What the heck is black garlic?

Good morning everyone,

I hope you're not the kind of person who gets depressed in rainy weather, otherwise you're going to be really depressed over the next week or so. They are calling for rain every day for the next week or so...let's hope they revise that at some point. I don't think I could handle such bad weather for so long...especially in autumn, which usually has the best weather here.

While not new, black garlic has been in the news back home recently (meaning the last 5 years or so) for its health benefits and, thanks to one of my students, I finally got to try it the other day.

Do you know what it is?
Actually, it's pretty simple to explain. It's just normal garlic that has been heated at a low temperature for 14-40 days (if you're a science geek and want to know, that reaction is called the 'Maillard reaction'). That's it. The chemicals in the garlic break down and give it the black color and sweet, sticky texture without adding anything else.
black garlick

There are some claims that black garlic is good for you and there's some science to back it up. You see, white garlic contains antimicrobial, antibiotic and antifungal agents in its active ingredient, allicin. When it turns black in the heating process it a chemical, S-allylcysteine appears and this S-allylcysteine assists with the absorption of allicin, therefore making it more effective against infections. It's also got all the anti-oxidant benefits of white garlic as well.

But probably the best part of black garlic is that the heating process that turns it black also removes almost all the smell, so you can eat a lot more garlic without the stinky breath or b.o.

The taste is a bit sweet...almost like a sweet vinegar...I guess it could be used in salad dressings or even some meat dishes. Or you can just eat it straight, like we did. I'm sure it tastes great with a glass of beer...next time.

How about you? Have you tried it? Do you think it has a lot of health benefits?

Have a great day!

Priorites mixed up

Good morning everyone,

It's looking like the nice warm, sunny weather of fall is over and...rainy season is back?! There is rain in the forecast every day for the next 5 days. Actually, if it rains every day for the next 5 days, it'll probably be more rain than we saw during rainy season...ha ha! It's going to be cooler too-which is a good thing. I'm still using my A/C at work!

I'm going to whinge about priorities of the courts in Japan, so if you are the type of person who thinks that I don't have the right to do so, stop reading here and wait until tomorrow when I post about something cool that's coming soon in Japan.

Did you read about the penalty that the government has to pay for causing noise pollution at Yokota Air Base? Well, it's Y610 million. Yes, that's 61 with 7 0s behind it (Y610,000,000). If it's annoying and disturbing locals, I don't have any problem with the government being forced to shell out that kind of money.

The problem I have with that is that when compared to a couple of other recent penalties, it looks awfully high.

TEPCO, whose negligence and mismanagement has caused so much damage to Fukushima in particular and Japan's image in general that it's impossible to actually calculate, was told that it will have to pay Y500 million in total damages to the prefectures affected. That's Y110 million less than they'll pay in Yokota for causing noise problems.

Dentsu, who has a history of overworking it's employees (there are now 2 deaths officially linked to Dentsu), was given a fine of Y500, 000. Yep. That's it. Two people die and countless more suffer stress and health problems from overwork and they pay a fine that is less than what one of their executives will get for a bonus (probably about a quarter of what he'll get).

In light of those two-and those are two that I can think of just off the top of my head, it seems to me that the court is hardly playing fair. Disturbing someone's daily nap is worth 12 times as much as people's lives? Does that seem right to you? I think the government (and the courts) should remember how valuable the lives of our young people are and punish those companies who are abusing them and not waste valuable time and money dealing with frivolous claims.

That's all of my ranting for today.

I promise that tomorrow's blog will be lighter.

Have a great day!

Time to mature your chocolate eating habits

Good morning everyone,

Are you enjoying the warm weather these past couple of days? I know I am. However, today will be the last one for a while-starting tomorrow we'll see cloudy or rainy weather for the next week or so and daytime highs in the low 20s. As long as the rain isn't too heavy, it'll be good weather for the race in Masuda.

Pocky manages to occupy a pretty enviable spot among Japanese snack food lovers. The chocolate-covered sticks are sweet enough to be loved by kids, but they also have an elegantly understated look and aren’t super-sugary, which means adults can also enjoy them while maintaining a level of sophistication. As a matter of fact, many grown-ups enjoy pairing Pocky with alcoholic beverages, which is something maker Glico capitalized on last year with its Adult Amber Pocky-designed to complement the flavor of a glass of whiskey.

