Green Tea may trim Bad cholesterol, Study says

Posted on FOX

Green tea, taken in a capsule or drunk in a cup, may shave a few points off “bad” cholesterol readings, according to a U.S. study involving more than a thousand people.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, showed that green tea trimmed 5 to 6 points more from people’s total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels than dummy capsules or other treatments.

The trials tested either green tea itself or capsules containing green-tea compounds called catechins, which are thought to decrease cholesterol absorption in the gut.

Green tea in a cup was more consistently effective than capsules, though the benefits overall were fairly small, noted senior researcher Olivia Phung, an assistant professor of pharmacy at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California.

“If someone is already taking medication for their cholesterol, they should stick with it and not try to trade it for green tea, either capsules or the beverage,” she told Reuters Health in an email.
But adding green tea to your diet could be one way to further improve cholesterol numbers, she said.

The researchers, however, found no strong evidence that green tea boosted “good” HDL cholesterol, or cut triglycerides, another type of blood fat.

Phung’s team pooled the results of 20 clinical trials that involved a total of 1,415 adults.

Participants were randomly assigned to either use green tea every day, as a beverage or capsule, or be part of “control” groups that took placebo capsules, drank a low-catechin tea or downed water.

The trials lasted anywhere from three weeks to six months and the benefits seemed to be limited to people who already had high cholesterol when they entered the study.

Overall, tea seemed more effective than capsules, though Phung said there isn’t enough data to be sure that the beverage is better than the extract.

A number of clinical trials that examined whether green tea, or its extracts, can benefit people’s cholesterol levels have reached mixed conclusions. Most of the trials have been small, making them less reliable.

There are other questions too, including what dose of green tea catechins is ideal.

In the trials Phung’s team studied, the researchers were unable to test for a “dose-response” effect, which would have shown whether the cholesterol benefits increase as the catechin dose goes up.

“We would really need to have some head-to-head studies comparing the different forms of green tea in order to show which ones work more effectively,” Phung said.

As for side effects, green tea is considered safe in moderate amounts, though the drink and the extracts contain caffeine, which some people may need to avoid.

There have also been a few dozen cases of liver damage reported among people using green tea extracts, but it’s not certain that the supplements are to blame.

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“Rice Recipes” available on Kindle Store!!

Rice Recipes: Full of recipes helpful for controlling calorie intake and best suited for a gorgeous party! (Akiko’s Healthy Recipes)

Rice can either be a low-calorie food or a high-calorie food. It all depends on the preparation. So, believe it or not, rice can be used as an effective part of a weight-loss plan. Make rice with extra water, and you get kayu, a type of rice gruel. Steaming rice with beans gives you okowa. Make Chinese chimaki by adding some meat and vegetables. Or, you can fry rice to make paella with vegetables, meat, and seafood. Rice isn’t just a Japanese or Asian staple. You can mix and match with all kinds of international dishes.

In this book, I share a wide variety of rice recipes together with nutritional information. You’ll also find some general articles on rice and its relationship to dieting and health.

I hope you find Rice Recipes a valuable tool in your healthy lifestyle toolbox.

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The health benefits of Okura

Posted on HEALTHY BODY on

Okra has many health benefits and medicinal use. Okra contains vitamins A and C and is a good source of iron and calcium. It also contains starch, fat, ash, thiamine and riboflavin.

The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize the blood sugar by curbing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract. Okra‘s mucilage binds cholesterol and bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver.

Okra helps lubricate the large intestines due to its bulk laxative qualities. The okra fiber absorbs water and ensures bulk in stools. This helps prevent and improve constipation. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic. Okra binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids). These, if not evacuated, will cause numerous health problems. Okra also assures easy passage out of waste from the body. Okra is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming, has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is economically within reach of most individuals unlike over-the-counter drugs.

Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics). This contributes to the health of the intestinal tract. It is a supreme vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted, and suffering from depression, it is used for healing ulcers and to keep joints limber. It helps to neutralize acids, being very alkaline, and provides a temporary protective coating for the digestive tract.

