Yakuzen concept: Filling winter

Interestingly enough, I believe the season you were born in relates to who you are and what you like.

I was born in winter. I love being in the cold weather and am good at being patient with chilly winter while I hate being in the hot and humid summer. I love winter vegetables. People I know who were born in winter have mellow personality, calm, and peaceful mind.

Winter is the season where we should keep out body warm and eat supplement our survival power in life. To response to the cold and dry climate, yakuzen concept recommends to eat ingredients that can keep our body warm. Vegetables with spicy taste can improve blood circulation.

To prepare for active spring and maintain strength in winter, yam or lamb meat. Ingredients in black color can supply survival power and immune strength. Yakuzen also suggests that we should take vegetables containing minerals such as root vegetables in season by cooking in heat.

Key words for winter ingredients in yakuzen concept:

  • Ingredients in black for maintaining hormone balance, growth, reproductive system: black sesame, black rice, black beans,seaweed, shiitake mashroom, black sugar, etc.
  • Supporting symptoms by analeptic: yam, egg yolk, lamb, shrimp, beef, etc.
  • Spicy taste: cinnamon, ginger, green onion, pepper, garlic, red pepper, etc.

For more details, visit here.

Winterly fat green onions

My grandfather, now 86, has been a well-known farmer in the neighborhood when he was young. He had built his own business after the war and has done farming in his spare time as a hobby. As he gets older, he has less time spent in his field but I do still remember his produce were gorgeously fresh and fabulously delicious.

He grew various kinds of produces from daily vegetables to seasonal fruits. His leafy vegetables were very leafy and his watermelons were very sweet. His eggplants were unimaginably long and vividly purple. Strawberries we picked up directly from his field after school were memorably tiny and sweet. Before the lunch time, we as grand kids were called to be out to his proudly well-farmed field and dug vegetables right before meals served.

When I found these thick and fat green onions in the farmer’s market, my grandfather’s green onions were popped up in my mind. Green onions are one of representative vegetables in winter.

I just love that the white part is really white and the green part is pretty as well. The contrast between two colors are the gift from the nature and the specific climate these types of green onion need to be grown.

These fat green onions are unusual ones. The types of green onions you could buy at markets are thin and lean. These I bought are grown in the limited and special areas, Takayama.

The best season of these fat green onions is, of course, winter in early November to late January. The farmers know that these fat ones require a cold-snowy climate to be grown. The more colder, the more sweetness of green onions enhances. Actually, they are mentingly sweet when they are cooked with heat. Until just before digging and picking up, they are covered by loads of snow. We cook the fat green onions in our nabe (hot pot). Or we chop these finely, mix with miso paste, and eat as a dip on a bowl of rice. They go so well with rice and we could have seconds after seconds...

Benefits of green onions as yakuzen/medicinal food:

Keeping warmth

Recovering immunity

Digestive system

Green Onions:

Function: Warm/Heat

Taste: Spicy

(Partial Reference: Wikipedia)

Besides these listed benefits, green onions can be the great anti-aging ingredients. Green onion has a function to control fat in the blood and keep us warm. I know as a woman that we tend to suffer from being cold and lower body temperature even being in the fully heated room. Our hands and toes are always cold no matter how sunny and warm it is. Eating green onion can help us away from this trouble and make us have a good night sleep. Having a good quality of sleep is the essential condition to be beautiful from inside and help fighting against aging.

The farmer I met at the market says that you can keep green onions wrapping in the wet newspaper and leave them outside (not in the refrigerator). That way, you can keep them fresh for at least a week.

Yakuzen concept: Moist fall

After humid and hot summer and long rainy season is over, fall approaches us. Yakuzen concept is closely related to four seasons and I can reasonably understand why yakuzen is closely attached to them. 

The wind blowing brings dry air, and leaves turn into reddish brown. Fall is the season we need to combine sour and sweet tastes when thinking about what to eat in yakuzen way. 

As the air and the plants get dry, our body as well gets dry. Once the cold air comes in before winter, depression and catching cold can be typical symptoms in fall. To prevent sore throat, constipation, and dry lung, yakuzen suggests to eat seasonal fruits with sour taste and a lot of moisture while avoiding spicy food which accelerates dryness. Yakuzen also tells us that ingredients in white can moist inside of our body. Fall is the time to recuperate from hot summer. 

