Spotlight: Natto (Fermented Soybeans)

Being half Japanese comes with it’s perks, one of those being a broadened spectrum in all things regarding gastronomy.

Natto may scare the living daylights out of some, or have the others sighing in pleasure – the wafting aroma that can only be oxygen deprived bacterial growth accumulating on week old soybeans definitely stirs up some mixed reactions in people.

The little pocket usually comes with two sauce-type sachets, one is an amber fluid (soy sauce) the other is a yellowish smaller packet of mustard.

These little white mystery packs contain a deliciousness that is hands down one of my staples. 
You can add both, or none! (though I would personally recommend adding the soy sauce) – otherwise the end product is quite bland.

Mix the two together and you create a marriage of flavoury goodness.

FYI: The sticky- ladyfinger/okra snail-like slime enveloping these once vibrant green legumes comes as a shock to many Westerners. Or maybe it’s just the smell?

Forget your Spirulina shakes or poached eggs with avocado for brekky. Like most health foods – Natto boasts some of the best macronutrients around.

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Breakdown: Nutrient style.

A cup of this stuff contains HALF your recommended protein and Magnesium and over 80% of your recommended iron intake! (Take that steak!) Not to mention the generous addition of calcium and vitamin C contained in there too (1).

Add some avocado and you have yourself a… (yes I’m actually going to do this)

vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free, gluten free, meat free, whatever the hell else superfood!

I just had this delightful beauty for lunch!

The combination of high protein, paired with the fiber and iron of this breakfast staple in japan will refuel my muscles with energy (still aching from that body attack class I did an hour earlier).

There was also a japanese study in the journal of nutrition stating that Natto had the highest single source of the vitamin K2 in foodstuff, this was linked to an endemic population that had significantly higher levels of bone health (2).

Maybe this is why you don’t see many Obachans (Grannies) confined to wheelchairs in their mid 80’s?!

You won’t find Natto in your local Coles or Woolies – check out japanese specialty stores such as GoGo Mart.

A few weeks left of my Uni holidays, can’t wait to go back and learn some more. My brain is yearning knowledge!

Eat well, sleep well, eat some more. 

===Anna Freeman===

=== Student Dietitian===

Biography:

  1. http://www.nutritionvalue.org/Natto_nutritional_value.html
  2. Kaneki, M., Hedges, S., Hosoi, T., Fujiwara, S., Lyons, A., & Crean, S. et al. (2001). Japanese fermented soybean food as the major determinant of the large geographic difference in circulating levels of vitamin K2. Nutrition, 17(4), 315-321. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0899-9007(00)00554-2
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A childhood in brief 

Coming from a Japenese mother and British father, my childhood was interesting to say the least. Having spent 5 years of it in Japan, I have fond memories of gathering under the household ‘kotasu’ (an unground sauna/ table of sorts that warms your bottom half from below) especially after those cold days and even colder nights.

I remember from my prepubescent height; looking up to see my Dad’s frothing  glass of Sapporo beer on the kotasu top. Consensation sticking heavily to the glass.

 The television reflecting some shockingly idiotic Japanese panel show, with enough vividity and saturated colour on the set to make you question whether you were watching a childrens program.

I remember the ever constant, barely audible bickering; between my mum and grandma or, ‘Bahbah‘ as I called her.

The bright screen of my Nintendo DS and the steady, predictable melody of 16bit Pokemon Emerald music pushing my consciousness to sleep each night…

And then waking up to the gorgeous smell of a home cooked breakfast, what could it be?

Fluffy Rice, whiter then snow, toast as thick as your head, sticky fermented beans (possibly one of my favourites), or yellow pickles that crunched as loud as the freshest apples of autumn.

Those were the days, when I was a kid I remember life being so much more…. simpler…..