Okra treats lung inflammation, sore throat, and irritable bowel syndrome, has been used successfully in experimental blood plasma replacements. Okra is good for summer heat treatment, good for constipation.

Okra is good in normalizing the blood sugar and cholesterol level, good for asthma. Okra’s vitamin C is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which curtail the development of asthma symptoms.

Overall Okra provides many nutritional valves and is an excellent vegetables for the body.

Don’t you want to try Okra today?


5 foods that make you look younger

Posted on FOX on July 25, 2013

The key to glowing skin lies in your stomach.

1 Sweet potatoes

Beta-carotene, which makes these tubers orange, balances your skin’s pH, helps combat dryness, and promotes cell turnover, all resulting in smoother skin.

2 Wild salmon

The pigment that makes the fish pink, astaxanthin, is a powerful foe of free radicals, rogue molecules that damage cell membranes and DNA and cause skin to age. A study found that eating one serving every five days can prevent actinic keratoses—ugly rough patches that are precancerous.

3 Tomatoes

The fruit’s red pigment, lycopene, is a potent antioxidant that shields skin from sun damage—like sunscreen, but from the inside out. To best absorb lycopene, eat tomatoes with olive oil.

4 Citrus fruits

Vitamin C is essential to building collagen, a vital component of young-looking skin, which starts breaking down in your twenties. Citrus also contains bioflavonoids, which protect skin from UV rays and help prevent cell death.

5 Leafy greens

Spinach, kale, and other greens contain lutein, which protects skin from sun-induced inflammation and wrinkles.

6 Stay away from white foods

Need another reason to avoid white bread, pasta, rice, and other refined grain products? They’re quickly broken down into the ultimate white food: sugar. Once in the bloodstream, sugar bonds with protein and creates advanced glycation end products (aptly abbreviated AGEs), which cause collagen to become inflamed and stiff, leading to wrinkles.

7 Why food is always better than a pill

“There are so many factors in food that haven’t been studied.” said Nicholas Perricone, a board-certified dermatologist and author of The Wrinkle Cure, The Perricone Prescription, The Perricone Promise and Forever Young. “It’s very likely that these unknowns work synergistically for a bigger benefit than what you can find in a supplement.”

8 A bonus drink

According to dermatologist Leslie Baumann, red wine contains skin-friendly grape-seed extract and resveratrol, two powerful antioxidants. Hops in beer, it turns out, may also offer antioxidant benefits.

Isn’t it worth trying???



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Having introduced the latest trends in Japanese Food Industry; Ume-boshi, I would like to share this article. Please be noted the great health benefits of Japanese Ume plum.
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Posted on LIVESTRONG.COM By Danielle Hall

Japanese ume plum has been used in Japanese and Chinese medicine. Although the current understanding of the active components is limited, it is suspected that Japanese ume plum contains antioxidants that protect cells from damage and may be able to reduce a person’s chances of getting cancer. The inhibition of carcinogen formation is another factor that make the plums beneficial to health, according to the “Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention.”

Photo Credit human body image by Alhazm Salemi from

Heart Health
Japanese ume plum juice concentrate was found to help improve the ability of blood flow through the body. Bainiku-ekisu, the fruit juice concentrate of Japanese ume plum was found to promote a healthy environment for the formation of smooth muscle cells in the heart in a study published in 2002 in “Life Sciences.” It was also found to protect heart cells from the damaging effects of reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species are a natural byproduct of cellular metabolism that are highly reactive in the body and can be damaging to cells.

Human Influenza A
Japanese ume plum extract has also been found to protect against the flu, according to a study published in the “Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin” in 2005. However, it was only found to be protective against getting the flu before being exposed to the virus. It did not have an effect on reduction of flu-like symptoms after it was already contracted. The researchers suspect that the efficacy of the plum extract has to do with its lectin-like qualities, which allow it to bind to substances in the blood, preventing it from infecting its host.

