Mmm umami

Hello world

A nutritional blogette today. This year has been a year of trying to get back on my feet in terms of my health, having been feeling slightly under par for a while. I’ve recently become interested in the idea of “clean eating”, where you eat food as close to its original state as possible: fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, and try to avoid being overloaded with additives and preservatives, which can happen easily in our fast paced world of convenience food. Essentially, if you have a long ingredients list on any given meal component, and if any of the ingredients are unpronounceable, chances are it’s not clean eating. Your body will function much more efficiently without too much to process. 

I began to have a look at how I eat day to day, and realised that my system may need a bit of an autumn clean. For example, for lunch I tend to eat after Maurice has gone for his nap, which means I have limited time to make my lunch before I then have to get on with whatever other things on my to do list in that time. Lunch was usually pasta with pesto, or something similarly unimaginative and heavy. And due to the heaviness I then didn’t move around much in the hour before Maurice woke again, leaving me feeling a bit sluggish. I also wasn’t focusing on my taste buds particularly, favouring the same foods every day with no spice or natural addition of flavour. This might have been causing my body to crave “umami”, the fifth taste alongside sweet, bitter, sour and salty. Umami is that 3D depth of flavour in your food, the je ne sais quoi mmmm bliss point where sweet meets salty, such as found in a really fine and delicious cheddar, a wonderfully plump and ripe tomato, or a sumptuous mushroom. This umami craving is also often sated by synthetic flavour enhancers too such as the sweety salty morish taste of crisps or other refined carbs, and additives such as MSG, which spell trouble for your body and do your health no favours. So if you’re craving umami, but filling that craving with artificial flavourings, it’s not the best thing for your health and wellbeing.

Learning more about clean eating, and reading about Chinese medicine and the view that in winter broths are the best thing for the body – hydrating and warming, I decided as we enter winter to have a month of miso soup lunches to find my umami fix. I love miso soup, when I lived in Japan it was a staple every day, without thinking about its health benefits. It’s so easy to make and packed with nutrients, soothing and filling yet light on your system. Every day for the past month I have had a miso broth for my lunch. Usually with noodles, sometimes with rice, salmon or tofu, always packed with whatever vegetables I can manage to cram into the small saucepan: rainbow chard, broccoli, spring onions, sweetcorn, mushrooms, red pepper, garlic, a small pinch of chill flakes for added heat and to blow any cold away. Amazingly, there’s no need for extra seasoning as it’s brimming with taste and nutritional power.

Miso is unusually rich in nutrients, and unpasteurised miso paste contains beneficial bacteria, which aids your digestive process and gives your immune system a boost by enhancing your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Miso contains huge amounts of vitamins, including vitamins B, E, K, plus calcium, iron, potassium….the list goes on. Miso is also particularly high in antioxidants, which remove dangerous free radicals from the body. Free radicals are cell-destroying chemicals that have been linked to degenerative diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even the effects of ageing. You have to be careful to buy miso which is, if not organic, without additives, as some contain MSG which I discovered a week into my project and turned my feeling of triumph at having been a clean eater into disappointment.

I’ve been doing this for 3 weeks now, my miso project. And I’ve also freed up time and energy to practise 20 minutes or more of yoga and Pilates a day. it’s amazing what you can achieve if you just set aside the time to do it. As a result, I seem to have lost 2kg without agonising over it, and feel lighter and more sprightly, and better equipped to stand in front of my Pilates clients.

So if you’re feeling a bit slow, coldy and sluggish as winter draws in, and seem to be craving salty sweet foods to perk up your energy, maybe have a look into trying a miso power lunch project of your own. Mmmm.

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