Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to stay young with Korean cuisine

Recipes from and inspired by Korea can help you add important anti-aging ingredients to your diet.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, D.O., an osteopathic physician based in the Chicago suburb Hoffman Estates, is one of America's most well-known health advisers. He recently implored readers of his blog to "add these 12 anti-aging ingredients to your diet."

Dr. Mercola's recommendations fit well with Korea-centric recipes.

Vitamin D

The best source of vitamin D is the sun, but a few foods such as mushrooms provide a small amount of vitamin D without artificial supplementation, according to Dr. Mercola. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 3-ounce serving of mushrooms exposed to UV-B light, which is part of the ultraviolet spectrum in sunlight that helps human skin make vitamin D, can provide at least 100 percent of the U.S. recommended intake of the vitamin.



Vegans are particularly at risk for vitamin D deficiency. For them, the Korean mushroom and rice dish 버섯밥 posotbap is an good source for the immune system and bone booster.

For lacto-ovo vegetarians who want to sneak some mushrooms into a daily diet plan, consider eating spicy mushroom soup.

Astaxanthin 

This powerful antioxidant gives flamingos pink feathers and the flesh of wild-caught salmon that vibrant dark pink color. A U.S. National Institutes of Health published a study about astaxanthin in 2006 said:
Astaxanthin possesses an unusual antioxidant activity which has caused a surge in the nutraceutical market for the encapsulated product. Also, health benefits such as cardiovascular disease prevention, immune system boosting, bioactivity against Helycobacter pylori, and cataract prevention, have been associated with astaxanthin consumption. Research on the health benefits of astaxanthin is very recent and has mostly been performed in vitro or at the pre-clinical level with humans.
Dr. Mercola warns you'll have to eat three-quarters of a pound of salmon per day to get enough astaxanthin to be of therapeutic benefit based on these early studies.

For inspiration toward that goal, try my recipe for Yuja Salmon.

Fermented foods

Kimchi, sauerkraut and other fermented foods are high on Dr. Mercola's anti-aging regimen. A number of studies suggest a link between the gastrointestinal tract and a person's immune system.


Dr. Mercola notes difficulties in setting up scientifically valid studies to prove the theory:
Part of the problem is that these processed, sugar- and chemical-laden foods effectively destroy your intestinal microflora. Your gut flora has incredible power over your immune system, which, of course, is your body's natural defense system. Antibiotics, stress, artificial sweeteners, chlorinated water and many other factors can also reduce the amount of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) in your gut, which can predispose you to illness and premature aging. Ideally, you'll want to make traditionally cultured and fermented foods a staple in your daily diet.
Some believe that filling up on foods full of "good bacteria" healthfully crowd or flush out "bad bacteria." But many in the scientific community don't think there's enough support for that health benefit to allow such health claims on food and supplement packaging.

Vitamin K2

Dr. William Davis, cardiologist and author of the books Track Your Plaque and Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health says there are two kinds of vitamin K found in nature. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in leafy, green vegetables such as lettuce and spinach, while vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is found in organ meats, egg yolks and dairy products.

Natto sushi and tofu with red and white miso by Megumi Natto of Sebastopol, Calif. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
Vitamin K2 is the focus of Dr. Mercola's anti-aging regime. 
While most people get enough vitamin K from their diets to maintain adequate blood clotting, they're NOT enough to offer protection against more serious health problems.
Vitamin K2 can provide significant protection from prostate cancer and promote cardiac health (by limiting calcification in the heart, arteries, and also in the kidneys), according to published studies.

Dr. Mercola emphasizes fermented foods, particularly cheese and natto as the best sources of Vitamin K2.

Chocolate 

Many Americans have no problem eating enough chocolate to get plenty of flavonols and procyanidins, that are power antioxidants.

But it's not easy to find chocolate that has a Korean kick to it. Spice up your morning coffee routine with this recipe by Shinshine of ZenKimchi Food Journal for Chocolate Gochujang Biscotti.

Magnesium

It is not only just an important mineral for helping to protect one's own body from aging, but also it's important for passing healthy genes to the next generation, according to Dr. Mercola.

However, Dr. Mehmet Oz reminds us that calcium and magnesium are almost like fraternal twins and need to be taken together, otherwise there may be unfortunate gastrointestinal consequences:
You want to take calcium, but you've got to take it with magnesium because if you don't take them together, the magnesium loosens your poop. The calcium makes it a little bit like concrete.
One of the best sources of magnesium are pine nuts, a beloved ingredient in Korean cuisine. Introduce them into your diet with a pesto and/or pizza sauce, like I did in the Kkaenip Pesto Pizza recipe. Since 깻잎 kkaenip, aka perilla, is a good source of calcium, you have a happy marriage of magnesium and calcium in one recipe.

Folate

Women of reproductive age are strongly targeted with pro-folate messages. Folic acid, aka Vitamin B9, is commonly dispensed in supplement form to women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, because folic acid is crucial to early embryonic development.

Scientists have linked a category of serious deformations at birth called neural tube defects directly to a lack of folate early in pregnancy. Such defects hamper development of the brain and spinal cord. The most well-known is spinal bifida, which is an incomplete closure of the spinal cord and spinal column.

Neural tube defects develop by 28 days after conception, before most women even know they are pregnant. Hence, the push for pre-pregnancy folate supplementation.

But men need folate to keep their sperm healthy and keep all their chromosomes intact.

One of the best sources of folate in its natural state is spinach. My recent Chicken and Mushroom Millet Skillet recipe includes a healthful helping of spinach.

Eggs are also a good source of folate. Try this recipe for the street food favorite Korean Egg Toast.

Vitamin B12

Meat products are the primary dietary source of vitamin B12, so one would assume the ample amount of meat in typical American diets would prevent B12 deficiency.


Yet, investigations suggest otherwise, according to Dr. Mercola:
Unfortunately, research suggests about 25 percent of American adults are deficient in this vitally important nutrient, and nearly half the population has suboptimal blood levels. 
All kinds of meat — beef, chicken, etc. — are excellent sources of B12.

Yet, several medical conditions prevent proper dietary absorption of Vitamin B12. Crohn's and celiac diseases, weight-loss surgery and chronic alcoholism can all interfere, According to WebMD.

Other conditions such as pernicious anemia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome are caused partially by a lack of Vitamin B12 and can be treated by supplementing one's diet with it.

The elderly, particularly those of African-American or Northern European descent are at risk for atrophic gastritis, which is a thinning of the lining of the stomach. That prevents absorption of Vitamin B12 and is a common cause of anemia in that age group.

Because meats are still the best natural source of Vitamin B12 and barbecue season is upon us, I'd highly recommend grilling up a plate of Korean Wave celebrity Bae Yong Joon's Kalbi Steak. (See my video or blog demonstrations.)

Curcumin aka turmeric


Turmeric is a "immune booster and potent anti-inflammatory," according to Dr. Mercola. Recent studies also link it to a reduction in breast cancer risk.

Most Korean curry powders, including the popular line by Ottogi, contain generous amounts of turmeric. It's the spice that gives Korean and other curries that bold yellow color.

Try making some Ottogi Curry Tteokbokki made with carrots, onions, potato and bite-sized pieces of beef. Or exotically spice up your picnics with some of my Curry Deviled Eggs.

These dietary tips may be able to delay the adverse effects of aging but they can't prevent or permanently reverse the aging process. Even if you add every single one of these nutritional tips into your diet with gusto, they can't permanently postpone aging or grant any human being immortality. Sting may have said it best when he said,
"I want to get old gracefully. I want to have good posture, I want to be healthy and be an example to my children."

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