Miso and its soupless uses

When I started to tell my nutritionist about my symptoms, the first thing she mentioned was that I should eat more fermented foods. I asked what the heck is a fermented food. It turned out that I have already consumed some but only by accident (and mostly when I visited my parents because I never bought any food like that). Earlier, an other nutritionist also recommended one kind of fermented food but she didn’t explain¬†the benefits so I wasn’t very enthusiastic. Luckily, this new nutritionist explained the whys which always help me transition into a new diet, approach or lifestyle. I like learning new things. She said that it is not only good for my low level of stomach acid but it would help build up the gut flora and ease most of my symptoms. She also mentioned consuming miso which is a basic ingredient of the macrobiotic diet. And guess what, it’s fermented.

After I came home from the consultation I started to google the new foods she mentioned and right after I received my meal plan, I ordered the missing ingredients, spices, algas and teas. Miso, too. Well, it was almost a whole month ago but I haven’t tried miso yet. It’s time to start ūüėČ First, I was said because in my meal plan miso was used in the form of the soup and I’m not that big of a fan of soups. Today, I spent some time on the internet and collected some other ideas on how to use miso (link at the end of the post). But before the “how”, I want to collect the “whys”.

miso_16x9
BBC Food

 

Health benefits of miso:

  • contains all essential amino acids so it’s a complete protein
  • stimulates the production of digestive fluids in the stomach
  • can restore the beneficial probiotics
  • helps in the digestion (and assimilation of other foods) in the intestines
  • high in antioxidants
  • boosts the immune system
  • a good plant-based source of B vitamins (especially B12)
  • great source of iron, calcium and potassium
  • can lower the risk of cancer
  • improves bone health
  • supports a healthy nervous system
  • has anti-aging properties and can help in maintaining a healthy skin

The good bacteria and some health benefits are killed by heat so it is advised to add it as late as possible. However, the taste remains the same anyway so if your aim is “only” to eat something taste, add it whenever you prefer.

sugar-snap-pea-salad-4
Salad dressing

 

Recipes:

Make a spread using white miso, peanut butter and apple juice to thin.

Garlic noodles with miso (mushrooms and green onion)

Miso sauce spaghetti (avoid pork and use mushroom or vegetables instead)

Salad dressing

As onions for burgers 

“Cook your onions in a little butter until soft then remove from the heat and stir in a little miso to season. About a teaspoon or 2 is usually enough‚Ķ Let your tastebuds guide you.”

Pasta with miso, asparagus and walnut (Hungarian recipe inspired by 101 cookbooks)

Miso Rizotto 

Roasted teriyaki mushrooms and broccolini soba noodles

 

Kuzu, the healing ingredient

I know, it’s not the ideal approach but after I received my meal plan from my nutritionist, I checked the prices of the recommended ingredients. There are a lot of items on the shopping list that I don’t have at home and/or very expensive here. I know that the long term benefits are the most important but I wanted to split the expenses and not buy everything at the same time. I have already ordered the first part of the needed ingredients so I’m on the right¬†track.

Anyway, when I found out the prices of an ingredient, I googled the health benefits so be able to judge if it’s really worth the price.Okay, it’s a lie because I was SURE that I will start with umeboshi and kuzu because they are the elements of my healing tea. But I’m a huge fan of facts, so I did my googling anyway.

Luckily, the first thing I found was this blogpost:

“I hesitate to disclose this kind of information about myself, but every once in a while my stomach gets a wee bit touchy and results in what I would literally consider gut retching pain.¬† Although I have been fairly successful in eliminating this pain through dietary modification, I have not been able to completely rid myself of these gastrointestinal hiccups.¬† However, I have been fortunate enough to learn a fast and effective herbal remedy that does not require the use of over-the-counter medications. ¬†Kuzu, used in Eastern cultures as an herbal remedy to digestive and circulatory ailments, has been able to provide me fast and effective stomach relief¬†and is now also being researched as an effective way reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, treat migraines and even to help eliminate alcohol abuse. ¬†I won‚Äôt hesitate in saying that this just might be nature‚Äôs true wonder root!”

kuzu starch
kuzu starch

 

What the heck is kuzu?

