The hot summer months have just begun here in Japan, and along with that comes 夏バテ (natsu bate, summer fatigue) for some. Not to worry, though. The Japanese have found a good way to beat the summer heat by eating foods that are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals that, in effect, increase stamina and naturally cool the body down. Today, we’re going to go over 6 of the best foods to eat to keep you energetic during this long and sweaty season.
1. Buta Niku (Pork)
Pork is rich in vitamin B1 and protein, so it’s definitely not an ingredient to skip during the hot months. Not only does it help you recover from fatigue, the niacin contained in pork is said to play a role in converting sugars and lipids into energy. This process keeps your blood pumping and muscles working efficiently to keep you going throughout the day while at the same time aiding in the repair and restoration process while at rest.
When cooking pork Japanese style, some foods that go well with it are egg plant, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, and kimchi. The site Kinarino has a few ideas on how to incorporate pork into your meals. You can stir-fry it, make soup, or maybe roll it up in some rice paper to make spring rolls—mentsuyu 要么 梅越 sauce are recommended dips for this.
Slightly chilled edamame with a dash of salt is not only a tasty and healthy snack, it’s also a prominent legume in the Japanese diet. It’s rich in vitamin B1 as well as vitamin A—which boosts the immune system—and vitamin C, which helps to shield you from the sun’s powerful UV rays. It also contains a balance of high-quality proteins and minerals, making it one of the top choices for summer-fatigue-fighting foods.
Apart from eating them right out of the pod, you can also add edamame to soups and salads. There’s even a frothy “Edamame soup” recipe on this site!
Although okra is a prominent vegetable throughout the year in Japanese grocery stores, its real home is in the summer. Some might find the slimy texture on the inside off-putting, but it contains essential potassium, sodium, and vitamins for protecting the mucous membranes in the stomach, if you’re one to lose your appetite in the summer.
Cut okra into small rounds and add them to curry, salads, and noodle soups. You can even wrap thin strips of pork around whole okra and fry them up in this recipe.
4. 鰻魚 (Eel)
During the summer, all over Japan you can see eating establishments touting their stamina-boosting 鰻魚. The Japanese believe that this vitamin-rich fish is essential to preventing summer fatigue. It’s packed full of vitamin B1, which is lost throughout the day through sweating. It’s also a great source of vitamin B2, which keeps hair and skin healthy, making you look more youthful and beautiful.
鰻魚 is often eaten on its own like regular fish. However, I found this recipe that adds it to a traditional Italian pasta dish called ペペロンチーノ (peperonchiino) in Japanese. Looks great!
This may come as a no-brainer to westerners. Those cool and sour lemons, crushed, juiced. Stir in some sugar, add ice cubes, and pour into a tall sweaty glass with a straw and lemon slice. Only 25 cents at your neighborhood lemonade stand.
While lemons are known for their vitamin C content, they also contain an abundance of citric acid, which is a known destroyer of summer fatigue. Citric acid is best absorbed in the body when taken together with B-complex-rich foods, so try giving your chicken, salads, or even tofu a healthy and refreshing bite with a squeeze of lemon. And don’t forget to save room for some lemon sorbet for dessert!
6. Spices and Appetite-Stimulating Foods
The bottom line is it’s important to keep yourself well-fed with foods rich in protein and vitamins and minerals in order to supply your body with the adequate fuel it needs to keep going throughout the day. That’s why incorporating spices and appetite-stimulating foods into your diet is also a good idea to keep you from making excuses as to why you can’t get up off the couch to cook your next meal. Japanese doctors recommend these spices and vegetables for their Japanese patients: curry powder, garlic, pepper, horseradish, leeks, shiso leaves, ginger, etc. Citrus fruits such as oranges and condiments like vinegar are also said to improve appetite.
Japan is one of the healthiest countries in the world, so we should take their dietary recommendations seriously. Today, we learned about foods with adequate nutritional content to fight off summer fatigue. With foods such as pork, edamame, okra, 鰻魚, lemon, spices and appetite-stimulating foods, we can supply our bodies with suitable amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals to keep ourselves going well and strong throughout the day. If you have trouble with summer fatigue, try incorporating these foods into your diet just like the healthy Japanese do!