The native guide; All about unique Japan, pub-5441866818918003, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 JAPANESE WELLNESS: HOW TO BOOST MY MENTAL WELL-BEING IN TRADITIONAL JAPANESE CUISINE | Japanmcconnell


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It’s a beautiful day and perfect for outside activities, but you don’t feel active, motivated, and happy…

We call “SATSUKI-BYO” in Japan which literally translates as “May disease” since the new life in school or work starts in April and newbies get tired and are under stress in May.

Indeed, it’s well-known that seasonal changes may cause mental disorders including feeling sluggish, anxious, and unhappy.

As I said, at schools and work, the “unusual” situations keep coming, such as the end of the fiscal year, graduation, transfers, and organizational changes.

In our lives, we have many situations to are easily under stress and gradually affect our minds negatively.

There are several remedies such as doing workouts or sports, walking outside, and spending time with friends, but do you know that you can actually try these foods to help your stress and anxiety?

Not only life and seasonal changes, but also poor diet habits and lack of nutrition cause mental disorders.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, increases in mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress found over the world.

In this season, we are also facing the scare of bad flu.

Well, we have more time at home, let’s eat healthy and nutritious food and boost your health inside out.

For example, It is known that these four types of nutrients are deeply related to mental health-protein, dietary fiber, iron, and folic acid that is essential for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine.



Proteins make up our body- hair, nails, bones, muscles, and organs.

Moreover, they are also the main elements of neurotransmitters in the brain that controls emotions such as “happy”, “sad”, and “motivated”.

Besides, they help protect your mental health from negative emotions, depression, and anxiety.

Proteins are essential nutrients to maintain a healthy body and to manage the brain’s control of emotions properly.

Tryptophan and phenylalanine

Protein is composed of 20 kinds of amino acids, including essential amino acids such as tryptophan and phenylalanine.

Tryptophan and phenylalanine are essential to create neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which controls memory and emotions.

These amino acids (tryptophan, phenylalanine) are related to maintaining mood and energy (by providing well-balanced neurotransmitters), these nutrients are recommended to be taken in a daily diet.

Essential amino acids cannot be produced in your body, so you need to take these foods into your diet.

As well as protein, Tryptophan and phenylalanine are abundant in fish, meat, eggs, soy products, grains, and dairy products and the Japanese traditionally eat soybean products such as tofu, natto, miso, and soy sauce and grains such as rice, and sesame seeds.

Phenylalanine is abundant in legumes. Soybeans are especially abundant.

Here, again, we have many kinds of soybean products in Japanese cuisine.

  • Soybeans
  • Kinako
  • Tofu
  • Fried tofu
  • Natto beans
  • Soy milk

Wheat products also contain phenylalanine and there are traditional Japanese noodles made with wheat such as Udon, Somen, and Hiyamugi noodles.

*The Connection Between Protein and Your Mental Health


Iron and folic acid are also essential in the process of synthesis of neurotransmitters from amino acids.

Iron plays an important role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain that keep the mind healthy, and iron deficiency increases the risk of depression and anxiety.

Menstruating women are especially prone to iron deficiency, so be sure to get enough from your diet.

Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the vitamin B group. Together with iron, it is a nutrient involved in the synthesis of brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

In particular, folate deficiency has been associated with the presence of depression.

The liver is an excellent source of iron, but in Japanese cuisine, there are

  • asari and shijimi clams,
  • bonito
  • sardines
  • tuna
  • “sanma” saury fish
  • Natto beans
  • fried tofu (ganmodoki, atsuage)
  • soy milk
  • “Komatsuna” Japanese mustard spinach
  • “Hijiki” seaweed

Vitamin C can improve the iron absorption efficiency.

Drizzle fresh lemon juice into the grilled meat or fish to increase iron absorption.

It’s also a good idea to eat vegetables such as broccoli and bell peppers, which are rich in vitamin C as a side.

Tannins found in coffee, black tea, or green tea, are known to inhibit iron absorption.

Better to avoid coffee and green tea in meals, and choose water and barley tea that does not contain tannins.

Iron is an essential mineral for your physical and mental health as you know now.

It is known that approximately 1 mg of iron is lost in adult men and approximately 0.8 mg of iron in women during the metabolism each day.

In addition, women lose about 1.5 mg of iron per day during menstruation.

