Load Up on These Traditional East Asian Foods for a Tasty and Nutritious Meal


Your favorite sushi starter stars a gut-friendly ingredient. “Miso is a fermented condiment made from soybeans and contains probiotics that support good gut health,” says Iu.

It’s also rich in choline and B vitamins, which both support cognitive function, and vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting. Try thinking beyond soup: Miso is great as a marinade base for meat or fish, or whisked into a dressing to drizzle over veggies.


You know that tofu is a plant-based protein e-sms featured in plenty of East Asian recipes, but seitan is another meat alternative with roots in China and Japan, says Chou.

“Seitan is made from wheat gluten, a plant-based protein, and was developed by Buddhist monks in China and Japan,” Chou explains. “It has a wonderful meaty texture and is high in protein and iron.” Seitan is super versatile, so treat it as you would any other meat or plant-based alternative.

Bok choy

This leafy green is technically a type of Chinese cabbage, mild in flavor with a tender yet crunchy center and vibrant, slightly bitter leaves. And besides being tasty, it’s also brimming with vitamins C and E and beta-carotene (all inflammation fighters), as well as fiber, which supports good digestion and keeps you full, says Iu.

“A healthy and delicious way to prepare bok choy is to sauté it in a pan with garlic and ginger until just wilted. Drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce,” Iu suggests.

Sesame oil

Speaking of sesame oil, this flavor enhancer is hiding some powerful nutrients, too. It’s filled with heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants that help fight damaging free radicals in the body, and an amino acid called tyrosine, which boosts levels of the mood-lifting hormone serotonin.

“Toasted sesame oil has a low smoke point, so it’s better to cook with a different oil and add this at the end or mixed into a sauce,” Iu recommends. “And don’t forget: A little goes a long way when it comes to flavor and aroma.”


“Seaweed is not only sustainable, it’s packed with nutrients,” says Chou. It contains iodine, which supports thyroid function, as well as iron, which is critical to healthy oxygenated blood. It also contains protein and antioxidants, according to Chou.

“Aside from using it to make sushi or a seaweed salad, try nori furikake (a seaweed rice seasoning) as a great addition to rice dishes or sprinkled over avocado toast and popcorn,” Chou adds.

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