Australia is a wonderfully multi-cultured country, a melting pot of people from all over the globe. The Australian identity is formed by the accumulation of generations both past and present and with the traditions and cultures comes a wide array of new flavours and foods. We see these ingredients slowly becoming part of the broader society and are more and more are being seen gracing our social media sites. We have listed some of our favorite international ingredients that have been trending of late and why they are so good for you. Hopefully you too can begin to incorporate them into your diets and start feeling the benefits.
‘Matcha Madness’ is just that, this tea trend is popping up as beverages in cafés, flavours in cakes and even scents in body lotions! Matcha is a form of green tea which is ground and powdered. The nature of Matcha allows you to consume the whole leaves compared to commonly brewed versions of tea that only infuse the water. Polyphenols, present in the leaves, are an antioxidant that have been linked to helping with blood sugar regulation, blood pressure reduction and protection against heart disease. To gain some perspective on the powerful concentration of antioxidants, one cup of Matcha tea has as many antioxidants as 10 cups brewed green tea!
Matcha is nothing new for Asia, it has been the focus of Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries. Traditionally the preparation of Matcha involves whisking the powder in hot water with a bamboo whisk until the surface is frothy. Today, matcha is enjoyed the same way, with an array of other contemporary versions available.
Kimchi is a popular side dish known in Korean cuisine that has taken off in Western culture for its outstandingly abundant health benefits. Kimchi is a fermented seasoned cabbage often cured in a concoction of brine, garlic, ginger, chilli powder, spring onions, radish, fish sauce and salt. This dish originally began with the fermentation of greens or radishes, while the chilli only became a part of the recipe around the 18th Century. In Korea, Kimchi was often cured before the winter months in large quantities to last through the season. Today, it is a popular health food to be eaten as a complementing side dish or straight out of the jar!
Kimchi is brimming with health benefits as the fermentation process cultures the production of lactobacilli and lactic acid bacteria, while the growth of unwanted bacteria is supressed by the salt. These bacteria help promote good digestive health and are all ‘round great creatures for your gut. Kimchi is also packed with Vitamin A, B1, B2 and C and has a fabulous selection of iron, calcium, selenium and essential amino acids for your body to thrive on. Additionally, Kimchi is high in fibre and low in calories. With so many health benefits and a funky flavoursome taste, what’s there not to like about it?
Hemp use archaeologically dates back to the Neolithic Age in China, with hemp fibre imprints found on Yangshao culture pottery dating from the 5th millennium BC. The Chinese later used hemp to make clothes, shoes, ropes, and an early form of paper. Hemp seeds are full of an exceptionally rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are central to healthy skin, energy production, a healthy immune system and mental health and wellbeing. Additional to essential fatty acids, Hemp also contains antioxidants and array of vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Not only is it beneficial for you internally, but hemp oil is also great for your skin. Hemp oil contains similar fats located in the skin which allows it to be a very efficient facial moisturiser. It is also effective in helping to eliminate acne and other inflammatory skin conditions due to its anti-inflammatory properties and rich antioxidants that help heal the skin.
This trendy, fermented drink has been known since 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty and eventually spread to India, Russia and Japan. Kombucha has a myriad of organic acids beneficial for your health including: glucuronic acid, an important detoxifier for the body; lactic acid, important for the digestive system; acetic acid, inhibits harmful bacteria; usnic acid, a natural antibiotic, and malic acid, which assists in the detoxification of the liver. This fermented tea concoction is known by many cultures as an ‘elixir of life’ due to the substantial amount of benefits it carries for the body and for the potential ability to prevent cancers. This tea, along with a variety of other fermented foods and drinks are high in probiotic strength to assist in the health of the digestive system. With and endless list of benefits, Kombucha is quickly gaining traction in the mainstream Western society, particularly accessible from modern cafes and even supermarkets.
A common food in the Japanese diet is of course seaweed. It has been a part of the Japanese diet for over 2000 years, most commonly seen as nori, the dry sheets of seaweed most of the Western society is familiar with on sushi. Raw or sun-dried seaweed contains anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, natural iodine which helps maintain the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland, high protein content and a variety of vitamins and minerals such as: iron, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin C. It’s clear why this ocean algae has become a popular ‘superfood’.
If the first thing that springs to mind is spaghetti Bolognese or a pizza packed with sky high toppings, then mamma mia, we’ve got a few things to learn! The Mediterranean diet originates from a rural type of living, where fresh harvested produce was the centre of daily meals. Poultry and dairy were food groups of moderation, while red meat and sweet foods were almost never consumed, and the inclusion of sea food depended on where the people resided, although sea food is generally a large part of the Mediterranean diet. Bread is typically consumed in this diet, although it is normally eaten plain or dipped in olive oil. This diet is based around a pattern of eating involving large amounts of fruit and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and olive oil. It is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated healthy fats that are present in the key ingredients: nuts, seeds and olive oil, which are beneficial for managing cholesterol and boosting your heart health. It is a common diet as part of Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and other various European countries with this cultural heritage. Naturally, red wine enjoyed in moderation is also a part of this diet, and has been shown to also be valuable for heart health and provide a good dose of antioxidants to the body from the flavonoids of the grape skin. If you’re thinking of changing your diet patterns, this one could be the way to go!
Teff-off quinoa! The Ethiopian grain, teff, is taking the spotlight from quinoa this year in Western culture. This gluten-free grain is commonly consumed across East Africa in a flatbread called Injera. The size of teff is smaller than a poppy seed, although it is packed with high protein, B vitamins, iron, calcium and encapsulates 8 essential amino acids all within its little grain walls. Teff also contains vitamin K, which is beneficial for bone health and necessary for blood clotting. It’s a very versatile grain that can be used as a flour, or to be tossed in along with your favourite salad or sprinkled on your morning breaky.
No wonder the Western culture have gone crazy for Turmeric, the health benefits are just as vibrant as its colour. Turmeric includes an excellent amount of manganese, iron and consists of anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, the antioxidant that gives turmeric it’s golden colour, curcumin, is helpful for maintaining cellular health and overall mental and physical wellbeing. It has also been found to be effective in lowering the risk of cancer. Turmeric has been a part of Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines for thousands of years as well as part of the Ayurvedic healing tradition. To get the most out of turmeric in your daily meals, try adding it to your salad dressings for a pop of colour or even in your latte for a trendy pick-me-up.
Manuka honey is produced by bees that pollinate the flowers of the manuka bush in New Zealand and has been a part of the Maori indigenous culture for thousands of years. The antimicrobial properties of the honey have recently been shown in tests to have killed every type of bacteria, including antibiotic resistant bacteria. The uses for Manuka honey are endless, from treating internal ailments like stomach ulcers or pain, arthritis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, to external issues like eczema and dermatitis, insect bites, cuts and even fungal infections. An original and good quality Manuka honey product is a sweet friend we should all aim to keep handy in our pantries.