6 Healthy Japanese Foods You Must Try

Back in college I spent about a year in Japan. To me, one of the most intriguing parts about Japan is the food. The Japanese have been renowned world wide for their diet which supports not only a healthy weight, but a long healthy life.

Here is my list of nutritious Japanese foods that you can use to add variety to your diet while still retaining flavor and health. These foods (in conjuction with healthy eating and exercise) will help you lose weight and gain overall health!

1. Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin)- If you are a sucker for everything pumpkin in the fall, you have got to try kabocha! Kabocha is denser than butternut squash and has a very sweet, almost cake-like flavor and texture. A one cup serving of Kabocha has only 40 calories and 70% of your daily value of vitamin A. I like to roast 1-2 Kabocha at the beginning of the week for my meal prep and eat a serving as my source of carbohydrates for the meal.

2. Satsuma Imo (Japanese Sweet Potato)- Satsuma Imo is similar in taste and texture to the Kabocha, it is drier,denser and milder than the American sweet potato. You can recognize a Satsuma Imo because it has purple skin and yellow flesh. Satsuma Imo is a great source of fiber and Vitamin C. Since Sweet Potatoes are a staple in many physique athlete’s diets, this Japanese version can be swapped out to add variety. I also bake these weekly with my meal prep when I can find them.

3. Konnyaku- Made from the Konjac plant has close to zero calories. Konnyaku became sort of main stream with Shirataki noodles (a combination of tofu and shirataki). But you can find plain konnyaku and cook it up for a filling fibrous meal with even fewer calories. Konnyaku can smell fishy and feel slimy when you take it out of the package but don’t let that scare you away, with proper cooking and a good recipe you have a tasty, filling, almost calorie free food.

4. Seaweed- Packs of seaweed have also reached mainstream markets in the US. I have seen “seaweed snacks” in Trader Joes, Costco, & Wegmanns. Seaweed is another food that has barely any calories- around 25 per serving.

A 2011 review of  100 studies on the health benefits of seaweed found that seaweed had more bioactive peptides, which aid in heart health and blood pressure reduction. Additionally, seaweed is a good source of other micronutrients like iodine, Vitamin A, B-6 and C.


5. Sashimi- Most people are familiar with sushi but many people don’t know the difference between sushi and sashimi. Whereas sushi includes rice and other ingredients, sashimi is just the raw fish. This way you get protein, omega three fatty acids and fewer calories and carbohydrates than sushi rolls. After all, with toppings like mayonnaise and fried noodles you didn’t really expect your average sushi roll to be a healthy choice did you?

6. Green Tea- Green Tea is full of antioxidants which are powerful free radical fighters. Green Tea also helps boost your metabolism so you burn more calories even while at rest. I love drinking green tea with my breakfast or as I am teaching classes to give me a little boost of energy and soothe my dry throat.

While Japan has many other foods to explore, this is my top list of healthy go-tos that have been favorites of mine throughout the years.


Post Workout Nutrition

Hey Guys! Happy Sunday! I just got done teaching a great group of instructors who are on their way to becoming certified to teach Pilates! Teaching really inspires me to be introspective and curious. I am all about self improvement and I have been on a quest lately to learn as much about fitness and nutrition as possible. I am currently reading the book “Nutrient Timing” by John Ivy and it has taught me a lot about how you can time your nutrition to improve the results you get from athletic training. For me, this means building more muscle.

I seriously used  to doubt the theory of nutrient timing until I started looking more at the research. Before, I thought that there was no way your muscles could ‘know what time it was.’ I also believed that taking in more calories than you burned after exercise was just counterproductive. Although I still believe that most of the population needs to watch calorie intake after a workout, I now believe that nutrient timing can be used intelligently to enhance results by taking advantage of the body’s natural muscle building processes.

I’ll be honest, although I did change up a few things at the same time, I started noticing the most dramatic results when I started lifting heavy and added in a post workout shake. Its not so much that your muscles know what time it is, it is more that strenuous physical activity has an effect on your hormones which in turn have an effect on nutrient processing and storage. Once I understood this, the theory of Nutrient timing made a lot of sense to me.

There are two types of hormones involved in these processes: catabolic hormones and anabolic hormones. Catabolic hormones, like cortisol, break down nutrients including those stored in the body as fat, glycogen and muscle. Anabolic hormones, like insulin and testosterone, help shuttle nutrients into cells to aid in muscle growth.

During exercise, the catabolic hormones increase in order to process nutrients for energy. Your goal after exercise is to fuel your body with anabolic hormone promoting foods to increase muscle growth.

This means its actually a good thing to eat simple carbs after a workout because they help spike insulin levels and thus help solicit an anabolic response. Its also a good idea to eat Amino acids after a workout so that the body can easily replace any amino acid stores that were broken down during the catabolic process. You want to avoid eating fats because that slows down the process and can also potentially get stored.

How did I put this in action? My coach had me drinking a whey shake after my workout and eating gummy bears with it! The book recommends incorporating some vitamins and additional amino acids in with the shake too. It also gives details on how to eat before your workout and throughout the day to maximize your results.

Overall I found the information really thorough and interesting. However, it was really hard to change the paradigm that you only need protein post workout and that simple sugars are bad. I think a lot of women believe that, and it was interesting to get a different perspective with real scientific data backing it up. Although I do not follow the author’s suggestions exactly, I am happy to have the knowledge in my training arsenal. As I already mentioned, I have seen good gains from adding in this type of shake into my regimen.

Have you ever tried a post workout shake? Did you notice results?


FIt Val