Why did I just find this “Caspian sea” yogurt!?

This amazing “Caspian sea” yogurt has been sitting in supermarkets for years. I have seen it but never ever picked it up. And now I feel guilty. Only until a couple of days ago I ran out of yogurt and somehow decided to buy this home. The next morning the Aha moment happened to me when I dipped a spoon in the tub and lifted it. The waterfall of rich and creamy yogurt stretched from my spoon into the bowl. Never seen anything like it. Not as concentrated as the greek yogurt, but very stretchy and creamy like glue. (okay that is just to give you a mental picture)

There are 2 brands of caspian sea yogurt I spotted and tried recently:

1. Glico’s non-fat caspian sea yogurt (left)

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This “Caspian sea” yogurt is so dense, so creamy, so soft, and yet so low in calories! Per 100 grams, it contains only 40 kcal with 0 g. of fat. Unlike other “non-fat” yogurt, it doesn’t contain sugar either! WIth equal proportion of carbs and protein (about 5 g. each) it is actually an ideal yogurt to support the morning routine. Again, normal non-fat yogurt needs a lot of added sugar to compensate for the lack of fat, hence making it high in carbs and is unnaturally sweet – almost to the point of too sweet for some of the brands. This added sugar also liquefies the yogurt, making the texture very watery. When poured out of the tub, you can observe water coming out first.

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2. Fujikko’s Mochiri (right)

This is smaller in size and has some sugar added. One serving is about 100 kcal, 10 g. carbs, 5.5 g. of protein, and 4.5 g. of fat. This is SUPER DENSE AND CREAMY AND CONCENTRATED. YOU NEED TO TRY THIS. Period. No more I could say. It’s so good and satisfying. If you’re hungry in the middle of the day or have a late night working day. Go to any convenience store and grab this little magic in your hand. Your tongue and stomach will love you for doing so. It has 1/3 calories of normal cream cheese, and is suggested as the alternative thereof to spread on a baguette. As dense as greek yogurt, but the texture in your mouth would be different.

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If you spot these fancy blue tubs of yogurt in any supermarket, just be brave and give them a try!! I think they will be really good for baking as well! Indulge people!

A little bit more about Caspian sea yogurt itself, you can read more here: What is Caspian sea yogurt?

A short excerpt from that website: 

Caspian Sea Yogurt is different from regular yogurt in its viscous texture and mellow taste. The viscous component EPS is produced by Cremoris FC. which is found to have many health benefits:

  • Improve of constipation
  • Prevention of declining skin condition by stress and other skin disorder, like Atopy
  • Increase the activity of cells related immune system in the body and prevent from disease
  • Suppression of cholesterol and its absorption

Dr.Yamori, Honnor professor of Kyoto University investigated the foods consumed in the Cocassas region, the birthplace of this Caspian sea yogurt. Among several yogurts, he found that Caspian sea yogurt might be the long kept secret of the people’s long longevity.

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Innovative containers: Morinaga VS Meiji: 新鮮な「しまるボトル」森永 VS 明治

Recently, Japan has been really innovative about how containers look like. In part, I think they stimulate interest in consumers, making them pick up the product and hence increase the possibility of the first trial. It’s really refreshing to see this kind of innovation starting to pick up the pace in Japan. While flavors and contents of drinks are always changing depending on the seasons, their containers have remained the same for the past years. Only recently that Morinaga has started the trend.

First and most exciting innovation would be PREMiL! New concept of milk targeting those in their 40s-60s. There are 2 types of product options: one with fortified calcium and protein but still creamy (in blue color) AND one with added fiber and BB536 bacteria (purple color).

Now..look at their packaging! People thought these are yogurt drink at first…because the color and shape is similar to the existing package of some yogurt brands. When they picked the product up, read about it, the surprise factor came in when they realized it’s actually milk! The idea is that it would be easy to open, to pour (so the milk won’t spill if you squeeze the bottle too hard), and to keep. Some complain that it might be difficult when you need to cut the bottle for recycle purpose. Read more here: PREMiL

And then…Meiji followed suit with this bottle series…called “Shimaru bottle”. Shimaru is to close something – in this case the bottle.
Recently launched in combini are 2 variations of dairy drink: super creamy latte and matcha latte. Claiming that the cap allows you to keep the milk from spilling and to keep it for later consumption in case you don’t finish the whole thing. (the term “re-cap” is used in Japanese) Most products in the market are in the form of tetra box, so once you open you can’t really keep it long. Read more here: Shimaru bottle
Here is how the “Shiro no hito toki” (creamy latte) and matcha latte look like:
明治白のひととき 430ml辻利 かほり抹茶ラテ 430ml

They look pretty similar, no? What do you think? Do these new shape of bottle makes you wanna buy more?

