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Japanese-inspired ‘superfood’ salad

September 27, 2012

I don’t generally like the term ‘superfood’ because of the flighty nature of food ‘trends’, but by any measure, this salad has some undeniably healthy ingredients that are bound to make your body (and hopefully taste buds) happy. I’ve summarised some of the main health benefits below. Plus it only takes about ten minutes to make!Image

Ingredients per serving:

  •  dried seaweed salad, available in any health food store or online – I used Clearspring Japanese Sea Vegetable Salad
  • handful of chopped fresh mushrooms, either one portabello or more shitaake, oyster, chestnut or wild mushrooms
  • around 5 asparagus spears, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 fresh (or pickled if desired) beetroot, cut into thin strips
  • handful of pumpkin seeds
  • splash of soy sauce (around 1 Tbsp)
  • splash of toasted sesame oil (around 1-2 tsp)
  • dash of rice wine vinegar (around 1-2 tsp)
  • squeeze of lemon juice (or alternatively, omit this but use more vinegar)
  • around 2 cups mixed leafy greens
  • olive oil for cooking


Soak the dried seaweed in warm water, as per the instructions on the packet. Heat the oil and sautee the mushrooms. When they’ve softened, add the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes.

Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and lemon juice, adjusting quantities as desired to balance the flavours and the salt/sour ratio. However, have a light touch on the soy sauce since the seaweed will add some salt.

Toss the greens with the dressing and beetroot. Add the mushroom/asparagus mixture and top with pumpkin seeds. Dig in.

For a heartier meal, you could add protein – marinated tofu, chopped boiled eggs, maybe fish if you eat it, but it’s a lovely lunch as-is.

Quick note on the health benefits:

– Seaweed is rich in iodine (salt in the UK isn’t iodized, leading to high prevalence of iodine deficiency here!), B-12 (important for vegans), calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, Vitamin A & Vitamin C and fibre. It’s also packed with essential amino acids.

– Pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium and as seeds go, have a better ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids than most – better than olive oil! They’re also heavy on zinc, which can help prevent osteoporosis. There’s tryptophan too, which may be able to brighten your mood by boosting seratonin levels! Web MD even says the seeds can be used to treat (skip this if you have a queasy stomach, not very appetising…) bladder problems and intestinal worms. Bonus.

– Beetroot can help lower blood pressure, fight heart disease, increase blood flow to the brain (which could help fight dementia), increase stamina and help with post-exercise recovery thanks to its nitrate content. It also has folic acid and several vitamins and minerals.

– Mushrooms have an incredibly high nutrient density. They have lots of B-vitamins, folic acid (very important for women!), selenium (often overlooked and undereaten), potassium, phosphorous, manganese and zinc as well as some iron & calcium.

– Asparagus is high-fibre, with Vitamins A & C and a smattering of minerals from folic acid to calcium.

– Soy sauce may have a bit of salt in it, but recent studies have shown that unless you have high blood pressure, the body is remarkably efficient at taking what it needs and getting rid of the rest. (Besides, the health warnings are more for fast food & pre-prepared foods with tons of  hidden salt.) As for the benefits, soy sauce has niacin (B-3), which promotes heart health by increasing ‘good cholesterol’ (HDL) and lowering triglycerides. While the concentration of niacin is small (1 Tbsp has 3.6% RDV), every little helps, eh? Plus, like pumpkin seeds, there’s tryptophan for that mood boost.

– Greens are always good for you! Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and iron among others.

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