Have you heard about natto? Or umeboshi? Here's a continuation of 5 Traditional Japanese Superfoods and How To Use Them. In this list, there will be more superfoods and more different ways to incorporate any of these ingredients into your daily cooking or lifestyle. These superfoods range from drinks, condiments, to vegetables and vegetable-based products. Next time you stop by the Japanese supermarket, don't forget to add these to your grocery list.

6. Miso

soup, miso soup, broth, vegetable
Judy Holtz

Miso is considered one of Japan's most important seasonings; it is part of the five seasonings that make up the phonetic saying "Sa-shi-su-se-so," because of the so in miso. It is the basis of Japanese cooking; it's used as a base for soups, marinades, noodles, and in braised or pickled dishes. Japanese home cooking includes using lots of miso, especially for making soup. Most people are familiar with white miso, but there are also many other varieties including yellow or red miso. If you step into a Japanese grocery store, there may be an entire section dedicated for all the types of miso.

Miso is a popular breakfast dish to help digestion and help build a stronger immune system. Since it is made out of soybeans fermented with salt and a koji starter (fungus), it contains millions of helpful bacteria, or probiotics that boost the immune system. It also contains vitamin K, copper, zinc, and protein. Miso can be added into soups, or as a marinade or seasoning to add plenty of flavor into any seafood, meat, or vegetable dish. 

7. Mugicha 

Leslie Lee

Mugicha is also known as roasted barley tea and is a summer staple in any Japanese household. It's also common in Korea and China as well. Since it is not made out of tea leaves, it is caffeine-free.  However, since barley is a grain, it is possible that mugicha is not gluten-free. It is usually drank cold during summer, but can be served all year. Like most Japanese teas, sugar is usually not added. 

Since mugicha is often a summer drink, Japanese people believe that it helps with dehydration and can cleanse the body. Mugicha can help protect against cavities, by inhibiting the bacteria Streptococcus mutans from adhering to teeth. It is also rich in antioxidants to help lower blood pressure and improve blood circulation. Traditional mugicha is brewed using the roasted barley simmered in hot water, but there are many kinds of packaged tea bags available for both brewed and cold-brewed versions of the tea. 

8. Konnyaku


chidorian on Flickr

Konnyaku is made from the konjac plant, which is also known as the devil's tongue plant. It is made from the konjac's corm, or bulbous underground stem. The typical grey-ish hue and spotted black dots in konnyaku is from hijiki seaweed that is added to it during the production process. It has a rubbery texture, and almost no taste. As a result, it is usually found in oden, a one-pot dish in a dashi broth. It can also be made into long, white noodles known as shirataki, which literally means white waterfall. It is also made into popular jelly snacks, and it is listed in the ingredients as "konjac jelly." 

Konnyaku has virtually no calories, but is packed with fiber.  Konnyaku is essentially made up of water and fiber. As a result, it is nicknamed "broom for the stomach," because in a sense, it can help clean out the small intestine. Since fiber also helps absorb sugar in the bloodstream, konnyaku can reduce blood sugar and normalize cholesterol levels. Konjac noodles can be used as a noodles substitute, or put in soups or broths as an ingredient. 

9. Wakame

Ever wondered what type of seaweed is floating around in miso soup? That's right, it's wakame. It's a type of edible brown seaweed that is used in a variety of dishes: soups, salads, snacks, stir fry, side dishes, or even mixed into rice like the photo above. It's also commonly used as a topping on noodles, such as ramen or udon. It can be typically bought dry, which can then be rehydrated later. As a result, it has a long shelf life and is a staple in any type of Japanese cooking. 

A 2006 study by scientists at Hokkaido university showed that wakame contains a compound called fucoxanthin that can help burn fat. It contains minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, and iodine, which can helps promote blood production, protect bones, balance hormones, and even help prevent breast cancer. It is also anti-inflammatory, meaning it can help decrease chances of heartburn and hypertension. Wakame can easily be bought at any Asian grocery supermarket and added into soups directly or rehydrated and added into vegetable dishes.

10. Shiso


snak on Flickr

Ever wonder what is the green leaf that separates different kind of sashimi? Many mistake it as just a decoration to separate the fish; it is meant to be eaten with the sashimi. Shiso is a type of Japanese perilla plant that is used widely across all types of Japanese cooking. Perilla is also heavily used in Korean cooking, but the Japanese version is a little different. It is quite a versatile herb; it is used as a garnish for almost any kind of dish. It can be used in onigiri, topped on rice, paired with meats, or even made into shiso oil. Red shiso leaves can also be infused into shiso juice, which can be flavored with lemon or other citrus flavors. Red shiso is also what gives umeboshi and pickled ginger its pink color. 

Shiso contains vitamin A, iron, and calcium.  Because of its high iron content, it is believed to help prevent anemia and improve blood circulation. It is also anti-inflammatory, which can help boost the immune system. Red shiso contains anthocyanin, which is the reddish-purple pigment found in many antioxidant-rich plants. Shiso oil contains healthy omega-3 fatty-acids, which is also found in fish and avocado. Shiso is fairly easy to grow; it can self-seed and may be considered an invasive plant in same areas. Next time, try shiso by garnishing it on pasta, seafood, or tofu. It can also be mixed into rice or used as a topping for ochazuke. 

This concludes part two of the list of Japanese Superfoods! There are so many different kinds of superfoods full of health benefits in Japanese cooking; there's no doubt why Japanese people have such good health. Can you spot some of the superfoods from this list in the photo above? Healthy eating and living can be fun, exciting, and educational. Try some recipes or switching up your palette by adding some of these Japanese ingredients!