Key words for fall ingredients in yakuzen concept:

  • White ingredients: daiko raddish, honey, tofu, white sesame, lotus root, lily bulb, etc.
  • Symptoms caused by dryness: ginkgo, sweet potato, taro, pine nut, apricot seed, etc.
  • Sour taste: apple, pear, grape, popmegranate, quince, hawthorn, etc.

For more details, visit here. 

Yakuzen concept: Cozy summer and long rain

We have shifted to welcome notoriously hot summer and long rain in Japan. After cheerful spring said good bye to us, I always wonder how I can lift my spirit up to welcome hot and humid Japanese summer. 

Sweating a lot. Losing appetite. Being sleepy. Suffering from headache. Swelling... You name it. There are so many symptoms summer and log rain could bring us. The key from yakuzen concept to solve such symptoms are to eat ingredients that can help water metabolism and digestion absorption.

When the body heat remains inside, we suffer from insomnia and palpitation. Symptoms caused by humidity causes loss of appetite. Summer yakzuen proposes to eat vegetables with diuretic effect and bitter ingredients.

When eating sweet ingredients tends to prevent water metabolism; thus, yakuzen suggests to eat salty food at the same time. Watermelon, summer tangerine, and melon can be very handy in summer, which you can buy at most supermarkets. these handy summer fruits can give you moisture in your body and help cooling down.

Key words for summer ingredients in yakuzen concept:

  • Removing excessive body heat, swelling: tomato, eggplant, cucumber, watermelon, etc.
  • Symptoms caused by humidity and heat: milk, brown rice, eel, etc.
  • Bitter taste: bitter gourd, chyrtsanthemum, turmeric, etc.

For more details, visit here.

Heartburn in third trimester

During pregnancy, it seems like one problem is solved and another one appears. Just like one after another. Sigh..... After morning sickness in the first trimester, a pregnant woman may suffer from constipation in the second trimester, and then she may have heartburn in the third trimester. She may hope heartburn can be the last health issue before giving birth. 

In may case, I had slight morning sickness, slight constipation, and no heartburn. I carefully watched what I ate by thinking from the medicinal food point of view. 

This article suggests that heartburn  as well as indigestion can be an issue later in your pregnancy. Luckily, this is only temporary issue most pregnant women face.  It can help to have smaller, more frequent meals, and to avoid lying or bending down after eating - even bending to load a dishwasher can aggravate symptoms so get someone else in the family to do that job! Fatty foods and spices can aggravate symptoms.

Your energy requirements do increase during the last trimester, when you’ll need an extra 150-200 calories a day – that’s the equivalent of about three oatcakes topped with houmous.  

Another important nutrient is calcium - your calcium needs double during pregnancy, especially during the last ten weeks when it’s being used to strengthen your baby's bones. Despite this, you don’t need to eat more because your body adapts to absorb more calcium from the foods you eat. So as well as dairy foods, good sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, canned fish with soft, edible bones (salmon, sardines and pilchards), almonds (unsalted), dried apricots, sesame seeds, tofu, fortified orange juice and fortified soy milk. 

Yakuzen concept: Active spring

Spring has come without notice and June is approaching quickly. After giving birth of my first baby, I feel that I have no sense of day and time. 

In spring, the blood circulation becomes great, and every organ in our body wakes up from winter and becomes very active. Many freshmen in school and work start their new life in April, and they likely get tired of working hard to meet the criteria of being good students or excellent workers after getting used to their new life. Depression is one of issues in Spring. From yakuzen point of view, depression and being tired of new life are caused by spring defeating our mental status and our body system. 

What to avoid to lose the body balance and what to do to maintain our peaceful state, yakuzen teaches as follows:

  • Avoid cold drinks and cold ingredients.
  • Eat warm ingredients.
  • Avoid rich taste (Don't use a lot of salt, soy sauce, etc.)
  • Eat simple taste.
  • Eat seasonal ingredients.
  • Take natural sweetness.