Japanese ume plum has also been observed to reduce infection and inflammation in cases of people with chronic atrophic gastritis caused by helicobactor pylori infection. Helicobactor pylori is a bacterium that causes the inner lining of the stomach to become chronically inflamed, and causes ulcers. A study published in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in July 2010 found that less helicobactor pylori were present in the stomach through tissue biopsy in a sample of 68 adults.

“Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention”; Suppressive Effects of Fruit-juice Concentrate of Prunus Mume Sieb. et Zucc. (Japanese apricot, Ume) on Helicobacter Pyloriinduced Glandular Stomach Lesions in Mongolian Gerbils; Takafumi Otsuka et al.; 2005

“Life Sciences”; Fruit-Juice Concentrate of Asian Plum Inhibits Growth Signals of Vascular Smooth Muscle cells Induced by Angiotensin II; Hirotoshi Utsunomiya et al.; Dec. 27, 2002

“Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin”; In Vitro Inhibition of Human Influenza A Virus Infection by Fruit-Juice Concentrate of Japanese Plum (Prunus mume SIEB. et ZUCC); Sangchai Yingsakmongkon et al.; 2008

“European Journal of Clinical Nutrition”; Inhibitory Effects of Japanese Apricot (Prunus Mume Siebold et Zucc.; Ume) on Helicobacter Pylori-Related Chronic Gastritis; July 2010

Article reviewed by Veronique Von Tufts Last updated on: Oct 12, 2010

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Umeboshi, a Traditional Japanese Food – Part III

In this blog, I’ll show you various Japanese foods and beverages containing ume that are currently popular, and I will also discuss recent trends in the industry.

The best way to see the latest trends in the food industry is to go to convenience stores in your neighborhood. In most cases, the stores’ hot-selling items are displayed at eye level on their shelves. Recently, I visited some convenience stores and checked the shelves of snacks, onigiri, and beverages. What I found were products containing ume, so I picked some of those top-selling items to study.

The above pictures are of items containing ume which are currently popular at convenience stores. So many ume items! Incredible, don’t you think? You’ll be surprised to know that these are only part of the vast array of ume-infused products. More surprisingly, these ume items are totally new in shape, texture, and taste. Why ume? Why now? Such heavy demand for ume items may indicate some changes in our preferences and trends. Let’s explore these items in more detail.

1) Strong impact from package design and taste
For instance, take a look at the photo, above left. You can’t help wondering about the letters on the packages. Why otoko (man)? Why not onna (woman) versions of the products? Like myself, most women would have something to say about it. But, well, the kanji characters “otoko ume” printed in such a thick and stern font remind me of tough guys…
After trying this candy, you’ll understand why the product name is Otoko ume. It’s not an onna (womanly) taste at all. The candy really tastes like authentic umeboshi, which is not sweet but intensely sour and salty. The strong flavor attracts mostly male consumers, some of whom always keep the candy in their offices. There is an old Japanese word, masurao, meaning “a strong, brave man.” I guess guys who get hooked on this Otoko ume candy may feel masurao – the ideal man – with its bold package design and taste which is unlike the most sweet candies.

2) New forms, new taste
The products in the picture, above left, are all unique. The one in the picture, top center, is a sheet-like umeboshi of less than one millimeter in thickness and less than one gram in weight. However, it tastes very much like umeboshi and looks like microfilm. In addition, ume products including umeboshi flavored nori sheets, hoshiume which look like seedless dried fruits, and umeboshi gummi candies, are popular because of their novelty in shape and texture. I guess these handy and tiny snacks are often consumed by those who quit smoking or are on a diet, as they probably want to put something in their mouth. So far, those kinds of products have mostly contained westernized supplementary nutritional ingredients including vitamin C, collagen, and calcium. However, those containing traditional Japanese ingredients like umeboshi have gradually become popular as well. Maybe it suggests that our health-oriented mindset is shifting somewhat from chemicals to organics, from Western to Eastern medicine.

Speaking of new textures, “Umeshiso gohan” in the picture, above right, is an advanced version of traditional ume onigiri. The new onigiri is made of a mixed rice containing umeboshi, pickled ume with a crunchy texture, and akajiso. It has a nice color. You feel something new in the combination of sour taste and crunchy texture.

