Improving Success Odds By Managing Race Day Nerves

Jannine Myers

When getting ready to compete, whether against other runners or against yourself and the race goal/s you have set, mental preparation is key to determining your odds of success. Just as diet plays a key role in achieving health, weight, and fitness goals, mental fortitude plays a key role in achieving race and performance goals.

Getting to the finish line in a performance-worthy time (and a still physically composed manner), often has to do with how mentally strong you are. In a previous post on overcoming pre-race nerves, I offered some hopefully helpful tips; the following is an add-on:

1. Practice winning in your mind! Not necessarily a literal win, but a win in terms of the goal outcome you’re hoping for.

I can’t say it enough; visualization, and playing out in your mind what your ideal race-day will look like, is an incredibly powerful technique. During the week leading up to races, I like to use my final few training runs to hone my mental skills and get my thoughts in line with how I hope to perform.

More often than not, I am tired by this point in my training, and even though tapering runs are not terribly taxing on the body, they can still feel quite hard after weeks of focused training. The problem with this, is that a tapered run that feels like a struggle to finish can easily result in the body sending a false message to the brain; a message that produces a considerable decrease in confidence. Hence, it’s important at this time to combat false messages and thoughts by practicing techniques such as visualization and positive declarations.

2. Know what your “calming” rituals are, and if you don’t know them, learn them!

I have three specific calming rituals on race day: isolation, deep breathing, and focused self-talk. I enjoy immersing myself in the company of other runner friends as I’m checking in at races and getting myself organized, but as the start time nears the best way for me to calm my nerves and get the adrenaline working for me (not against me), is to excuse myself and go find a place to be alone. A few solitary moments afford an opportunity to meditate, breathe deeply, and practice visualization one last time.

3. In addition to visualization, practice “re-centering” your thoughts.

At my last race, my mental focus strayed a few times and I had to work quickly to recenter my thoughts. The first occurrence was at the start line, before we had even started running. A female who carried the obvious stance and posture of a competitive runner, and who was wearing a pair of Adidas Boston marathon shoes, positioned herself right in front of me. For a moment I was slightly intimidated and questioned my decision to be up front amongst the starter group.

The second occurrence was soon after; I hadn’t even made it to the 1km marker when a cheering spectator – who thought she was being supportive – yelled out, “You’re doing so good! Keep it up!” WHO DOES THAT? An endurance runner with a competitive goal in mind, does not want to hear, at mile .05, that he or she is doing “good!” Heck, there’s still 20.5km to go at that point!

Spectator tip: crowd support is the best – it truly is – but the best time to encourage a runner and let them know they’re doing good is closer towards the end of a race, when both stamina and mental strength are running low 😉

OR, the face you make when someone tells you you are doing great - at mile 0.5 of a half marathon!

OR, the face you make when someone tells you you are doing great – at mile 0.5 of a half marathon!

The third occurrence was when a male runner decided to attach himself to my side and stay in line with my pace. It’s hard enough to concentrate on controlled pacing and breathing as it is (especially when you’re working hard to keep to a set pace), but when you have another runner right beside you mimicking your every footstep so that both sets of footsteps sound like one, it can become quite distracting and annoying.

In all of these situations I momentarily lost my focus, but that’s where meditation can be a game saver! Knowing how to quickly re-center your thoughts when your focus is diverted is key to overcoming such distractions and confidence drainers. You don’t need to be an expert at meditation, but practicing during training runs how to combat drifting or negative thoughts, can really help on race day.

4. Don’t underestimate your ability!

I heard an interview between Lewis Howes and 8-time Olympic Speed Skater medalist, Apollo Ohno, in which Ohno said the following about race day performance: “Somehow we have this unexplainable ability to perform beyond what previous physiology has shown.” With that in mind, Ohno would go into his competitions with a mindset that assured him of greater success, because he believed that in addition to all of his hard work and training, an underlying strength, unconsciously reserved for race day only, would also come into play.

5. And finally, play mind games that help get you from one mile or km marker to the next.

I almost always have some strategy in place, or what I will refer to as a “mile marker game,” going into every race. Giving myself little mind games to play as I run from one mile or km marker to the next, or from one aid station to another, really helps to keep me focused, motivated, and happy. It’s easy to feel excited and on a high when you first start running, but you all know how dismal it can feel towards the end of a race when your energy reserves are low and motivation is seriously waning.

At my last race, I had two things in mind at the outset:

The first was to run for one of my co-workers whose 21st birthday happened to be the same day. I told her that I would count down every kilometre as if it were a year of her life. As I passed each km marker, I would smile and imagine Hannah celebrating a new age and year, and as the finish line drew nearer, I felt motivated to get there faster so that I could imagine in my mind’s eye Hannah turning 21 and celebrating a significant milestone in her life.