The amount of iron you need per day varies depending on your gender and age, and for women, it also varies depending on your menstruation and whether you are pregnant.

To avoid iron deficiency, it is important to first understand the amount of iron you need.


Bad gut bacteria also like rion.

Iron is the essential nutrient for both your cells and bad bacteria. In other words, our cells and bad bacteria constantly compete for iron intake like a tug of war.

When we continuously eat a high-sugar diet, bad gut bacteria increase, and if the bad bacteria become dominant, we will be deficient in iron.

When you lack iron in your body, the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain may become impaired, and the brain may be unable to control positive and negative emotions.

However, being rushed to take more than enough iron promotes bad bacteria activity.

Iron is an essential mineral, but, we need to keep balance to take iron in diet since it is also the essential food for bad bacteria.

The excess amount of iron intake could be harmful. Most people should be able to get the ideal iron level in a normal diet. Eat a variety of foods that provide iron rather than taking supplements.

Besides, focusing on improving and maintaining the good gut bacteria maintaining or increasing “good” gut bacteria is key.

*Can Iron Deficiency affect your mental health?


If it is hard to take iron in your diet, incorporate cast iron cookware such as skillet, cook pot, and kettle.

As mindfulness and “zen” trends, traditional Japanese cast iron kettles and tea pot get attention.

Castiron kettle is a good provider of iron, and the boiled water tastes better, mild, and mellow.

In this post, I’ll explain a Japanese castiron kettle called “TETSUBIN”.

Be sure that a cast iron tea pot is often called “TETSUBIN”, but to be precise, TETSUBIN refers to a cast iron kettle to boil water, and TETSU KYUSU refers to a teapot to make tea.

Also, TETSU KYUSU commonly applies enamel glaze to the inner pot so it does not provide iron.


These days, it turns out the relationship between gut health and mental wellness.

Poor gut health possibly relates not only to digestion disorder but also affects your mental health negatively such as depression and anxiety.

Contrary, maintaining and improving your microbiome (good gut health) keeps good mental wellness.

Dietary fiber builds gut bacteria, maintains the microbiome, and plays several roles in easing anxiety and rescuing stress while it communicates with the vagus nerve and neurotransmitter release.

Insoluble dietary fiber has the role of increasing stool bulk. It activates intestinal movement and improves bowel movements.

Water-soluble dietary fiber has the function of regulating the microbiome and slowing down the rise in blood sugar levels after meals.

The ideal balance of insoluble dietary fiber and soluble dietary fiber is 2:1 ratio.

Since there are not many foods rich in soluble fiber compared with foods rich in insoluble fiber, so consider taking soluble dietary fiber in your daily diet.

Common foods rich in soluble dietary fiber include barley, natto beans, and kiwi fruits.

Natto bacteria particularly relate to improving gut health while soy protein and isoflavones provide the gut bacteria as a very nutritious food.

For the better benefit of Natto beans, eat with Kimuchi and seaweeds.

  • NUKA-ZUKE pickles
  • Miso
  • Koji Products (shio-koji, soy sauce-koji, amazake)
  • Soy bean products (soy milk, Kinako, Tofu)


You’ll find a variety of foods to boost your mental well-being and often tell you these foods- soy products, fish, vegetables, liver, dairy products, and fermented foods bring nutrition to the brain and guts.

Also, we need to take all kinds of nutritious well-balanced in our daily diet.

The traditional Japanese cuisine called “WASHOKU” provides as well-balanced and nutritious food that we (the Japanese) eat every day.

The image above is a dinner that my mom cooked when I went back to Japan.


Soybean products such as TOFU AND NATTO BEANS are rich in protein and also insoluble dietary fiber.

These products are also rich in soy oligosaccharides that maintain good gut bacteria! 

Among them, natto is rich in iron and folic acid and is easy to take efficiently both nutrition.


Koji is essential to traditional Japanese cuisine.

Koji is a bacteria called Aspergillus Japanese on steamed rice, barley, beans, and fermented.

It brings out the Umami flavor while providing a good source for gut bacteria and improves the preservability of foods.

Many traditional Japanese condiments and fermented foods use koji such as soy sauce and miso, they are essential to the Japanese diet.