My study has concluded that Japanese people think traditional Japanese flavors are cool. And it is amazing that umeboshi, one of Japan’s traditional ingredients, is now widely used in snacks. We always want to eat good healthy foods; that remains unchanged. However, I wonder if our interests are shifting in a new direction, to traditional Japanese ingredients. These days, various foods from all over the world are available to us and we can take every chance to taste them. However, the ones that best suit our tastes and energize our bodies are traditional Japanese foods. I suppose that based on that train of thought, we see umeboshi-flavored products being developed and becoming popular in convenience stores.

Due to a weaker yen, the streets of Asakusa now bustle with so many foreigners attracted to the keyword “Cool Japan.” When it comes to traditional Japanese food, people from other countries used to say “eww…” when eating nori and umeboshi 20 years ago. They said no to sour, salty umeboshi, as well as to black color foods. They wouldn’t even consider trying any of it. The dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that adults in general should consume no more than 6 g of salt(2,300 mg of sodium)per day. About two pieces of umeboshi contains this amount of salt.

I personally think that umeboshi is currently popular in Japan because the Japanese think it’s enough and no longer need Western-type supplements. Thus far, adding vitamins to food products such as soft drinks and jelly has enhanced them significantly. These days, ume and umeboshi, whose ingredients cannot be clearly indicated, have gained popular acceptance. Why? Maybe people have gotten tired of checking nutritional labels and have come to think Cool Japan is nice, too. Above all, the onigiri containing umeboshi, crunchy pickled ume, and hijiki, somehow tastes good even when you have little appetite. And then you feel better somehow. That’s why ume and umeboshi have attained popularity. I think when people are shopping at convenience stores, they used to rely primarily on proven nutrition information when selecting items but now tend to rely on their own five senses, and it’s nice to see it happen.

Manufacturers who marketed products with proven nutritional value found that the popularity of such products were temporary and saw a sharp decline in sales within a year. However, another line of products using ume and umeboshi has shown a steady increase in sales. If manufacturers see that ume products continue to show good performance without an expensive ad campaign, they may consider those products more cost-effective. At any rate, That’s a positive trend, isn’t it? Umeboshi is not expensive; high-end pieces cost around 200 yen, tops. Ume-infused products may help revitalize small and medium-sized Japanese businesses who make real umeboshi in local towns.

Reported by Yukari Aoike and Akiko Sugahara, Sugahara Institute

Umeboshi, a Traditional Japanese Food – Part II

My mother has been making umeboshi every year since I was very young. One day, after I got married and left my parents’ home, I wanted umeboshi and bought some at a store. I was disappointed with the taste of the store-bought umeboshi, though they looked so good and were rather pricey. The type on the market these days is not very salty or sour; it’s not what I think umeboshi should be. Since many people prefer a low-salt diet for health reasons, low-salt umeboshi has been more popular on the market. These, however, contain sweeteners and food coloring and I wonder whether they provide umeboshi’s original health benefits.

So I asked my mother to make her all-natural, homemade, sour and salty umeboshi. She has achieved a considerable reputation as an umeboshi-maker in her neighborhood. While I have been able to obtain good quality umeboshi without too much effort so far, my mother has been getting older and it is a physical burden for her to carry heavy loads of umeboshi ingredients home from the shops and to work on the pickling in standing or sitting positions. Therefore, I made up my mind to learn how to make good umeboshi directly from my mother, the umeboshi master.

It seems that many of you think making homemade umeboshi takes extra effort and time. Actually, it takes only a month to make umeboshi, from the beginning to the end of the rainy season. It’s an incredible, long life food you can make quickly and easily. Many people are too busy to make homemade preserved food these days; however, I would recommend you make homemade umeboshi because of the low cost, as those on the market are expensive and contain additives.

