06 June 2013

book musings: Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyama

Following from the theme of my last post, this one is also about food. Or at least, it's about a book on food. I ran across this book at the library a while ago, and hadn't felt like picking it up, though the title amused me. The other day, though, I went to the library and browsed through the cookbook section, looking for recipes with fewer carbs, since that's something I now have to limit more. I was disappointed with most of the books on the topic, to be honest, since they were mostly about losing weight, rather than a diet for a pregnant woman with gestational diabetes. I'm not supposed to be losing weight while the baby's in the middle of her third trimester growth spurt. I'm sure there's at least one book on the topic, but it was not on the shelf in front of me. I picked up one book and returned it a few days later, not impressed

From http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/Edamame_by_Zesmerelda_in_Chicago.jpg
Then I spotted this book I'd noticed on a previous trip. It's about Japanese home cooking, and is titled Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen. The author, Naomi Moriyama, lives in New York but was raised in Japan and frequently visits her family in Tokyo. The book is co-written with her husband. The title made me smile, because it reminded me, of course, of Mireille Guiliano's book, French Women Don't Get Fat, which annoyed me because the writing style felt more than a little patronizing. Moriyama's book, on the other hand, didn't provoke that response in me. Her genuine enthusiasm for the topic, for her culture, and for food is very apparent. She's as quick to point out the problems in the typical Japanese diet as she is to highlight the health benefits. The major problems she mentions are too much sodium and too much white rice, both easily solved problems with the replacement of low-sodium options and brown rice. There is also typically less dairy in the Japanese diet than in the Canadian diet (though since I don't remember what other things have significant amounts of calcium, this lack may be compensated for in other ways).

However, the emphasis on fresh lightly cooked vegetables, fruit, fish, smaller portions, and not eating to the point of complete satiety are very good things. There's also a heavy emphasis on green tea, although she is careful to stress that tea's beneficial properties have only been researched to a small extent, and all that we can really say is that it has lots of antioxidants in it, and it's a nice calorie-free option (since my dietician has told me that she'd prefer me to eat, rather than drink, my calories, I've been more inclined to eat fruit rather than drink fruit juice and have been drinking lots of water and decaf tea).

One of the other foods highlighted in this book is soy. Moriyama cites the studies on this food, but clarifies that the "soy is good for you" studies and the "soy is bad for you" studies aren't yet extensive enough to provide very concrete information, but soy beans in their less processed forms are probably better for you than a soy protein shake (not surprising). We like tofu since I figured out what to do with it a few years ago (my first attempt at cooking tofu was not a success), and edamame is easy to find in the frozen vegetables section. Actually, it's one of the few frozen vegetables I've bought, since I've never been keen on the combo packs of frozen veggies and I don't like corn. Usually we get frozen peas or green beans, which then get used in stir fries or curries.

So I've been giving edamame a try as a snack in the afternoon. It's a good choice so far. I realized a couple days ago, based on some of the things I have to test, that I wasn't eating quite enough, so I've been trying to bump up my caloric intake without going too far on the carb front. It's harder than I thought, because what I want to eat are more carbs, and if I don't want my blood sugar to spike, that's not an option.

Anyway, the book's a fun read, and there are some great recipes. I can't try all of them right now, and I must admit the book made me long for sushi, which I can't have until after the baby's born, but the principles in it are rather useful for thinking about a long-term healthy diet. 

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