Coconut water: why so popular?? 「ココナッツウォーター」なぜ人気が高いのか?

Japan has finally embraced the health trend of “coconut water” from the US. But do people really know what it is good for or why or when to drink it? Let’s check it out!

1. It is said to be a natural “sports drink” as it helps recover many nutrients after workout. For many people in tropical countries, coconut water is just like one of the juices that we drink for refreshment. In Thailand, we drink it all the time..or at least when we spot it! it has has less sugar than many sports drinks and much less sugar than sodas and some fruit juices. It has simple sugar that can be absorbed easily, as well as electrolytes and minerals to replenish your body from dehydration.

2. Don’t get confused with coconut “milk”. Coconut water can be found inside the fruit once its top is cut open. Normally, we just drop a straw into the fruit and drink it fresh! Coconut milk, on the other hand, is extracted from grounding the coconut white flesh together with the juice to get white concentrated liquid, which by the way has a bit of unique smell…Coconut milk is used a lot in cooking (eg. soup and desserts) to give a very rich flavor and texture. Be careful of the amount of coconut “milk” as it is very high in saturated fat.

3. Its appeals are that it has lower calories with very little fat but comes with packages of nutrients.
– Per 240 ml (1 cup), the calories are only 46 and almost trace amount of fat.
– contains Potassium more than 2 bananas.
– has Magnesium, Calcium, and other nutrients that help rep up the enzymes and activate your metabolism.
– helps you revive from tiredness and is said to be an effective detox

4. When to drink it? AFTER you exercise and sweat, or after coming up from Ofuro. It would really help re-hydrate you after you lose some nutrients along with your sweat. However, make sure you only drink 1-2 servings a day and not more (just like how you would drink your sports drink). 325 ml of coconut milk contains about 450-680 mg of Potassium so you don’t want to overdo it! (females should take about 2000 mg of Potassium, and males 2500 mg a day) When combined with other food you’ll be eating in one day, it could be very easy to overtake it so…just be moderate as like any other food.

Now that you know what it is and when to drink it, next time you might wanna grab it with you on your trip to the gym.

PS: This is my mom’s favorite drink of all time lol

Diet survival tips: Thai food!! : 【タイレストラン版】ダイエット中のフードガイド

Maybe some of you would think that Thai food is always safe when it comes to diet (or safer than Chinese at least). As a Thai, I would really urge you to think again. Each restaurant makes food differently and calories might vary from one to another. However, as the standard way of making some basic menus is quite the same, I wanna share here about the calories behind the most popular Thai dishes in Japan. And you be the judge!

1. Kapao Kai (minced chicken and basil stir-fried with fried-egg) 鶏肉のバジル炒めご飯

I can’t deny: this dish is the most popular, flavorful, and quickest that you can order. Especially, if you go to the place where they make fried-egg in Thai style for you, it will even harder to resist. (Thai style fried-egg is VERY crispy around the edge as the egg is drop into a wok full of lots of oil, as pictured above) The amount of rice might vary but would definitely be more than the average amount we eat in Thailand. Thus, this would add up to the calories unfortunately. Normally, Kapao dish would range between 550 – 630 kcal, but might go up to 750 if you order Oomori in Japan! However, if you look at the components of the dish, it gives you pretty good amount of protein!

How to go about Kapao if you’re on a diet?
1) Use tissue paper to absorb all the oil left on the fried-egg. You’ll wanna pat it dry! If possible, also pat dry the oil around the plate left from the stir-fry
2) Ask for small amount of rice (少な目にする)or ask for a separate dish, then HALF (or more) your rice. What is left on your plate would be what you’ll eat.
3) If cucumber is provided, you can try ask for more. If soup is in the set, drink the soup first so you’ll be full easier; help stop yourself from eating unnecessary calories that could be left behind.

