I’ve been really interested recently in Ayurveda, living life with an equilibrium with my body and the seasons to try and make sure I’m not fighting the elements, encourage mind and body to feel balanced. According to Chinese medicine, winter broths are the best thing for the body at this time of the year – hydrating and warming.
As often happens, we’ve been fighting winter lurgy relentlessly – Freddie was ill with a chest infection and fever for what felt like an eternity and wouldn’t eat anything at all in that time (god bless Magic Boob, is all I can say). Talk about 15 day shred. He’s lost his toddler belly and now looks about 2 feet taller and leaner. He’s a fussy little fellow at the best of times – proving the Supermum Myth notion that any smugness you’re allowed in motherhood is swiftly overturned at the whim of your children: Maurice was a “great eater” and would happily guzzle pretty much whatever he was given. Freddie on the other hand would happily live on boob and chocolate fingers and nothing else. But, the other day I was eating a miso soup for my lunch, and he said “SOUP! I need soup!” And so a wonderful relationship has been born. Every day for the past week I have given him miso broth with rice boiled for a long time so that it breaks down, to create a gut-soothing congee. I’ve thrown as much broccoli or other surrepticious vegetable that I can sneak in, and salmon or chicken. And wow he’s been lapping it up.
It’s made me review my diet a bit as well. I’ve been lazy/generally disorganised over the past few months as I race along in the Rush Hour parenting traffic juggling work and mumming. Lunch was usually pasta with pesto, or something similarly unimaginative and heavy, leaving me feeling nutritionally empty and sluggish. I also wasn’t focusing on my taste buds particularly, favouring the same foods every day with no spice or natural addition of flavour. This might have been causing my body to crave “umami”, the fifth taste alongside sweet, bitter, sour and salty. Umami is that 3D depth of flavour in your food, the je ne sais quoi mmmm bliss point where sweet meets salty, such as found in a really fine and delicious cheddar, a plump and ripe grilled tomato, or a fat and juicy mushroom. This umami craving is also often sated by synthetic flavour enhancers too such as the sweety salty morish taste of crisps or other refined carbs, and additives such as MSG, which spell trouble for your body and do your health no favours. So if you’re craving umami, but filling that craving with artificial flavourings, it’s not the best thing for your health and wellbeing.
So I’ve decided to have a gut-friendly umami January: I’m doing Dry January and having a look at my alcohol habit, and I’m going to have a month of miso soup lunches to find my umami fix. I love miso soup, when I lived in Japan it was a staple every day, without thinking about its health benefits. It’s so easy to make and packed with nutrients, soothing and filling yet light on your system. Every day I’ll have a miso broth for my lunch…with noodles, rice, salmon or tofu, packed with whatever vegetables I can manage to cram into the small saucepan: rainbow chard, broccoli, spring onions, sweetcorn, mushrooms, red pepper, garlic, a small pinch of chill flakes for added heat and to blow any cold away. Plus, there’s no need for extra seasoning as it’s brimming with taste and nutritional power.
Miso is unusually rich in nutrients, and unpasteurised miso paste contains beneficial bacteria, which aids your digestive process and gives your immune system a boost by enhancing your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Miso contains huge amounts of vitamins, including vitamins B, E, K, plus calcium, iron, potassium….the list goes on. Miso is also particularly high in antioxidants, which remove dangerous free radicals from the body. Free radicals are cell-destroying chemicals that have been linked to degenerative diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even the effects of ageing. You have to be careful to buy miso which is, if not organic, without additives, as some contain MSG.
So if you’re feeling a bit slow, coldy and sluggish as winter envelopes you, and seem to be craving salty sweet foods to perk up your energy, maybe have a look into trying a miso power lunch project of your own. Mmmm.