Bigger is not necessarily Better

Bigger is not necessarily better. In the world of Sumo at least. Last night, as I watched with my very own eyes, the Mongolian champion Hakuho manhandled his opponent Kotooshu to remain undefeated at Summer Grand Sumo. The champion was one of the smallest (relatively speaking) wrestlers there. What a cultural experience. Sumo wrestlers pretty much do the opposite to what we might do to lose weight. They eat lots and often and their speciality is “chanko” nabe, and chunk nabe has tons and tons of meat. In fact, that’s about half of what you put in there. There’s all kinds of meat; beef, pork, chicken, you name it. Plus there are noodles cooked in the broth. Supposedly, this is what sumo wrestlers eat to keep the bulk on. I have tried to avoid the ‘sumo’ diet while in Japan, which is pretty easy as the food here is divine. I have had my yearly dose of omega-3 fats from all the delicious raw fish and seafood, a flood of anti-oxidants from vats of green and oolong tea and a ton of essential iodine from ribbons of seaweed. There is much to be learnt from Japanese portion sizes, they are much smaller than what we eat in the Western world and they don’t eat between meals. There are no coffee or tea breaks either. One would think this is all helping assist the Japanese in having the highest life expectancy in the world. Lets hope Sake has some benefits too.

Sea urchin, radish salad and fish fluff

My heart was touched today. I was privileged to visit Nishikasai Elementary School just out of Tokyo. The Grade Four students sang and danced to entertain their overseas guests and then we sat in their classroom and ate lunch with them. 99% of elementary schools provide lunch for their students and today this consisted of rice with kelp and fish fluff (very fine fish shavings) , grilled salmon with miso, radish salad, miso soup, fruit and milk. It was divine. All students sit at their desks and eat together and a catering company prepares the meals onsite. The kids were so excited to have us sitting at their desks and it was truly amazing how much two cultures can communicate when they have absolutely no language in common. Despite no English these 9 year olds knew what a kangaroo did ! Our Indian friends on tour with us explained their lunch program which is free and provided to 130 million children each day. Our Australian team couldn’t really explain to the other countries why we do not have a lunch program. Any explanation didn’t seem adequate next to 130 million meals per day! What if we could though? Each school meal costs parents $2.00, it ticks all the nutrition boxes and no home preparation, what an innovative and progressive idea. Each school has a nutrition teacher who may also be a Dietitian on their staff full-time, they are truly advanced in this area and their long term vision inspiring. Around 10% of children here are overweight and only 4% skip breakfast. Statistics to dream about in Australia.

Sushi, baseball and baby milks

Neon lights. Raw fish. 12 million people. Tokyo. I am sitting in the district of Shiodome,Tokyo where I am the guest of Yakult, the international company that produces what my kids call ‘baby milks.’  Hailing from the city of Perth where the population is only 1.5 million, walking around a city that houses 12 million people is true appreciation of the mass of humanity. I have experienced my first game of baseball watching the Yakult Swallows who sadly got beaten 6 to 5 by the Softbank Hawks, sponsored by the largest bank in Japan.  It was like watching IPL cricket with the multitude of musical instruments, chanting and  t-shirts flying out of bazooka’s. Not a meat pie in sight, hot dogs without buns, salmon rice rolls and hot noodles.  Australians would love the kegs on legs, all beer companies are represented by staff walking around all night pouring beer from the kegs on their backs. My intestinal tract is very happy and I am making my way though the array of probiotic products available here and produced by Yakult, little bottles of liquid (or baby milks), yoghurt and drinking yoghurt.  Research is showing a very positive effect of probiotic’s on our immune systems and our resistance to infection. Some people seem very concerned about the potential sugar content of Yakult but as 1 bottle contains only 52 calories, it really is insignificant. There is a ‘light’ version which has exactly the same quantity of beneficial bacteria but with 30% less sugar but once again, if you are only looking at 52 calories….. Off to Japanese Elementary School tomorrow to experience ‘Shokuiku’ their food and nutrition education and school lunch program.

Are probiotics good for your health?

Are probiotics good for your health?

The scientifically established benefits of probiotics are:

  • Prevention or reduction of the duration of rotavirus diarrhoea
  • Prevention or reduction of the duration of antibiotic associated diarrhoea
  • Reduction of the symptoms of lactose intolerance

Other benefits have been suggested, however there is a need for further research with probiotic bacteria in relation to:

  • Bladder and colon cancer (prevention and treatment)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Food Allergy
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Cholesterol control

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live beneficial bacteria that help to improve the overall balance of bacteria in the digestive system. There are a number of sources including fermented milk drinks (e.g. Yakult®), yoghurts, capsules and powders.

Stress, diet, aging and antibiotics may upset our intestinal balance and probiotics may be especially useful during these times. And no, we can’t stop the aging process but we can impact the other factors.

Be aware that some fermented milks arrive in store frozen and this appears to render the bacteria ineffective. This can be the case for some store brand varieties of fermented milk. Choice magazine tested the viability of bacteria in probiotics’ over time in 1999 and found that Yakult®, Vaalia Smoothie®, Vaalia Yoghurt® and Yoplus Light® all showed good survivability of bacteria over the shelf life. This is the most recent survey to date. Yakult® contains one of the highest levels of beneficial bacteria at 6.5 billion in the 65ml bottle.

Supplements in liquid, capsule or powder form may carry high levels of bacteria but they are not live. They should also be refrigerated which may not be the case in pharmacies and health food stores.

You may have noticed that there is a ‘light’ version of Yakult. Both the original and the ‘light’ have the same type and amount of beneficial bacteria but the ‘light’ version contains 30% less sugar. Keeping in mind that Yakult Original contains only 52 calories, the need for Yakult Light is probably minimal.

No doubt I will have further information upon my return.

Porridge with Juicy Apricots


1 cup dried apricots
1 cup 100% apple juice
1 ½ cups quick cooking oats
2 cups reduced fat milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tablespoons apple juice extra
extra milk for serving
cinnamon for sprinkling

What to do
1. Bring apricots and apple juice to the boil in a non-stick saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes until soft.
2. Bring oats, milk and vanilla essence to the boil over low heat, stirring continuously. Simmer 1-3 minutes until thickened. Stir in extra apple juice.
3. Serve porridge immediately, topped with poached apricots and syrup, pour over a little extra milk and sprinkle with cinnamon

Serves 4
Taken from ‘kids good health recipe book’ by DairyAustralia 2007

The final word

If you have a hot nutrition question or you are interested in finding how to improve the performance and productivity of your team, contact me at

Until next time,