2. Pad-thai (stir-fried noodles with egg/tofu) タイ風やきそば(パッタイ)

Another popular dish that is served in almost all Thai restaurants here. And as Japanese love for noodles is second to none, they usually add more amount of noodles in this Pad-thai dish than is usually served in Thailand. It ranges from 545-600 kcal and can go up to more than that if more noodles. Why are the calories so high? Well, if done in the traditional way, we use a wok and fill it with lots of oil, then go a couple of eggs, tofu, noodles, bean sprout, dried shrimps, etc. and seasonings such as (quite a lot of) sugar, peanuts, a bit of chili, and so on. We usually have several kinds of veggies to eat on the side but those are rare in Japan so the plate usually come out pretty bare here. The way Pad-thai is made here might vary and some may not be as oily as others, but still, you should keep in mind that this menu is one of those with high calories.

How to go about Pad-thai if you’re on a diet?
Sadly, I would just say SKIP it or HALF and SHARE it with your friend. You can order some salad or soup as a side dish and have half of your Pad-thai. (some girls who’re on a diet do that in Thailand)

3. Green curry (chicken) 鶏肉のグリーンカレー

From being a basic menu in Thai cuisine, green curry has ascended into a more international rank: it’s served in most of the cafes in Japan and has so many kinds of variations. However, the authentic one would incorporate real coconut milk, chicken, eggplant, and lots of different herbs. It is generally a healthy menu! And I’d recommend your order this as one bowl of this would be about 240 kcal. Not too bad, right?

How to go about Green Curry if you’re on a diet?
1) Generally it is safe to order green curry. HOWEVER, be mindful of the amount of rice! Because in Japan, soup usually comes in smaller bowl than rice (it goes the opposite in Thailand), so HALF it before you eat. (And put a bit of fish sauce on the rice cuz it tastes sooooo gooddd!!! ><)
2) DON’T DRINK THE SOUP. When you’re done with the meat and veggies and rice, and there’s some soup left, you don’t need to drink all of that. Why? Because although coconut milk receives some halo that it’s good for your health, it is high in saturated fat so the right amount is the key. You might save yourself a hundred calories sans the soup!

4. Kao Man Kai (steamed chicken with oily rice) ゆで鶏のせ炊き込みご飯(カオマンガイ)

This healthy-looking dish needs your attention! The steamed chicken is, YES, healthy. BUT the rice is definitely not good for your diet plan as it is full of oil which gives it the amazing aroma and taste that goes so well with the chicken! One dish ranges from 596 kcal and up. This does not take various sauces into account. Generally, it CAN be a very healthy menu that you want to order. Just keep in mind that if there’s another variation of this, called fried-chicken with oily rice (Kao Man Kai Tod), just ditch it altogether.

How to go about Kao Man Kai if you’re on a diet?
1) Ask for normal white jasmine rice. HALF it if it’s too much. This saves you hundreds of calories so it is a MUST!
2) Ask for more cucumber. More veggies is always good for ya!
3) See if you can get okawari for the soup. Usually it is a special kind of soup that is only served with this menu. You should drink the soup first to start your meal. See if the soup is oily, if not you might ask for the second serving to replace the rice that is if you halved it.

There’re still a lot of menus here that you need to know so I’ll just make a short list of Dos and Donts:
Donts:
– Any kind of fried rice (oil is added to rice so the calories start at 550 kcal upward. Not a good choice. Half it/share it/or ask for smaller portion of rice)
– Dense desserts (such as the pumpkin in coconut syrup (185 kcal) or pumpkin San-ka-ya cake (288 kcal per square!) or dumpling in warm coconut milk (223 kcal)…Just don’t order desserts with coconut milk in it. period. Order something that’s served with ice and have clear soup. Don’t drink the syrup.)
– Anything with stir-fried noodles (usually heavy sugar and oil)
– Anything deep-fried (such as deep-fried spring rolls, shrimp cake/fish cake…though sound healthy, they are just NOT)
– Thai milk tea (the one with orange color. You’ll be drink pure sugar, baby lol)