In order to make umeboshi, you will need: yellow ripe ume fruits, salt (approx.. 15% the total weight of the ume), shochu (Japanese distilled spirits, for disinfectant), a housing for pickling (an enameled or food grade plastic container), a drop lid, a weight, bunches of akajiso (purple perilla herbs), a zaru (draining basket), and a storage container.

In late June, during the rainy season, obtain ripe ume fruits. After rinsing the fruit, put them into a pickling container. Pour water into the container to soak them. Remove the ume and water from the container the following day and clean the container. Take out the stems of the ume one by one and put them into the shochu-sterilized container with salt (top-left image). Put the shochu-sterilized drop lid on the salted ume, then put the weight on the lid (top-middle image), close the outside lid and then place the container in a well-ventilated place. There will be plenty of moisture from the ume due to the osmotic water shift (top-right image). This sour and salty liquid is called umezu.

When you have an adequate amount of umezu, put akajiso into the pickle. Rinse akajiso leaves in water, and then rub the leaves with salt to remove harshness and rinse them well in water. Squeeze the water from the akajiso leaves and pour a small amount of umezu into the akajiso and rub the leaves a bit and squeeze them. Spread the prepared akajiso on the ume in the pickling container (top-left image), and put the drop lid, weight, and the outer lid back on. Allow the mixture to pickle until around late July, at the end of the rainy season. During the sunny days immediately following the rainy season, put the ume and squeezed akajiso on a zaru to dry outside during daylight hours for three days (top-middle image). This is umeboshi. Put the umeboshi and akajiso into a shochu- sterilized storage container with a small amount of coarse sugar and keep the container in a cool place (top-right image).

Umeboshi is used in many different ways besides consumption. For example, sardines cooked with umeboshi are tasty with no fishy odor so you can eat the fish whole. You can also use umezu, a byproduct of umeboshi pickling, to make nagaimo (Chinese yam) pickles (top-right image). The pale rose-colored yam pickles look elegant with a crisp texture. Making homemade pickles like these will be a benefit considering how expensive they are in stores.

It seems that umeboshi recipes vary slightly by area or household. The umeboshi that are pickled in a clean environment and firmly dried can be stored for several years even at room temperature. Now that I have learned the efficacy and how to make umeboshi, I plan to make the pickles every year and someday pass the recipe on to someone so that this traditional Japanese food does not decline.

Next, I will report on current umeboshi-related food trends.

Reported by Yukari Aoike, Sugahara Institute

Supporting Tohoku one glass at a time

Posted on The Japan Times by MELINDA JOE

On the grapevine: A recent Wine Aid for East Japan event aimed to raise money for charities in Tohoku. | MELINDA JOE

On a Saturday evening in late July, Wine Aid for East Japan began, appropriately, with a toast. Now in its third year, the event, organized by professionals in the wine industry to raise money for charities in the Tohoku region, featured over 100 premium wines and a buffet showcasing ingredients from northeastern Japan. The opening remarks culminated in a catchy slogan expressing hope for Tohoku’s recovery through food: Yo naoshi-wa, shoku naoshi (Changing the way we eat to change the world).

While wine was the main draw of the event, the focus was on Tohoku’s farming and fishing industries, which have continued to struggle with the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. This year, Wine Aid’s organizers had invited a handful of agricultural producers from Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures to introduce their products and mingle with the crowd.

The idea, says event director Hiroshi Miyagawa, is to “use food as a means of encouraging financial recovery” and to give consumers a chance to “talk face-to-face with producers.” Guests murmured appreciatively as they tucked into plates piled high with rosy-pink slices of roast short-horn beef from Iwate Prefecture, baked salmon in cream sauce and squid-ink paella made with seafood from the Minamisanriku area.

At the back of the banquet hall, Hiroyuki Takahashi, president of Tohoku Kaikon, a nonprofit that promotes the region’s food culture, passed out copies of “Tohoku Taberu Tsushin,” the organization’s monthly magazine. Takahashi also spoke with people about the current situation in the tsunami-stricken areas. Although oyster beds off the coast of northern Japan were almost completely destroyed in 2011, he says that overall conditions are improving.