Now Glico is taking inspiration from another adult beverage, as its newest offering, Pocky Goddess Ruby, is meant to be enjoyed while sipping on red wine.

Although the Adult Amber contained malt extract, Goddess Ruby was created to enhance your wine-drinking experience without containing any wine ingredients itself. The pretzel stick core is flavored with cheddar cheese, black pepper, and cloves, while the bitter chocolate coating is infused with three types of berry flavors, making for a collection of spicy, sweet, and bitter notes that reflects the complexity of high-quality red wines.

Goddess Ruby goes on sale October 24, and while it’s not being sold exclusively online, Glico says that the easiest place to get ahold of the red wine Pocky will be Amazon Japan, where orders can already be placed for 998 yen for a container with six individually sealed pouches. The Adult Amber is also once again going on sale, also for 998 yen, and between the two we’re kind of hoping that a hangover-relief Pocky is the next project in Glico’s pipeline.

Have a great day!

What's ACV?

Good morning everyone,

If you saw a foreigner walking around downtown in shorts, a t-shirt and sandals yesterday, it might have been me. I know it's October, but it was almost 30C! And it's going to be the same today and tomorrow before slowly cooling down and by the end of the week we may see daytime highs around 20C. Where's the nice weather I usually expect from fall this year? It feels more like the unpredictable weather of spring at the moment...

Have you ever tried ACV? I'm not really into fads about food, but when I heard about this one, my ears perked up and I bought a bottle. I just started taking it, so no idea if it works for me or not, but anyway...

You’ve probably heard the claims. (for you English students: that is the proper way to use 'claim') But even if you are aware of all that apple cider vinegar has to offer, you might find it hard to believe that just one food can offer so many benefits. Surprisingly, it’s true!  Drinking apple cider vinegar daily is a sure fire way to improve every aspect of your health and your life.

Raw, organic, unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (or ‘ACV’ for short) is one of the oldest and most useful remedies on Earth.  It contains a wealth of raw enzymes and beneficial bacteria which are responsible for the majority of it’s health benefits (and there are many!)  The following are 11 reasons that you should start drinking a modest amount of ACV every day.

1. It Will Help Your Body Maintain a Healthy Alkaline pH Level

Most of us tend to be more acidic than alkaline. One of the first steps toward better health is a body that’s more alkaline. As the acid-alkaline balance is essential, with so many bodily functions occurring only at a certain level of acidity or alkalinity, the body is constantly striving to achieve a state of equilibrium. Just a small change in pH can have a profound effect on body functioning.

The first step towards great health begins with helping the body become more alkaline. The acid-alkaline balance is important, since many functions in the body occur only at a certain level of acidity or alkalinity. Many enzymes and chemical reactions in the body work best at a particular pH, and research has shown that high acid levels lead to a lack of energy, and higher incidences of infection.

While you might think that raw organic ACV is acidic, when consumed, it actually becomes alkaline. Acid forming foods include things like processed foods, alcohol, sugar and other simple carbohydrates. Keeping your body more alkaline will naturally help keep your energy levels up and better able it to fight off illness and disease.

2. Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Helps to Regulate Blood Sugar

A study conducted out of Arizona State University by professor and director of the Nutrition Department Dr. Carol Johnston supports the therapeutic effects of drinking apple cider vinegar, particularly those who are at risk for type 2 diabetes. The authors of the study, which was presented at the 2013 Experimental Biology Conference in Boston, noted that ingesting ACV at meal time increased satiety and reduced postprandial glycemia, both metabolic effects that may benefit those who struggle with prediabetes as well as diabetes.

The researchers found that taking two tablespoons of ACV in water just before bed lowered blood sugar levels an average of 4 to 6 percent by morning.

3. Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help Lower Blood Pressure

There is also scientific evidence that ACV may help lower blood pressure, which in turn, lessens the risk of heart disease. ACV contains potassium, which is known to help balance the body’s sodium levels and maintain optimal blood pressure. It also contains magnesium, which helps to relax blood vessels walls, and ultimately lower blood pressure

4. Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Improves Heart Health 

In addition to lowering blood pressure, which lessens the risk of heart disease, drinking ACV can help increase HDL, or “good” cholesterol, according to a 2006 study reported in Medscape General Medicine. Other research, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2011, also confirmed these findings, and researchers also discovered that ACV can help control triglycerides.

