Medicine doesn’t always come in a pill. In fact, some of the most powerful medicines are delicious and can be found at your local supermarket or “farmacy.” Healing foods have been used for centuries in Asia as part of the cuisine. In fact, in Asia, food and medicine are often the same thing.
Here are five superfoods that you may never have heard of but that can be found at most Asian markets and even places like Whole Foods. Try them. You might be surprised by their unique and extraordinary good taste. And they may help you lose weight, reverse diabetes, lower cholesterol and prevent cancer.
1. Konjac: The Asian super fiber
Long used to make konnyaku, a jelly prepared in Japan for more than 1,500 years whose medicinal properties were appreciated as early as the 6th century, konjac fiber, or glucomannan, has multiple benefits. Konjac is much more viscous than typical fibers, retaining up to 17 times its weight in water.
As it expands in the stomach and the small and large intestine, konjac fiber absorbs fat, accelerates elimination, reduces cholesterol, blunts sugar absorption and facilitates weight loss, in part by increasing feelings of satiety. You can have it as jelly or noodles called shirataki.
2. Arame: A wonder of the sea
Arame is a marine brown algae or sea vegetable that can be added to soups or stir-fries or even made into a sea vegetable salad. It is rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, folate, vitamins A and K, and iodine. It also boosts immunity and helps bind toxins in your body. Some even say it helps increase sex drive.
3. Shiitake mushrooms: Healing from the earth
The earthy shiitake or Chinese black mushrooms boost immunity through special polysaccharide molecules and can help prevent cancer. They are also full of minerals, especially iron, and they appear to decrease binding of immune cells to your arterial wall, preventing atherosclerosis. Aside from exposure to the sun and eating herring, mushrooms are one of the few ways you can get vitamin D. Think of them as the sunshine food.
4. Daikon: The other white meat
Daikon is a large, mildly flavored East Asian white radish. It looks like a giant white carrot. It contains digestive enzymes that help you break down food, and it contains myrosinase that boosts detoxification of environmental chemicals. Daikon is high in vitamin C and folate. Like its relatives broccoli, cabbage and kale, daikon is a cruciferous vegetable that offers cancer-protecting potential. It can be grated and eaten raw in salads or in stir-fries or soups.
5. Umeboshi plums: A new kind of pickle
These little red Japanese plums add a perky taste to stir-fries and soups. Besides their scintillating flavor, Japanese pickled plums have remarkable medicinal qualities. Their acidity has a paradoxical alkalinizing effect on the body, helping to fight fatigue, enhance digestion and hasten the elimination of toxins. This is the Far Eastern equivalent to both aspirin and apple; it is a great hangover remedy for mornings after, and an umeboshi a day is considered one of the best preventive medicines around.
This blog post originally appeared on DrHyman.com.