice than vending machines (if you know Japan, you’ll know what I mean). So yeah, what I’m saying is, source out the brown rice and eat that instead. Since only few supermarkets stock it (again, why?!) you’ll have to go to a Farmer’s Markets to get it. Find it, cook it and enjoy its fibre goodness. Otherwise white rice is simply a filler upperer and that’s it.
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3. Decipher the ingredients
If you, like me, don’t know Japanese, try learn the few kanji required for sugar, fat and protein. Here’s a great link for it. Or, be lazy like me and guesstimate the health-factor of an item by its amount of calories. Seriously, you’d be gobsmacked by how much crap (I’m sorry but it really is) manufacturers can pack into a thing. Things include yoghurt, breakfast cereals, fruit juice, cooking sauces and dressings. Also, this JAS sign stands for organic, as in, additive-free. Of course, just because something is organic doesnt mean you should binge on it.

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4. Eat more vegetables!
Though fruit is expensive as F&’%, vegetables in Japan are varied, delicious and relatively cheap. Alas, they’re often eaten fried as tempura or kushikatsu, pickled with excess salt and sugar or drowned in mayo or other dressing. Eat more vegetables people and if you can, eat them from the Farmers Market cos then you know they’re local and fresh and hopefully organic and actually cheaper! Cos they don’t have the fancy wrapping which is the opposite of back home, isn’t it? Also, that’s where you can find free-range eggs.

When it comes to fresh produce, the smaller the better, contrary to Japanese standards. This is because the smaller the thing, the less sprays and chemicals it has indured. Also applies to fish, the smaller the fish, the less time it has swam in filth. Unless of course it is natrually a large thing like a daikon or a pomelo. Apples on the other-hand, should not be the size of my father’s head. Make a colorful salad with a simple lemon juice or apple cider and olive oil dressing, steam them, boil them or stir fry with a home-made sauce. Yummy. There is no excuse for consuming rubbish (sorry not sorry) when vegetables are “cheap as chips”, literally!
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5.When travelling, pack a bento! Don’t buy one.
A year of residence in the country has given me the opportunity to travel and sightsee much of its beauty. I have done this by car because I like driving and I find it more convenient for me. What I’ve come to learn from my countless stops at high-way service areas (not to be confused with conbinis -convenience stores- which stock salads, fruits, boiled chicken breasts and eggs amongst other things) is that they sell nothing literally NOTHING I consider healthy. Okay, a white rice, rice ball with salmon isn’t that bad a thing but if you’re after a vegetable sandwich, some fruit, a salad, veggies, a healthy snack, anything that isn’t bursting with salt and sugar then you better take my word for it and pack your own thing. I love picnics. Actually, what I love more than the picnic is the picnic basket hehe. I love to fill it with healthy and delicious treats. Join me in my infatuation and do the thing! Pack a basket (or a lunchbox). My favorite roadie treats are strawberries, cut veggies, home-made popcorn and healthy sweets: muffins, bars, balls and so on which can be so easy to make, really!

6. Hit up the pharmacy.
No not for diet pills or supplements. Personally (you know cos this is my blog tehe) I don’t believe in such things.. unless they’re entirely natural. Ah I hear ya! But what and who defines natural?! Aye? Aye? Shut up. Let me go on. Ok so pharmacies or the pharmacy sections of supermarkets often sell “healthfoods” or “superfoods” like Spirulina powder, chia-seeds, coconut oil, Acai powder, hemp seeds, flax seeds and so on. So what I’m saying is, you won’t find raw cacao in the “food” isles but you might find it next to the sunscreen. Go figure.

7. When all else fails: import store!
Again, this requires some Googling. Import stores though highly expensive have become a savior for me. My personal favourite is called Jupiter. There, you should be able to find all-natural and additive-free canned legumes, dry legumes, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, granola, nut butters, 100% fruit jams, 100% fruit juice, brown rice, brown pasta, oats, quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, amaranth, whole-wheat crackers, bran and so forth.

8. Take advantage of the “healthy” food Japan has to offer! 
These are many but the ones that come to mind are the incredible variety of mushrooms, tofu products: my favourite being okara, 100% organic soy milk (cos usually plant-based milks are packed with unnecessary oil and salt), fermented foods like miso, koji and natto, seaweed, konjac, matcha, fresh seafood, soba and as already mentioned, fresh and local brown rice and vegetables.

Post holiday diet

I have a love/hate relationship with Japan. Love because it’s a fascinating country and hate because it’s so darn difficult finding health-foods (and fookin expensive when you do!) For example, there are NO, seriously ZERO “healthy” options sold at the highway service areas. No fruit, no salad, no raw nuts/bars, just more instant additive-laden soup and noodles and white-rice rice balls and sweets, so many sweets with cream and anko (red bean paste).

The ‘sister visit’ was unforgettable but now, it’s time to once again, healthify my life especially seeing as it’s nearly the New Year and all.

