‘Swamp’ food is causing a stir among health-conscious Japanese


A slimy, doughy, gooey, earthy dish overcomes bad first impressions with its savory umami flavor and waist-reducing qualities, helping Japanese people lose weight while feeling fulfilled rather than starving.

Diners are said to eat with their eyes first, but ‘numa’, which translates to swamp in Japanese, has become trending on social media, with people proudly posting snaps of what some might describe as mud unappetizing.

The photo provided shows bodybuilder Yuki Azami (R), who is credited with starting the ‘numa’ food craze. (Kyodo)

The chicken and vegetable rice porridge dish was created by Yuki Azami, a 35-year-old competitive bodybuilder and certified chef.

“I want people to enjoy eating and be able to lose weight slowly, which is a healthy approach,” Azami said.

Azami, nicknamed Shiny Azami, started his YouTube channel in November 2018 to share numa workouts and recipes. Since the creation of the channel, his videos have accumulated more than 100 million views.

Numa only requires five ingredients: rice, chicken breast, okra, dried seaweed and dried shiitake mushrooms. Put everything in an electric rice cooker with a large glass of water, add salt and curry powder, press the start button and wait. It’s so easy.

Numa contains the main macronutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates – and Azami, who previously worked in a hospital kitchen, says it is “recommended for people who like to eat a lot, people who are bad cooks and people who find it hard to stick to a diet.”

Despite being ranked among the least obese countries in the world, a significant percentage of the Japanese population tries to lose weight, some for health reasons, others because of poor body image, and the The diet and weight loss industry is booming.

According to Tokyo-based research firm Fuji Keizai Co., sales of high-protein snacks and supplements have quadrupled in the 10 years since 2011, when they totaled around 56 billion yen. ($415 million).

Successful retailers spot and follow the latest food trends on social media, allowing them to capitalize and generate increased revenue.

In June last year, Towa Kanbutu Corp., a dried food maker in Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture, collaborated with Azami and launched a new line of what it markets as instant numa mix High quality”.

They sold over 10,000 units in six months, including other similar products.

The photo provided shows the “numa” diet, which started in Japan and has proven itself on social media. (Kyodo)

A 20-something office worker living in Tokyo started the numa diet in February with the intention of shedding the pounds he gained during a weight loss rebound.

“Numa is great because it’s low in calories but hard to go hungry, and the recipe can be modified in many different ways,” he said.

The photo provided shows Towa Kanbutu Corp’s “numa” instant mix launched last year. (Kyodo)

The young person on a diet says that it is not necessary to review his entire diet to lose weight. Just swapping a regular meal for numa to get back on track after overeating makes a difference, he said. He saw remarkable results, having lost six kilograms in two months.

Health experts support the numa diet, saying it’s healthy and sensible.

“It saves you the hassle of meal planning and it’s easy to count calories, which makes numa appealing,” said Ayako Tada, a nutritionist who helped develop the Asken diet app.

But Tada stresses that numa is not a panacea and warned that eating only rice-based porridge for a prolonged period can lead to a dietary imbalance, such as a lack of iron and calcium.

Having the same limited foods over and over every day makes it simpler, but food variety is important for health, Tada says. Viewing numa as the only source of protein is a dieting mistake to avoid, she said.

“The smart thing to do is to just make numa your post-workout meal and follow it with a regular diet.”

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