Keywords for spring ingredients in yakuzen concept:

  • Cleaning blood: celery, mint, crown daisy, citrus fruits, etc. 
  • Symptoms caused by wind: ginger, green onion, parsley, shiso, etc.
  • Sweet taste: cabbage, carrot, honey, bamboo shoot, turnip, peanut, tear grass, etc.

For more details, visit here.


Constipation in second trimester

From the same article, after several morning sickness and nausea later, pregnant women opens a door to the second trimester, best time of their pregnancy!

Yes, many women who experienced morning sickness in the first trimester recalled that the second trimester is the best trimester ever. You have almost no nausea making you sick, have great appetite, and feel baby's tiny movement in you. When I thought about my own pregnancy, the second trimester was the best one. In my case, I had great appetite all day long and felt that the baby was moving every time after I ate something. 

Even in this dreamy second trimester, pregnant women experience other issues. One after another. This time, constipation. Constipation is a common issue in pregnancy.

What should we do to avoid or ease constipation?

  1.  Keep drinking liquid including water, herbal tea, fresh juice (not too much of juice due to to much sugar in fresh fruits).
  2. Eat wholegrain versions of foods including bread, cereal, or pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, cookies, etc.
  3. Eat a lot of vegetables with fiber such as celery, spinach, yam, potatoes, etc.
  4. Eat moderate amount of nuts and seeds.

More tips for morning sickness

After I wrote the last post, I found a very useful website about how to minimize your morning sickness. 

This article is simply written for every trimester to let us know tips to calm nausea as follows;

  1. Eating little and often, basing meals and snacks on starchy foods like bread, porridge, plain biscuits, crisp-breads, oatcakes, pasta, rice or potatoes.

  2. Minimizing fatty foods which are harder to digest.
  3. Choosing quick and easy recipes which need little preparation.
  4. Keeping a couple of plain biscuits beside your bed - it can help to nibble on one before you get up.

I would add "drink a lot of water" to the above. As for water you drink, water left in the room temperature is the best one to drink for any women. Water form the refrigerator is your enemy as it does cool your body instantly which you don't want. Try to drink warm or at least drink left in the room temperature.  I try to avoid ice cubes in my any drink, drink warm water right after I woke up, and have a cup of soup almost every night as a light dinner. I know a friend who melt s her ice cream before swallowing it! I think her case is too extreme but I admire her strong will that she does not want to cool her body. 

Ginger to minimize morning sickness in first trimester

As a "mom-to-be", healthy eating habit was one of most interesting topics last year.  

I didn't suffer so much from morning sickness in the first trimester few months back. I felt sick when I was brushing my teeth. The taste of toothpaste lasted forever in my mouth even after eating some spicy food. But that was all. That was the end of my morning sickness story. As you know, every pregnancy is very unique to each woman and you wold never know you may suffer from morning sickness, literally every morning, or you may not suffer from it like me at all. 

I have a good news for pregnant ladies or ladies waiting to get pregnant! Ginger is a key to be (almost) free from nausea or morning sickness. Ginger has shogaol (shogool), B-carotene, VB1, VB2, calcium, etc. Ginger is a natural anti-emetic which helps to ease your nausea. 

In Japan where I live now, ginger is mainly used as a side dish like with sushi, sashimi, etc. to get rid of smell of fish and enhance your appetite; however, ginger in pregnancy case can play an important role to calm your nausea. 

One of well-known effectiveness of ginger can be a smoother of blood circulation. Better blood circulation makes your body warm. The more ginger, the more hotter! This may not known widely, I guess, but ginger can also help stopping nausea. In the yakuzen world, ginger is used for people with motion sickness, and of course for pregnant women. 

To minimize your morning sickness and maximize the effect of ginger, simply slice fresh ginger and put it in your tea cup. Simmer sliced ginger in your favorite tea an enjoy the spicy smell of it. Moderate volume of ginger is a key to minimize morning sickness. Moderate means one small spoon of grated raw ginger or 1g to 4g of dry ginger. 

Ginger is also effective to seasonal cold, diarrhea from being cold, and loss of appetite.


Function: Warm/Heat

Taste: Spicy