  • kuzu¬†root, also called kudzu, is a member of the legume family
  • it has complex starches
  • used in the powder form (white powder) or as a dried root (that I couldn’t find here)

 

kuzu root
kuzu root

 

Health benefits of kuzu:

  • it can relieve the discomfort that is caused by overacidity
  • it can fight bacterial infection
  • can help with colds, which are often related to intestinal weakness
  • antioxidant (it has a high concentration of flavonoids)
  • helps the digestion system
  • inhibits the contraction of smooth muscle tissue thus increasing blood flow to relieve stomach cramping
  • can help with constipation
  • can stimulate appetite (that’s not a good thing for me because I have great appetite mostly because of my stupid stress eating¬†disorder)
  • it can calm the nerves in stressful situations (although “officially” it is suitable for hyperactive children mostly)
  • it relieves tiredness and restores vitality
  • it’s an instant relief from abdominal pain and intestinal irritation

How to use it:

  • as a healing tea (ume-kuzu tea, drink with apple juice, etc)
  • as a thickening agent in foods (mostly making vegetable stews or sauces) – my nutritionist suggested to use it every time when I use corn starch now
  • works with puddings, fruit purees, too
  • it can be dusted on vegetables prior to frying to provide a light and crisp coating (I don’t think I would use this option as I don’t fry anything and my nutritionist suggested to keep this habit :D)

 

kuzu puding
Pudding with kuzu

 

I’m planning to drink the ume-kuzu tea every day but based on the information I found on the internet and the papers I got from my nutritionist, I will really try to use it in cooking as well. Especially because I was hesitant if it is okay to use corn starch in my recipes, although I used only a very small portion every time (just a pinch for vegetable sauces and thick soups). But it’s good to have a healthier alternative.

 

Umeboshi the unknown fruit

According to my google search, umeboshi plums have been used for centuries in Asia, although I have never heard of it before my nutritionist mentioned. I live in Europe, brought up on a westernised¬†diet (however, I consider myself lucky because my mom has always been on the healthier side of cooking), these Asian ingredients are quite far from me. But luckily, when I had my consultation with my nutritionist she offered to taste it, and I quite liked it. I tasted the umeboshi vinegar and although it’s extremely sour, I don’t think it would be a problem to insert into my diet.

Health benefits of umeboshi:

  • amazingly alkalizing food
  • they are created via lactic fermentation process so umeboshi has all the positive effect of any other fermented food
  • fights infection
  • can fight fatigue
  • can fight nausea
  • it’s high in iron, which is important for stress reduction and immune function
  • helps with indigestion (hello, here I’m am, pick me, pick me!)
  • helps the body get rid of toxins

How can I use umeboshi if not eating the fruit “barefoot”?

  • creating a healing tea for digestive issues (as I was suggested to drink an ume-kuzu tea once a day for a month¬†to help kick¬†the ass of this constant bloating)
  • it’s salty and sour so it can be used with rice dishes
  • can be drunk with green tea
  • as a salt substitute
  • for adding flavour when preparing grains & vegetables
  • having one on an empty stomach stimulates digestion for the day
  • umeboshi vinegar is a perfect seasoning (salty, sour & fruity taste)
  • sprinkle steamed vegetables with the vinegar
  • added to dark leafy greens (kale mostly) to boost the mineraly goodness ūüôā

 

umeboshi vegetables with tahini dip
Umeboshi roasted vegetables with tahini dip

 

Umeboshi plum¬†is said to have been used by the samurai to keep up their stamina, fight fatigue, and help heal between battles. I’m not a samurai at all, but sometimes I feel I have to fight through the stressful days so I guess it would be a good ingredient for me ūüėČ I have found many mentions as a cure for hangover which I never have because I rarely drink alcohol but it’s good to know.