“The sea is in better shape now than even before the disaster. The water is clean, and soil that has flowed into it has enriched the ocean floor with nutrients,” he told me.

Takahashi remains “optimistic” but notes that the fishermen and farmers in Tohoku rely on markets in major urban areas such as Tokyo. “The producers are getting back on their feet, and if people in Tokyo eat more foods from Tohoku, it will help the industry flourish,” he said.

All of the proceeds from the Wine Aid event are donated to charity organizations based in Tohoku: the Foundation for Cooperative Community Creation, which offers assistance to seniors; and two organizations that concentrate on providing resources for children, the Ashinaga Foundation and the Peace Project. Last year, Wine Aid raised ¥2 million, and tickets for this year’s event were nearly sold out.

But volunteer Mitsy Murata, a sommelier at the wine-distribution company St. Helena 1934, points out that long-term support for recovery efforts is essential: “It’s difficult because people don’t have the same feeling as they did at the time of the earthquake, but our theme is, ‘Do not forget, and keep working,’ ” she said.

Miyagawa said that the organizers of the Wine Aid event intend to continue the program for as long as possible. “If everyone can do what they can, no matter how small, it can help speed recovery in Tohoku. For me, that’s wine, but I think everyone can find something to contribute,” he concluded.

URL: The Japan Times

Umeboshi, a Traditional Japanese Food – Part I

Did you know that July 30th is Umeboshi Day? Umeboshi, pickled ume plum, is a traditional Japanese food. As an ingredient, it is indispensable for hinomaru bento, onigiri (rice balls), makizushi (sushi rolls), etc. There is a saying, “Eat an umeboshi and you will be safe from trouble for the day.” The July 30th Umeboshi Day was inspired by this saying, by a Wakayama-based company that processes and distributes plums.

When I was a kid and had a cold or upset stomach, my mother made rice porridge with umeboshi for me. I was able to eat this though I had little appetite and got some of my energy back; it’s a miracle food. Rice porridge is for kids, but for fathers the miracle food is ochazuke. In Japan, fathers typically go for a drink after work with colleagues as a way of better communicating with them. Fired up about their office stories, they overindulge in sake. What they really want at the end of the day is ume chazuke, a dish prepared by pouring either green tea or dashi soup over rice, topped with sour umeboshi and richly-flavored nori. Thanks to the ochazuke, those fathers can avoid hangovers and feel ready for work the next day.

In this way, eating umeboshi can help us on a daily basis. Umeboshi has actually long been considered both a food and a medicine. Umeboshi is made by pickling ume fruits with salt, then drying them. Ume originates from China and is said to have come to Japan around the Nara Period. At first, ume was appreciated for its flowers, but when it was discovered that the fruit was medicinal, it came to be processed the way it is today.

During the Warring States Period, samurai warriors went off to war carrying peppercorns, umeboshi, and dried rice as field rations. Peppercorns worked as an analeptic agent. Umeboshi was not for consumption but just for looking and as a saliva stimulant so that samurai could eat dried rice without other foods. Samurai ate umeboshi infrequently in order to conserve it as a medicine. Recently, those wartime foods for samurai have gained attention as “bushi meshi.” Today, the above-mentioned ume chazuke, a food for company employees, may be a sort of bushi meshi since we see the food energize those corporate warriors.

Over the years, the Japanese people have learned that umeboshi has great effectiveness. Since onigiri with umeboshi rarely spoils, it is certain that umeboshi has antibacterial properties. And as previously described, it also has healing and soothing effects. Plum extract, an ume juice concentrate, has been on the market for more than 60 years as a high-priced health food popular with many users. In the recent years, those plum extract products have evolved into state-of-the-art supplements containing the extract as well as sugar and vitamins, which have blood-flow and fatigue-strength improvement effects for athletes like cyclists and track-and-field stars. The power of umeboshi may have a lot of room for further growth. Details of umeboshi’s ingredients and efficacy will be explained at another time.

Next, I will show you simple steps to make umeboshi at home.

Reported by Yukari Aoike, Sugahara Institute