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Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have heard of kale, so ubiquitous is this vegetable Millennials worship. But have you heard of aojiru? Odds are, the answer is: No.
Singaporeans who have a keen interest in health supplements, having spent S$490million on vitamins and other supplements in 2017 alone, might be interested in aojiru especially when they discover that it traces its origins to kale. The fact that it is a Japanese supplement popular in the country – its market size in 2012 was a whopping nearly US$500 million - should further bolster aojiru’s credibility. After all, Japan ranked fourth on the Bloomberg 2019 Healthiest Country Index, moving up three places from its 2017 position.
At first blush, aojiru may not look like much. It is a green vegetable drink made from kale or young barley grass. It was created in 1943 by Dr Niro Endo during wartime Japan when food was scarce. An army doctor at that time, he was desperate to supplement his family’s paltry diet. He experimented by extracting the juice from leaves of different vegetables that would normally be thrown away and found that kale was the most nutritious. In fact, he credited the cure of his son’s pneumonia and his wife’s nephritis (inflamed kidneys) to aojiru.
Fast forward to 1983. Q’SAI, then producing and selling frozen and processed food and drinks, started marketing 100% kale aojiru powder as a dietary supplement. By 2000, when FANCL, a leader in cosmetics, also got into the aojiru business, sales of the supplement soared. Today, there are dozens of Japanese companies marketing the supplement. While aojiru is big in Japan, it is largely unheard of anywhere else.
We all know that vegetables are good for you and given that aojiru is a vegetable juice, it is easy to understand its benefits. What adds to its appeal is the fact that unlike vegetables which are bulky and, therefore, require a lot to yield enough nutrients and do not keep well for long, aojiru is easy to store, prepare and consume. It comes in powder-form which means you are consuming the nutrients in concentrated doses. Simply add it to water and drink. No cooking is required. It is that quick and easy to prepare, making it perfect for the busy individual who wants to up his vegetable intake.
Rich in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, chlorophyll, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C and K, aojiru is a literal nutritional dynamite. Aojiru can boost immunity and improve skin quality. It stimulates waste elimination as well, detoxifying our bodies. The chlorophyll within also helps in the production of red blood cells which increases energy levels and enhances general well-being.
Aojiru is a good source of dietary fibre. Being rich in probiotics and digestive enzymes, it prevents constipation and increases metabolism. As a dietary fibre, aojiru works much like yoghurt, decreasing the bad bacteria in the intestines.
Our bodies work best in its alkaline state. But much of what we eat are acidic, making our bodies work doubly hard to maintain its alkalinity and opening us up to various diseases, weight gain and lethargy. Aojiru helps by having an alkalising effect on our bodies.
Knowing where to get aojiru is not the issue. You can buy it at Watsons, Isetan and even Don Don Donki or online from Lazada, Qoo10, Shoppee, wonect, and Amazon. Knowing which to get, though, is the real challenge.
Aojiru comes in many forms: powder, tablets, capsules, drinks and jellies. How you want to take yours will largely depend on your preference and tolerance for greens.
Given the fact that aojiru comes from vegetables, it can taste bitter and those who do not love their greens may not take well to it. Aojiru drinks and jellies are easiest to consume and convenient. The older formulae, though, were not that tasty and only hardcore vegetable lovers could down the concoction. In recent times, manufacturers have worked hard to address this issue, adding different ingredients to their blend to mask the taste so much so that some have reported that aojiru can taste quite pleasant, even sweet. Powders are versatile and can be mixed into juices and soups. Tables and capsules, of course, can be downed in an instant.
Yakult, famous for their probiotic yoghurt drink, has an aojiru drink. Their Yakult Green Drink is the number one best-selling green drink in Japan. They have two types. Yakult Aojiru no Meguri is made with young barley grass while Yakult Kale no Meguri is made with kale. Both contain dextrin, a fibre supplement that controls blood sugar and helps you feel fuller; and oligosaccharide, a prebiotic that promotes the growth of good bacteria in the large intestines.
Fancl was the one that brought aojiru to the masses in Japan. So, their aojiru is a must-try. Fancl Aojiru is made of 100% kale and they come in several versions: Their Basic and Premium are unsweetened while Fancl Green Kale Smoothie is a thick, yummy drink with fruit extract and chia seeds but has only 25 calories a serving. Fancl Rich Cocoa Aojiru is for chocolate lovers because it has cocoa which is rich in antioxidants.
Yamamoto Kanpo Omugi Wakaba is Japan’s best-seliing aojiru brand. People like it because the way they process their 100% young barley leaves rids them of all bitterness plus it is gluten-free.
iSDG Gagome Aojiru is from the brand that is known for their enzyme-based diet supplements. iSDG’s aojiru has added gagome kelp from Hokkaido. This extremely rare type of seaweed has twice as much fucoidan as makombu, the most popular type of kelp in Japan. Fucoidan is a sulphated polysaccharide that is an anti-virus, anti-coagulant and antioxidant.