ACV is also believed to contain the antioxidant chlorogenic acid, which has been scientifically shown to protect LDL cholesterol particles from becoming oxidized, a key step in the process of heart disease.

5. Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Accelerates Weight Loss

Adding two teaspoons of ACV to 16 ounces of water and sipping it throughout the day may help boost weight loss efforts. All types of vinegars have been used over the years to aid weight loss, because they help make you feel full – as the study out of Arizona just mentioned, it’s been scientifically shown to increase satiety.

A study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry showed that participants who consumed ACV for 12 weeks managed to achieve significant declines in body weight as well as abdominal fat, waist circumference and triglycerides.

Other research out of Japan found that overweight participants who drank ACV every day for 12 weeks had less visceral fat, lower waist circumference and a lower BMI as compared to those who didn’t drink apple cider vinegar.

6. Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help to Prevent Osteoporosis

More than one in four women in America over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. To get this diagnosis means that they’ve lost 50 to 75 percent of the original bone material from their skeleton. This frightening condition is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide – about one of every 10 women aged 60, one of every five women aged 70, and two of every five women aged 80.

Obviously, preventing this disease before it ravages your bones is key, and as ACV aids in the nutrient absorption of calcium, an essential mineral for preventing osteoporosis, it’s one of the best tools you can use to reduce your risk. By drinking it along with each meal, it will help to ensure proper calcium absorption to strengthen your bones.

7. Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Slows the Aging Process

Other than the wisdom and experience gained by becoming older, few people look forward to the physical signs of aging, like wrinkles and sagging skin. The antioxidant properties in vinegar can help prevent premature aging and even aid in slowing down the aging process. ACV’s ability to maintain the stability of the acid/alkaline balance in the body also plays a key role.

To be honest, there were like 30 different health benefits, but the blog was getting too long as it was...if you're really interested, it might be worthwhile to look it up in Japanese...

When buying apple cider vinegar it is imperative to choose a bottle that is organic, non-GMO, unpasteurized, raw and unfiltered containing “the Mother” – a combination of enzymes, proteins and probiotic bacteria.

Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar contains all of the above and is the one I bought. You can get it on Amazon...other than that, just remember that it's not the same as apple vinegar....

Have a great day!

Great for university students with roommates

Good morning everyone,

How is this weather? This is perfect for me! I can handle this weather all year long...unfortunately it's only going to last another day or so and then we'll see grey skies and slightly cooler weather towards the end of the week.

I wish I had these when I was a student...

There are few pleasures in life so satisfyingly simple as making your way home from a long day at work or school and knowing that there’s delicious ice cream waiting in your freezer for you. The other side of that coin, though, is that few things are so crushingly disappointing as walking in the door, opening up the freezer, and finding that a hungry housemate or sweet-toothed sibling decided to help themselves to your dessert while you were out.

One way of dealing with this is to grab a marker and write your name on your sweets, but even that won’t safeguard you against unscrupulous roommates who’ll just lie and say they didn’t see the written proof of ownership. But I may have recently stumbled across what seems to be a near-foolproof way of protecting your ice cream.

do not eat

While checking out the freezer section at discount retailer Don Quixote, I was surprised to notice what appeared to be reusable ice packs mixed in amongst the ice cream options. They even have the plain packaging and large “DO NOT EAT” printed warnings common to many non-edible gel packs, but a closer look revealed a few unusual things.

For starters, underneath “DO NOT EAT” was written, in Japanese, “Tabete wa dame.” While that does indeed translate to “Don’t eat this,” the connotation of dame isn’t that the item is inedible, but that permission to eat it has not been granted. Sure enough, the reverse side of the package revealed the secret: these aren’t ice packs at all, but cleverly disguised individual servings of Black Mont Blanc, the favorite ice cream snack of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu!

▼ The standard Black Mont Blanc Package

▼ An unwrapped Black Mont Blanc, an ice cream bar covered in chocolate and cookie chunks

It’s actually an incredibly clever idea by manufacturer Takeshita Seika. Don't you think this is a cool way to make sure no one pilfers your frozen treats?

Have a great day!