In addition, koji is abundant in enzymes and vitamins and is attracting a lot of attention in the beauty and healthy life.

Koji, the gem of enzymes, contains more than 30 types of enzymes, including digestive enzymes such as amylase, lipase, and protease, which promote digestion and absorption and promote good gut bacteria.

In addition, koji produces B vitamins during the fermentation process, which is an essential ingredient for maintaining a healthy mind.

B Vitamins particularly B-12 play a role in the production of brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Some studies report that B vitamins can improve symptoms of depression. In particular, vitamins B2, B6, B12, and folic acid help to improve your mood.


Miso is a popular traditional Japanese food made from soybeans and Koji.

Miso is rich in soy protein, vitamins B1 and B2, and folic acid. Also, since it is a fermented food, it improves and maintains good gut health and an immunity system as well.


The liver is also a great source of iron and folic acid.

The liver menu may not be your common (or favorite), yet, you can often see liver menus in Japan such as in restaurants such as YAKINIKU (Japanese BBQ) or YAKITORI (grilled squared food) and at Izakaya.

Pork liver is rich in iron, and chicken liver is rich in folic acid.

It also contains several essential amino acids and vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12, you may want to try incorporating the liver if you like…

Simmerd liver in sweet and salty sauce is the most common dish in Japanese home cooking.

My mother is not a big fan of liver dishes, but, she often makes this recipe and challenges herself to eat liver dishes for her health.

SIMMERED CHICKEN LIVER, POPULAR JAPANESE LIVER DISH AMAKARA-NI, Japanese food recipe, liver recipe, traditiona


Rico McConnellRico McConnell
I don't say that it's a very yummy dish, but, chicken liver is a super nutritious food and try this dish if you want to be healthy. Actually, there is a chance that you may be addicted when you are an alcoholic beverage connoisseur and a delicacy lover. AMAKARA-NI is a traditional Japanese cooking way that simmers ingredients in a sweet and salty sauce based on soy sauce, sugar, and sake. (and mirin. ) Fresh ginger is the must-item to give fresh spicy flavor and reduce the gamey flavor of the chicken liver.
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 2 servings


  • 0.6 lb Chicken Liver
  • 1 knob of fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp Japanese sake or white wine
  • 4 tbsp water


  • Place the chicken liver in cold water, change the water several times, and soak for about 10 minutes. Adding 2 tablespoons of milk (or white vinegar) to cold water can reduce the gamey flavor.
  • Thinly slice the ginger.
  • Bring water to a boil in a small source pan and parboil the chicken livers for about 1 minute. Drain in a colander.
  • Rinse the liver with cold water and trim blood clots and excess fat if needed.
    *Using water with ice to rinse the liver helps removing the gamey water more.
  • Put the liver and ginger in a small saucepan, and add soy sauce, sake (or white wine), sugar, and water. Cover with a drop lid, and bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Once the sauce gets boiled, remove the scum. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove the livers from the sauce, and set them aside. Boil down the sauce to your liking over high heat.
  • Put the liver back into the saucepan, and combine them with the sauce together.


©Japanmcconnell/Rico McConnell- Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
Keyword Easy, Healthy, Izakaya, Soy sauce, Traditional


White rice is deeply rooted in Japanese food culture.

White rice is made by removing the germ and bran from brown rice and refining it to the white part called the endosperm. About 70% of the rice is carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals are very low.

On the other hand, brown rice contains vitamins such as B vitamins that are essential for synthesizing neurotransmitters in the brain, and dietary fiber that moderates blood sugar levels suddenly high and improves the gut environment.

Moreover, brown rice provides most of the nutrients (other than vitamin C) to maintain good health.


This recipe is not for making regular breakfast oatmeal. My grains can be used as a side dish in place of rice.

It’s fluffy, sticky, and healthy.

Quinoa and oats are already known for their health benefits and this recipe is for those who want to cut carbs, without rice.



Vegetables such as beans and mushrooms, which contain a lot of insoluble dietary fiber, are especially recommended.

As I recommend eating soybeans and soybean products, EDAMAME which contains beta-carotene, vitamin C, and iron, is also packed with nutrients that work for the brain.

Recently, it’s easy to get and prepare edamame, so why not start eating EDAMAME as a snack rather than chips?

Also, add EDAMAME to salads or soups, so you can give your brain nice food.

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