I’m curious if it can really help with nausea and exhaustion for me because my symptoms are because of my insulin resistance. When I don’t follow my diet properly, I always end up with constant nausea and tiredness. First of all, I’m planning to follow the diet this time but I’m really curious about the effects.

The alkalizing effect is also very positive for me because having an acid environment can kill the hormone system and I have struggles with hormones: insulin and thyroid are my weakest points. Furthermore, the more I read about the alternative remedies for fibroids, the more experts I find that suggest that the alkaline diet can fight fibroids (and I have already gained some results with a semi-alkaline vegan diet).

It’s available in the form of the fruit itself, puree and vinegar:

 

Macrobiotic diet essentials – food list for me

I have in the “I want to know evvvvvvvrything phase” now, so I started to search for the essential info I really need to know about the macrobiotic diet. I got a quite strict meal plan that I have to follow at least for a month, then I can ease into the “normal” macrobiotic diet.

I have to admit, it will be difficult for me. First of all, I have to buy several ingredients that I have never used before, but secondly, I will have to avoid frozen food. This is the biggest difficulty for me. I hate doing the shopping, I work in weird hours, on my free mornings I prefer not to get up early enough to catch the good quality food in¬†the farmer’s market, so I often fill my freezer with vegetables and meat (okay, I know, I will eliminate meat from now on…) and I prefer freezing some portions of food I have already made to have something to eat on busy days. So, this frozen stuff will be the biggest deal for me.

macro-bowl
Picture is from here.

 

Anyway, I’m enthusiastic (although a bit worried if I can do everything properly) so I spent hours on searching for info about the macrobiotic diet. I found a very good list and grouping of foods I can eat (and I have to avoid), I changed some things in the original list, this is my personalised list. I left out the stuff I shouldn’t eat (normal wheat is avoidable for me, I have an¬†intolerance to that) and some ingredients that I cannot stand.

Unfortunately, my favorite vegetables, spinach and zucchini are not on the list ūüė¶ Okay, spinach is on the original list but my nutritionist told me to avoid that, too.

Whole Cereal Grains and Flour Products

Whole grains

Use often: short- grain brown rice, medium- grain brown rice, barley, millet, spelt, corn-on-the-cob, whole oats, buckwheat, long-grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, pearl barley

Cracked and flaked grains Р Use occasionally

Mochi (Pounded sweet rice), Barley grits, rolled oats, amaranth, quinoa.

Flour products – Use occasionally
Whole wheat noodles (udon) *personally should avoid but I would really-really want to taste*, Thin wheat noodles (somen) *same here*, buckwheat noodles (soba), bread (unyeasted sourdough), pancakes (home-made)

Vegetables

Use a variety with every meal and use often.

Green leafy:
bok choy, carrot tops, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon greens, dandelion greens, kale, leeks, mustard greens, parsley, spring onions, turnip greens, watercress

Round:
acorn squash, broccoli, buttercup squash, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, hokkaido pumpkin, onion, pumpkin, red cabbage, turnips, shiitake mushroom

Roots:
burdock, carrots, daikon, dandelion roots, lotus root, parsnip, radish.

Use occasionally:  Celery, chives, cucumber, endive, green beans, green peas, iceberg lettuce, jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, mushrooms, romaine lettuce, salsify, snap beans snow peas, sprouts.

Beans –¬†Use no more than once a day

Use often:
Azuki beans, black soybeans, chickpea, green or brown lentils

Use occasionally
Black- eyed peas, black turtle beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans. navy beans, pinto beans, soybeans, split peas, whole dried peas.

Macrobiotic-diet
Source of pic

 

Special foods

Soy products

Use occasionally:¬†Dried tofu, fresh tofu, natto, tempeh. (I don’t know what to think about it, I don’t really like the idea of tofu)

Seasonings for cooking

Use often
Barley miso ( mugi), brown rice miso, shoyu, unrefined white sea salt

Use occasionally
Brown rice vinegar, ginger garlic, mirin, tamari, umeboshi plum, umeboshi paste, umeboshi vinegar, wasabi (horseradish) white miso.