Dos:
– Noodle dish with clear soup! (Ask to change the noodles to Harusame (the transparent and slim noodles), choose the menu with lots of protein like pork or meat, ask for more toppings if it’s free, ask them to EXCLUDE the crispy-fried garlic as it comes with oil)
– Tom Yum Kung (Yes, the most well-known menu of all time! It’s good for you as it includes so many herbs and chili that helps speed your metabolism. Also the veggies and seafood is diet-friendly. Just be sure NOT to order it with RAMEN. Just have it with jasmine rice. Perfect!)
– FRESH spring rolls (See if the shop puts too much noodles and rice paper or not; try to choose spring rolls with just veggies inside and watch the dipping sauce!)
– Tropical fruits! (just cuz they’re awesome!)

Now enjoy the spice and keep your diet on track!

Burn your body fat with “Catechin” drinks! : 「カテキン」が含む飲料で体脂肪を燃やす!

Following the introduction of Chitosan in my previous post, this time I wanna raise another popular health key term in Japan: Catechin (or pronounced as Kai-te-kin in Japanese). You can see catechin being included in so many tea drinks in the convenience stores, accompanied with a claim that they could help you burn your body fat. What is up with this health trend? And how does this catechin really work?

 

The brand you might probably see the most is called “Healthya” or pronounced as “he-ru-chia” in Japanese. (pictured above) The products that are quite popular right now among young working people (with quite high health awareness) is the green and blue drinks above. They include 540 mg of catechin in one bottle, to be consumed one bottle a day. If consumed consecutively for many months, it will help you create a body with high metabolism rate, thus, burning fat easily. check out its website for more details here: http://www.kao.co.jp/healthya/catechin/

You need to know here that drinking a bottle after an unhealthy meal doesn’t cancel that meal, make it healthier, or block the fat from entering your body. Drinking catechin should be seen as an accumulated effort in constructing a new inner body system that would be easier to burn fat. It’s actually a long-term effort. According to a research, you will start seeing result after at least 3 months of DAILY consumption. 

So what is catechin?
It is a type of natural phenol and antioxidant, a part of  the chemical family of flavonoids, a term that might be frequent with which can be found in soy products, cocoa, or red wine for example. (Wikipedia) Among its many types of catechins, only one of them is said to have this effect: Epicatechin gallate (ECg) (let’s call it “Gallete-type catechin”). How it helps reduce fat in your boday? To make it simple to understand: When fat is consumed through food, it would be absorbed in small intestine, where the digestive enzyme called Lipase breaks down the fat particles so they can be absorbed. Gallete-type catechin blocks the action of lipase, thus, lessens fat to be absorbed into the body. On the other hand, when cholesterol is consumed, it would be incorporated into small particles called micelles produced by bile that’s released from the gall bladder. These micelles would in turn be absorbed into the body in the small intestine. Gallete-type catechin would extract the cholesterol from these micelles, thus lessen the cholesterol level to be absorbed into the body.

(Find out more here: http://www.itoen.co.jp/catechin/gallate/)

I would suggest you try the blue healthya bottle above!! It includes 540 mg of catechins, which is approximately about 8 cups of green tea (because after comparing the products, this product seems to contain the highest amount of catechins). I know that it might not be possible for us to keep making green tea and drinking it the whole day. So for that, you can take this drink instead if you wanna try. It would taste quite bitter but that’s because it contains catechin. The down side of this is probable the cost: it’s sold at 194 yen per bottle. (which is, to be fair, the average price for all “healthy” tea drinks nowadays after tax increase T__T)

Chitosan: how it really works as diet pills? : 「キトサン」って本当にやせる効果があるの?

This post is for those of you who have tried out several diet pills that are highly popular in Japan. Many foreigners visit chain drug stores and buy loads of different diet pills back home. I would say I had my own experience as well until recently I started to get curious of how these pills are different from each other and do they really work?? One day I visited a Matsumoto Kiyoshi store in Harajuku and was examining this particular diet product called “After Diet” (アフターダイエット)that claims to work when you take it AFTER meal. (Normal pills require you to take BEFORE meal). (Picture below) And the counter guy told me that “actually there is a more effective product if you’re looking for this particular ingredient.” He referred to Chitosan. What he suggested me instead is another popular product in Japan from a brand called Livita; it’s called Chitosan Aojiru (キトサン青汁), looking like green powder that you use to mix in water. (second picture below)

What I learned from talking to this guy is that the “Livita” product could guarantee more results. From the picture, you can see the circle logo with a stick-man inside. That is called “Tokuho” logo, which is given to products that are guaranteed to be effective and safe for general consumption. Anyway, that all brought my attention to what Chitosan really is and why is it used so much in different diet pills.