Yeah yeah we’ll see how long I can keep this up for ;)

First: mixed seed crackers from The Breadman Organic Bakery (Christchurch), homemade ricotta, cucumber, avocado, raw walnuts and tomato.

Second: 1 banana, 1/2 cup unsweetened So Good almond milk, handful of freeze-dried blackcurrants blended together and topped with homemade granola, pomegranate seeds and silvered almonds.

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The best smoothie bowl in a long time.

I was so blessed to receive an ample supply of ViBERi blackcurrant products (all organic) from my auntie and uncle in NZ, as souvenirs via my brother-in-law and sister and this morning I whizzed some into the best smoothie bowl in a long time. SO MUCH GOODNESS.

1/2 cup freeze-dried (or frozen) blackcurrants
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup plain yoghurt (use coyo if dairy free or vegan)
1 frozen banana

Simply whizz all ingredients in a food-processor or blender and top with desired toppings. I used organic kiwifruit, homemade granola and more freeze-dried blackcurrants which are crunchy and delicious!
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The Health Benefits Of Coconut Water And Yet ANOTHER Smoothie Bowl Recipe

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Coconut water is the latest fad. Found everywhere from gas stations to speciality health-food stores, coconut water is taking over our world – one coconut (or carton box or plastic bottle) at.a.time. Why? Coconut water contains five vital electrolytes essential to the human body. These include: calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and sodium. Because of this unique composition, coconut water can be enjoyed by individuals with varying medical conditions. In addition, the rich nature of coconut water helps you feel fuller for longer minus the added guilt as the fat content in coconut water is extremely low. Coconut water can also work wonders on our skin from the inside out – its natural properties not only hydrate dry skin but also help add that naturally beautiful glow we all crave (no pregnancy required) – no wonder so many health products (shampoos, conditioners and creams) contain coconut extract. Moreover, the high concentration of fibre in coconut water helps reduce bloating at the same time as aiding good digestion – double win! Lastly, coconut water is popular for its vampiric qualities. Seriously, i’m not joking. Since it is isotonic to human plasma, coconut water can be used in extreme emergencies to rapidly rehydrate the human body if administered intravenously. It is not uncommon for the drink to be used in poorer, third-world countries to save human lives – need I say more?

1 cup unsweetened natural coconut water
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen blackcurrants
1/4 cup plain unsweetened yoghurt (dairy free if vegan etc)
1 tbsp rolled oats (omit if gluten intolerant)
1 tsp honey (or maple syrup if vegan)

Place all ingredients in a food processor, whizz away until nice and smooth then finish with a combination of your favourite toppings. Happy lazy Sunday y’all!

 

Grapefruit Creme Brûlée

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I would like to apologise in advance for the deceiving title but these healthy foods sometimes really do require a little (or a lottle) dose of imagination!

When I was younger, I used to eat grapefruit with white sugar allthetime. I absolutely loved the sweet and sour (are you thinking of pork? Get off my page!) flavour combination – so good!

Perhaps, grapefruits are most well-known for their weight loss inducing abilities (don’t quote me on this). But seriously, they’re very low in sodium and very high in fat burning enzymes. This means, not only will grapefruits burn fat, but also help flush out excess water that is retained from high sodium diets. In short, if you ate a greasy big mac for dinner, wash it down with a detoxifying grapefruit breakfast the next day. The addition of coconut sugar not only creates a flavour explosion but also adds a teensy dose of vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and zinc.

1 large grapefruit
1 tsp coconut sugar

Slice the grapefruit in half.

Sprinkle coconut sugar on top then immediately devour – it’s a no brainer, really.

Black Sushi, Anyone?

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If you’ve decided to take the plunge into living a healthier and happier life this year (like the past 10 years) then I have just the tool for you – BLACK RICE aka “The Forbidden Rice”. Why forbidden? Well, in ancient China, black rice and its countless healing powers was solely reserved for the Emperors and their Royal families (and so “forbidden” to the common Chinese people) as they believed its consumption would extend their lives; actually, they weren’t that far off the mark.

According to a recent study from the Louisiana State University, the bran hull of black rice contains significantly high amounts of vitamin E, which aids in boosting our immune systems and protecting our cells from radical damage. In addition, black rice contains even more anthocyanin antioxidants (per serving) than blueberries (minus the sugar); which are well-known for their anti-aging properties.

Thankfully, one can consume black rice today (which is really more purple than it is black in appearance), without having to face life-threatening consequences. Black rice is available at most supermarkets and health food stores (in Christchurch: New World, Liberty Market and Piko). Otherwise, next time you visit your local sushi maestro, why not ask him or her to adapt your favourite bento from white to black? No racism intended, honest.

*So far in Christchurch, Maki Mono and Bento (both at Riccarton Mall) are the only stockists which I’ve come by.