Sea vegetables
Nori sheets, wakame kombu, agar-ager, Dulse, arame.

Beverages
Drink a comfortable amount for thirst Bancha twig tea (kukicha), bancha leaf tea (green tea),
roasted barley tea, roasted rice tea, yannoh (mixed grain coffee) spring water.

Foods for occasional use

Fish
2 to 3 times a week

Choose from non-fatty –¬†white Carp, cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, sole, trout red snapper.

Seeds and Nuts
1 to 2 cups a week each

Seeds: pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tahini (sesame butter)

Nuts: chestnuts, almonds, peanuts walnuts, pecans, coconut, nut butters.

Sweet and Sweeteners

Use as snacks or in cooking: barley malt, brown rice syrup, rice and barley malt candies, apple juice or grape juice, pure maple syrup (use sparingly)

Fruits

cooked, dried or fresh, seasonal climate fruits 2 to 3 times a week.

Ground fruits: blueberries, blackberries, honey dew melon, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon

Tree fruit: apples, apricots, cherries, grape, peaches, pears, plums, raisins, tangerines.

Other foods and oils

Mild herbs and spices, natural sauerkraut, cucumber -brine pickles, horseradish, lemons, toasted sesame oil, light sesame oil, olive oil, corn oil, safflower oil, coconut oil.

Beverages
Amaske drink, apple juices, grape juice, organic beer, wine, and sake, soy milk carrot or other vegetable juices herbal teas.

Use sparingly or avoid

Baked flour products and refined grains
Muffins, cookies, commercial-pancakes, rice cakes, chips, bake pastries, puffed whole cereals, popcorn, white rice, commercial pasta and bread,

Vegetables
Artichoke, asparagus, avocado bamboo shots, beets, eggplant, fennel, ginseng green or red pepper, spinach, okra, potato, rhubarb, sweet potato, Swiss chard, tomato, taro potato, yams courgette

tropical nuts
including: brazil nut, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachio nuts.
All tropical fruits, including:
banana, coconut, dates, fig, mango, papaya pineapple, citrus fruit.

Avoid as much as possible:

Red meat: beef, lamb, pork.

Poultry: chicken, duck, turkey.
Dairy foods:
milk, butter, cheese yoghurt, ice cream.
Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, brown sugar, molasses, carob, chocolate, fructose, fruit sweeteners, honey, white sugar.
Beverages
Artificial beverages, carbonated water, cold drinks, iced drinks, coffee, distilled water, hard liquor, regular tea, stimulant beverages, tap water,

Styles of Cooking

Use often
Pressure cooking, boiling, blanching, steaming, nishimi-style (steaming with kombu) soup-making, stewing, quick water sautéing, quick oil sautéing, kimpiria-style (sautéing and simmering), pressing, pickling.

Use occasionally
Baking, broiling, dry-roasting, pan-frying, deep-frying, tempura (batter-dipped), raw foods, juicing.

I think, I will deal with this how-to-cook topic in a whole post later, I will share my struggles with you. For example, during my consultation, I took notes about the diet and wrote “nishimi vegetables” and spent long minutes on searching for a list of vegetables that goes to this nishimi group. Well, I realised that it’s a type of cooking not a group of food. I will have to work a lot on my diet, I guess.

I found those very nice illustrations of a macrobiotic diet that I inserted above but they are not the same as my nutritionist suggested (I got a basic info guide on the consultation than a personalised meal plan later in e-mail), they are like this. Not as colourful, not as beautiful, but at least something ūüôā

macrobiotic-diet-chart

I will have to work and think a lot about my diet, I’m happy that I decided to have a “light” vegan month before the real macrobiotic diet. I tend to hate myself when I don’t do something properly and I KNOW that I wouldn’t be able to do the diet properly before getting some more info, doing my shopping (I don’t even know where to by bacha tea or miso :S) and preparing my kitchen for the change. I will have to buy two new pots, too.

Cross your fingers, for me, please ūüôā