 So what is Chitosan?

From WedMD: Chitosan is a sugar that is obtained from the hard outer skeleton of shellfish, including crab, lobster, and shrimp. It is used to treat obesity, high cholesterol, Crohn’s disease, “tired blood” (anemia), loss of strength and appetite, and trouble sleeping (insomnia).

From Wikipedia: Chitosan is widely marketed as diet pills as a “fat binder” which is supposed to limit fat absorption in the body. In an experimental model of the digestive tract, chitosan was shown to interact with oil, which inhibited absorption and enhanced lipid excretion, but the interaction between chitosan and fat is still not well understood. It is also under research for several potential dietary applications. One of them being as a soluble dietary fiber, causing the movement in your digestive tract to slow down, hence slowing down your sense of hunger. It is relatively INSOLUBLE in water, but can be dissolved in acids, which would make it a highly-sticky dietary fiber to say in plain word. Such fibers might inhibit the uptake of fat by increasing the thickness of inner layer of the intestines (observed in animals).

Well, this is the origin of why chitosan is being advertised as capable to “slow down the absorption of fat” (脂肪の吸収を抑える). You can actually see this claim everywhere now. Go to combini and you will see so many brands of tea with the “Tokuho” logo, claiming that the tea could slow down the fat absorption and should be drunk together or after an oily meal. Another type would be the “body metabolism enhancer” (脂肪を燃やす) type, which I’m not gonna talk about today.

Basically, chitosan acts as a very cool type of fiber that interferes with the fat absorbing process after you eat. That is pretty much all there is to the claim in terms of weight loss and diet pills. Of course, it has many other useful applications in other fields.

Some considerations to think about when taking chitosan:

1. Fiber is good for you and can help with your constipation problem. But taking too much fiber can also be the CAUSE of it. Too much is never good.
2. If you have allergy to seafood like crab or shrimp, then you shouldn’t really risk.

Notes:

– You can’t really obtain chitosan even though you eat seafood. That is because chitosan is extracted from the shells and not the flesh that you eat.
– The claim that chitosan would attach itself to a fat particle, wrap itself around it, and together would be excreted from the body has not been sufficiently supported by evidence. It could do that in WATER, but not in acidic environment, which is basically that of your intestinal tract.

As is the case with other ingredients, diet pills make chitosan sound amazing and give us high expectation that it would really work. However, I think the best way is to incorporate it with a healthy lifestyle; not relying solely on the effect of pills that is going to vary depending on each person’s condition. Train yourself to choose good food is always better than indulging in oily food then taking 3-4 pills hoping that that would be all it takes to stop the fat from entering your body.

Source:
http://allabout.co.jp/gm/gc/252955/2/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitosan
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-625-CHITOSAN.aspx?activeIngredientId=625&activeIngredientName=CHITOSAN

Tropi-coco: Japan’s own coconut water from Morinaga! : 森永のトロピココ…新たな健康流行 日本に登場!

In fact, coconut water is a health trend that started quite a long time ago in the West, but it seems that this trend is just about to boom in Japan. There are imported products that I saw before in Seijo-ishii supermarket, but now Morinaga has taken the market opportunity in its own hands and has launched its very own coconut water line called “Tropic Coco”! 

Now sold in almost every combini since its launch on April 22nd, it is a new choice for female early adapters who now have more choices than just veggies drinks or collagen drinks. With 95 kcal per box (330 ml), it boasts health benefits such as Calcium, Magnesium, and lots of other nutrients; accentuated with honey and juice; helps hydrate your body in many scenarios and lifestyles; provided with a cap ready to drink and an easy-to-grip box shape. Could be kept up to 70 days before opened. (from http://www.tropicoco.jp/product)

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Let’s see how long this trend will continue, and whether it would be the next health halo in Japan! 

Keep an eye on it Japanese girls!