U is for unicorn - but also all things uncooked...
This week we're sadly not talking about unicorns but we're talking about uncooked foods (raw), umami, udon noodles and unpasturised and what they all mean.
The raw food diet is a diet which mainly consists of eating unprocessed whole, plant-based foods.
Those who follow it believe they will gain health benefits from doing so, improve their well-being and potentially help reduce their risk of certain diseases.
What are the actual benefits to eating raw foods?
High in nutrients
Eating many raw fruits, vegetables and nuts will mean that you are intaking a lot of vitamins and minerals. Some of these vitamins and minerals can often been destroyed through the cooking process too. So by eating foods raw, helps a better supply of these nutrients.
Eating less processed foods
As a direct result of eating more raw food, it means that you are ultimately eating less process foods.
Processed foods often are higher in salt, unhealthy fats, and sugars. These ingredients can lead to inflammation of blood vessels and also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. By minimising consumption of these in your diet, it can have significant health benefits.
Almost an indirect benefit, raw foods due to the nature of what they are, are often low in calories. Coupled with this, they often have high fibre content which can help give a feeling of being fuller for longer. This can help contribute to weight loss.
It's important to note that if you do want to do a try a raw food diet - there are some foods that aren't advised to eat raw as they might cause food poisoning - these are mainly animal products like meat, shellfish, unpasturised milk and raw eggs.
Most fruit and vegetables are safer to eat raw but it is always advised to wash them before eating.
It is also important to note that there are a few foods to be careful of due to potentially being toxic if eaten raw.
These are buckwheat, kidney beans, sprouts and cassava.
Umami has been identified as a the fifth core taste. In 2002 it was discovered that there are umami taste receptors on the human tongue along with the bitter, sweet, sour and salty receptors.
It means 'essence of deliciousness' in Japanese and is often described as a meaty, savoury richness.
It's actually the taste of an amino acid - glutamate and is found in a lot of everyday foods including:
mature aged cheeses
yeast extract (like Marmite)
Benefits of umami
Reducing salt intake
Umami allows us to keep the rich savoury flavour in foods without having to sacrifice the taste. Too large a salt intake can lead to heart disease which is already a global health issue.
Replacing salt in food using umami flavours from certain ingredients is a good way to help reduce intake of salt but without forgoing any of the flavour.
Can help with overall health
Research has shown that consuming a umami broth or savoury broth before a meal time has helped lead to little changes in the brain that can encourage healthy eating behaviours and food choices. It has also been show to decrease appetite and food intake - especially in women who have a tendency to over eat or gain weight.
So next time you want to reach for the salt - try reaching for something in the cupboard or fridge that you can add that will give you that same taste in your dish but without adding the unnecessary sodium.
Food hacks: Umami up your meal
Here are a few simple food hacks to help get some more umami in to your mealtimes:
Try adding in a big dollop of marmite to your spaghetti bolognaise
Add a mix of miso paste and honey to top roasted veggies - it works incredibly well with aubergine
Add mushroom ketchup or a mushroom duxelle to the base of a mushroom risotto to really intensify the flavour
Make a herb, garlic and anchovy paste to cover red meat like lamb before roasting
Always add a tomato paste as well as chopped tomatoes to a tomato dish - it will pep up the umami flavours and intensity.
Udon noodles are thick wheat noodles and are perfect dare I say it for slurping. They're a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine. You'll often find them being used in a noodle soup or served in a hot broth but they do have a place being service cold with a dipping sauce.
They can be flat or round - but are the thickest of the Japanese noodles and are actually very easy to make as they only have three ingredients - wheat flour, water and salt.
There are a few types of noodles used in Japanese dishes - and it's easy to confuse them. So I'll just do a quick overview below.
Soba noodles are thin noodles made from buckwheat. As a result - they're a great gluten-free noodle to eat but always check the packaging first to ensure that's the case a some do contain wheat.
They're a great store cupboard essential as they're super fast to cook and create a dish from.
Food hack: A tip when cooking is always to ensure you rinse them after cooking. If you don't because they're very starchy they can become very gloopy. So rinse and shake before adding to a pan and your sauce.
Ramen noodles - probably the most famous of the Japanese noodles. They're thin and often wavy or curly. They're made of wheat - just like udon noodles apart from the difference between them is not only thickness but also the added Kansui used to make them. Kansui gives them their unique texture and also the light yellow colour.
Again they are often found as a main ingredient in soups and broths or they can be stir-fried with whatever you choose. Very easy to make vegan or meaty.
Quick Eats: Simple Yaki Udon (Stir-fry)
A super simple mid-week supper - or even lunch. Whip it up in 20 minutes - what could be better at the end of a long, hard day.
It's incredibly versatile - so even though this base is relatively plain - it's very tasty and can be paired with almost any vegetable, protein combo you fancy. So add in some chicken, beef, pork or maybe some tofu for those of you who are not fans of meat - and of course don't forget to add some veggies for all the goodness they bring.
So simple - all you need is 5 sauce ingredients (plus what ever add-ins you choose this recipe has loads of inspiration) and the udon noodles.
First of all - you might be wandering what does unpasturised mean?
So let's flip the word and look at pasturisation - then you'll get an understand of unpasturisation when you know what pasturisation is.
Pasturisation: 'the partial sterilization of a product, such as milk or wine, to make it safe for consumption and improve its keeping quality.' (definition from https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/)
What happens in pasturisation?
The idea behind pasturisation is that the ingredient (e.g. raw milk) is quickly heated for a short time to help kill any potential harmful pathogens (bacteria) which in theory helps to minimise the risk of food poisoning when eaten.
Which foods might I eat that are pasturised?
We eat a lot of foods that are pasturized - predominantly dairy-based foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter etc. But other foods like fruit juice, eggs (if they're in liquid form in a chiller aisle in the supermarket), and honey can also be pasturised.
What others reasons is food pasturised for?
The main reason for pasturisation is of course to kill any potentially harmful bacteria however one of the additional benefits of pasturising food is to (in the case of milk and juice especailly) extend its shelf life and reduce the chance of spoilage - which of course, can be costly. This is why you can find milk and juice products in the ambient food product aisles in supermarkets as well as in the chilled department.
How does pasturisation effect the food?
Unfortunately the downside of pasturising foods means that it can damage the nutrients in the foods. For instance raw milk contains vitamin D which is destroyed in the pasturisation process. However, companies are aware of this so fortify (add back in) lost nutrients to make sure no benefits of the original product are lost.
However when it comes to things like orange juice however which contains nutrients like vitamin C - studies have shown that even though the pasturisation process does destroy a small amount of vitamin C - it is not to any noticable effect.
Which foods are unpasturised?
You probably eat unpasturised things more than you might realise. For instance a lot of soft cheeses are unpasturised - as is fresh juice like freshly squeeze orange juice.
Here is a list of unpasturised foods commonly found on the supermarket shelf:
Soft goat's cheese (with a rind)
(it's quite common to find soft cheeses that have been made with unpasturised milk - so if you're unsure, always check the label.)
Fresh fruit juices like freshly squeezed orange juice. Again if you're unsure, always check the label.
It's often advised if you're pregnant to avoid eating anything unpasturised because of the potential harm to either you are the baby from potential bacteria.
To understand more about which foods to avoid in pregnancy, the NHS have some great resources here.