Posts Tagged ‘diets’

Japan’s tomato boom not yet bust

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Back in February, a seemingly unstoppable river of tomato juice was flowing out of supermarket doors up and down the country as Japanese shoppers jumped on the latest food fad to hit the nation. The frenzy had been sparked by a report written by researchers at Kyoto University that seemed to indicate that consuming large amounts of tomatoes was effective in alleviating “metabolic syndrome” (read: getting rid of your gut). Nearly six months later, although the tide of red pulp has slowed somewhat, sales of tomato juice are still significantly up, indicating that the trend is still in season.

Tomatoes are still on the menu in Japan

Kagome, who own a whopping half share in the domestic tomato juice market, report that they shipped double the amount of tomato juice in June this year compared to the same period in previous years. A Nikkei Shimbun article reports that sales of fresh tomatoes are also up, with Summit supermarket recording a 21 percent year-on-year rise in tomato sales this June.

It would be easy to call the jump in fresh tomato sales a statistical anomaly, since radiation anxiety made last year an exceptionally poor one for fresh veggie sales. But there is other evidence that home-makers are flocking back to the humble tomato. Recipe website Cookpad now has about 105,000 tomatotastic recipes submitted by users. Before the tomato boom, there were about 1,000 contributions per month for new tomato recipes. After the fad hit, that figure rose to 2,500.

Meiji Dairies Corporation, along with the Japan Vegetable Sommeliers Association, has been trying to generate public interest in the idea of vegetable chocolate fondue since last summer. Tying in nicely with the trend for gourmet vegetables, the idea is that you can savor the tangy acidity of your tomatoes alongside the sweet taste of chocolate. (You can simulate the experience somewhat by grabbing a pack of Meiji’s Chocolat de Tomato.)

The trend of appreciating gourmet vegetables has run alongside the home vegetable gardening boom, and in this sphere too, tomatoes are prominent. Home improvement store Cainz reported a 50 percent increase in sales of tomato seeds in March this year. No doubt fears over food safety and temporary food shortages after the 3.11 Fukushima meltdown has had an effect on this sudden burst of interest.

Tomato growers have been quick to cash in on the increased interest. Sasaichi sake brewers in Yamanashi, for instance, has developed a tomato liquor made from fresh tomatoes grown in the area, while in Takasaki, Gunma, a tomato ice cream has been on sale since July 27. So it seems the juice has not quite yet run out of the tomato boom.

Photo by tooony [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Enzyme cocktails for better health?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

neoenzyme

A sip of Neoenzyme for what ails you?

Japan likes a good fad diet as much as any developed nation. As the U.S. has nibbled its way through the grapefruit diet, the Atkins diet and the Paleo diet, Japan has sampled the konnyaku diet, the morning banana diet and the hot pepper diet. The next trend in get-thin-quick schemes appears to be the enzyme diet (酵素ダイ).

There are dozens of varieties of kouso (enzyme) drinks, many packaged in tall glass bottles and labeled with ornate kanji that make them look like a bit like fancy liqueurs. There are enzyme drinks and tablets that tout natural ingredients such as papayas, brown rice and yeast. There are other drinks with vaguely sci-fi names like Ultraenzyme, Cosmic Enzyme and Neoenzyme.

The enzymes are taken diluted in water or gulped straight. They can be taken either as part of a fast, as a supplement to a reduced-calorie diet plan or simply along with regular meals. While they are all made by different companies and have varying ingredients, as a group, they make the usual wonder-supplement promises: easier weight loss, more energy, glowing skin.

Fermentation, an enzyme-driven reaction, has a long history as an important part of the Japanese diet. It’s what makes sake alcoholic and soy sauce flavorful and what has turned soy beans into natto, the sticky, stinky breakfast fuel of Japanese champions for the last thousand years or so. So it’s not such a stretch that people would continue to seek its health benefits, even — maybe especially — if it’s all in the form of a pale pink bottle with a heart on it or a cherry red liquid made from dozens of fruits, vegetables, herbs and seaweed.

A month’s supply runs from ¥730 for the papaya tablets to over ¥10,000 for a 720-ml bottle of Neoenzyme. Do they work? A website that ranks and compiles user feedback for different enzyme diet products has a space for “good” and “bad” opinions for each product. While each has its fans (“I’ve never had so much energy!”), quite a few also have comments like “I paid ¥18,000 for three bottles and barely lost a kilo,” and for another, “The taste made it undrinkable.”

What do you think? Are these pungent proteins really the way to get healthy? Or just another way to lose more money than weight?

Pulsations (09.13.10)

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

Pulsations (08.13.10)

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

Japan by the numbers (06.28.10)

Monday, June 28th, 2010

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