The Japanese Mojo

by Marie Doezema on August 26, 2015

In Japan, isoku dogen means “food is medicine” or, literally, “food and medicine come from the same source.” For centuries, certain ingredients–from fermented soybeans and seaweed to miso and green tea–have been celebrated and consumed for their healing powers. In recent years many of these foods have become regular features of Western diets, and certain traditional Japanese ingredients revered for their unique flavor and powerful health benefits have become increasingly popular in the United States.

In 2001, a book called “The Okinawa Program,” by Bradley Willcox, M.D., D. Craig Willcox, Ph.D., and Makoto Suzuki, M.D., revealed the 10 principles of the Okinawan diet, thought to be key to the Japanese island having some of the longest living people in the world. Like many of the foods recommended for healing after or during cancer treatment, the diet is high in antioxidants and fiber, rich in whole grains and vegetables and low in saturated fats.

Incorporating traditional Japanese ingredients into your diet can be a useful way to make healthy, protein-rich and easy to digest meals during treatment. One particularly healing dish, okayu, is comforting and simple. Humble but nourishing, Okayu is often served at Zen temples for breakfast and frequently given to babies as their first solid meal. It’s also the Japanese version of chicken soup–thought to help heal a cold or flu, or to strengthen a weakened immune system.

It’s warm, easy to make and digest, and flexible. Using brown rice instead of white increases cooking time but also gives the benefit of added fiber and nutrients.  Leftover rice can be used to make this quickly.  You can make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge to reheat for up to 3 days. 

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