Asian markets are popular in most towns. As a nutrition professional and a foodie, I always enjoy going to my local Asian market(s). They are full of interesting and healthy foods. They are also abundant with some not so healthy items. If you know what you are looking for you can find some real treats.
I once found live crawdads in our local market. I bought a couple of pounds and took them home to my 8 year old son. We put them in a tank and fed them and eventually ate all of them
Besides natto beans, here are some other nice to foods found in most Asian markets.
Miso – This is another fermented soy product in the form of a salty paste. Miso is good for making soups and broths and reminds me of beer as far as the aroma and flavor go.. You will find this in the refrigerated section of the market. Look for the organic label and without other ingredients other than salt.
Japanese noodles are a good fiber, low carb and suitable for keto plans. These noodles offer almost no micronutrients or calories but they do offer a unique type of fiber which is great for the gut. Other names to look for: shirataki, konjac, glucomannan, konnyaku. – These are noodles and pasta are all made from konjac root.
Korean noodles made from sweet potato starch are my favorite. They are called Japchae or Chapchae. They look almost identical to the other glass noodles.
onions of various types
bulk herbs (basil, cilantro)
sweet potatoes- Usually come in different colors than the usual ones found in chain stores
roasted seaweed (laver) Make sure to look at the labels and get the ones with olive oil and not canola oil.
Dried and fresh mushrooms- King oyster, maitake, shitaki and many hard to find mushrooms.
Dried and fresh anchovies and fish, squid, octopus, clams, mussels
One of my favorite foods that I regularly purchase is natto beans. This odd food is a well kept secret in the Western world, probably because of the “gross factor”. Natto is an acquired taste but the health benefits are vast.
There are only two types of soy that I will consume or feed to others and that is natto and miso. These are inexpensive fermented soybeans.
When soybeans are fermented they become very digestible and a natural probiotic. Natto contains the highest amount of vitamin K2 than any other food.
There is much research on the health benefits of k2 which is more commonly found in animal products, whereas vitamin K1 is found in plants.
Don’t let the ingredients list on the package scare you. The MSG and other additives are actually in the small packets of sauce found atop the beans, separated by a thin sheet of plastic. I usually peel this off and discard while they are still frozen.
If you are grossed out by the actual beans, the next best way to get the enzyme is by taking the supplement nattokinase.
By taking the supplement, you get the benefits of the enzyme nattokinase which is used medicinally for things such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, varicose veins and much more. By eating the whole food natto beans you also get the probiotics and the emollient effects which soothe and heal the intestines.
I encourage you to try out your local Asian store and discover the amazing and sometimes unusual (to Western culture) healthy whole foods. Even if you don’t get anything, just go for the experience and get outside the big box supermarkets.
Rheaume-Bleue, Kate, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox, 2012, HarperCollins