Every goal was achievable and every mountain could be climbed. I was a bundle of flexible flesh with enough energy to make wild stallions look lax. An Imagination running rife, so strong sometimes that i swear i saw something  I had only dreamed about; right there, fading in and out of my periphery

dreams are the stories of the soul (balcony, at 5:30am 2015)
When you were a kid, did to ever look outside the window of your parents car, and imagine a shadow keeping up with you? Jumping, leaping and scaling over multiple bridges and rocks, ever constant yet, always present?

Did you wonder where the clouds go on a daily basis, question if they’ve been around  the world and seen things you never would?

palm beach sunset 4/6/15
Or how you wish you could be a tireless bird and travel the seas for days? Stop time and see everyone who was frozen in place… With the ability to read, learn and observe the world in your own eternity?
With an ever present fascination stemming from my core, I would scavenge under rocks for hours looking for insects, worms, centipedes, termites. Anything that moved or gave the slightest hint of harbouring life. Believing I would find some ancient remnants of a temple or talisman that had been forgottern for a millennia.

Tokyo. mt Takao summit
One of the most enjoyable things I remember doing as a kid; was playing the part of, (what I believed at the time to be);

God.

Every afternoon after school, I was perhaps 12 or 13 at this time. I would stop at this same unremarkable fence post in the hill. It was nothing really, just a lone rotting stick in the ground.

To every other passer-by, the post in the ground would have been meaningless. To the child version of myself, it was magical. For it was at this pile of wood that a large colony of Australian bullants chose to make their home.

How did that ant know where to go? Would it get lost? Does it have a family? What does it think or feel? Do they talk to each other?

Silly questions to ponder perhaps, in the huge scheme of things that dictates our lives today. Who would care less about a lowly ant colony? They’re just an annoyance right? An indication of untidiness, unorder and demolition in a household.

Taking a minute to actually observe these seemingly insignificant Arthropods however; proved not only enjoyable, but fascinating to me.

What seemed like haphazard disorganisation was actually effective co-operation. New materials seemed to arrive constantly.

A grasshopper carcass, peices of leaf, white specks that I could only presume to be ant larvae. The ants never tired, all identical, as if controlled by one mind.

After observing this symbiosis with nature, I began to wonder if any external influences would change the colony’s’ attitude.
I dropped a peice of sandwich crust smack bang; in the main route. Almost instantly the ants began to amass on the new addition, an allostetic effect.

Before long, a small portion of my lunch had disappeared down into the depths of the underworld. And there, at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to be an ant, travel like they did, see what they saw. Escape the world that was school and family drama.

Other days when I was especially pissed off (every kid has these days), I changed my outlook; this time I decided not to be benevolent, but rather; destructive.

The ants had their periodic feast, so now the famine must follow.

Glug,Glug,Glug; I would pour water down the anthill, an unseasonal tsunami. It would disappear as quickly as it came. And then, an eruption of ants would follow the chaos, scampering out in apparent distress.

More or less satisfied, I would scamper off up the hill to my house, feeling the familiar sensation of pins and needles running down my gastroenimus due to squatting so long.

I would continue this trend until I was in highschool. I still walked past the colony with less frequency than before, until one day….I stopped  pausing at the fence post altogether.

Deciding I had more pressing matters than to cause some distress to the ants. I dismissed the idea to look and see how the miniature world was fairing.

….And in time, I forgot about exploring all together. 

When and what had changed this seemingly ignorant yet placated  outlook on life?

Was it puberty? Unlike a caterpillar  metamorphosis, I didn’t feel any different, any more smart or elegant after puberty. In fact, I still think that adorkable little kid who found rocks interesting had a much more fascinating outlook on life than I do today.
Which is why it tugs at my heartstrings when I see girls, much too young, wearing stilettos, wearing body tight crop tops. Growing up all too fast,  and wanting to do so, much too quickly.

Call me old, but you should Love being a kid, go and mess around, make mistakes and seize opportunities; childhood should be savoured, Because sooner or later it’ll be gone.