The second was not so much a game as it was a source of inspiration. A good friend had sent “good luck” wishes, along with a message that her husband was running his first triathlon the same weekend. Her husband however, had been in a serious hit-and-run accident a year earlier, and was coming back from major surgeries and rehabilitation. Consequently, I made a conscious decision to show up at my race with feelings of gratitude and joy because unlike some, who are physically limited, I am only limited by my thoughts. I not only am capable of moving my legs and running; “I GET to run!”

I hope these tips are helpful; race day nerves can feel quite overwhelming but with strategic attention given to them, they CAN be managed :)

Spiced-Apple Tofu and Millet Bake

Jannine Myers

A co-worker asked me recently how I cook with tofu; she had been using it mostly as a stir-fry ingredient but was lost for other ideas on how to use it and how – specifically – to turn it into a palatable dish that the whole family might enjoy. I find tofu to be a very versatile ingredient that can enhance almost any recipe and please even the pickiest of taste buds; the following is my latest tofu creation, and listed further below are links to a couple of other tofu recipes that you might like to try:

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INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup uncooked millet
¾ cup almond milk
¾ cup water
3 or 4 green apples
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp minced ginger
1 packet firm tofu + a little almond milk to blend with (use soft tofu if you prefer a less dry texture)
¼ cup raw honey
1/4 cup raisins
¼ cup chopped brazil nuts
Additional milk (if needed)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a pie dish.

Remove the tofu from package and wrap in paper towels to absorb excess liquid.
Add the millet, almond milk, and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes.

Skin and dice the apples and add to a small saucepan. Add a little water, as well as the spices and minced ginger. Bring to a boil then turn heat down and simmer covered until all the liquid has absorbed and the apples are soft and mushy.

Melt the honey, and add with the tofu to a blender, then pulse until a smooth texture is achieved (add a little almond milk if necessary). In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked millet, the pulsed tofu, the stewed apples, and the raisins and brazil nuts. Mix until well combined. If the mixture is still quite dry, add a little more milk.
Pour the mixture into greased pie dish and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

Serve warm with plain yogurt and fresh kiwifruit slices, or your choice of fruit.

[✨ Spiced Apple Tofu Bake ✨ A great breakfast alternative! Millet contains various minerals and is high in Vitamin B, and tofu is too! Not to mention that tofu is a good source of protein]

For a little more tofu inspiration, try these tofu brownies, or these curried tofu strips with creamy coconut yoghurt dip.

Diet REALLY Is Eighty Percent Of The Equation

Jannine Myers

One thing athletes must contend with is the inevitable likelihood that their training will at times be temporarily interrupted by injury or illness. This is an aspect of training that cannot be controlled, but one thing that can always be controlled, is diet; we are always in control of what we choose to nourish our bodies with.

In the past few weeks I’ve been very fortunate to receive some excellent physical fitness guidance and testing, thanks to a management team that values the ongoing commitment of staff members to further their knowledge and application of research-based health and fitness truths.

My results from a VO2 Max test, as well as an Ultrasound Body Composition test, revealed that I am eating and training in a way that is producing a desirable outcome – despite being forced by recent bouts of both illness and injury to cut back heavily on training. With that in mind, I want to briefly address the diet component of maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle.

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Most people, when attempting to eat for reasons such as weight loss, increased energy, improved performance, or greater overall health, attempt to a) restrict themselves to a reduced number of calories, and b) eliminate from their diet what they consider to be “bad foods.” Initial results might suggest that progress is taking place, but the fact that the average person repeats this process about 8 to 10 times a year indicates that there must be a better way.

Calorie-reduction, coupled with the removal of so-called “bad foods,” fails to produce long-term results, most likely because individuals attach a dieting mentality to their efforts and make too drastic a cut in calories while also placing absolutes on what they cannot eat. In the short-term, as weight loss is achieved, it might feel like health and performance goals are also being achieved, but usually a tipping point is reached where the results curve starts to take a negative turn. When that happens, motivation to continue begins to dwindle; hence, progress is stalled, weight gain occurs, and the cycle starts all over again.

I am a firm believer that eating for health and performance should not feel too difficult or challenging. In my Women’s Group Nutrition Coaching sessions, I introduce my clients to a way of eating that involves mastering new and effective life-forming habits. Achieving a strong, fit, and healthy body does not have to be an undesirable process. Granted, it won’t be easy at first, but with the right mindset and approach, it is possible to learn a way of eating and relating to food that is completely liberating and conducive to your goals.

In just a few weeks time, I will be starting a new group coaching session. If you’d like to be part of this group, or would like to inquire about cost and session details, please send your inquiries to myersnz1@yahoo.com.

[Note: coaching is done online, so for my followers and friends in the States and Japan, feel free to also send inquiries].

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Which cycle are you on??? Change IS possible!

Protein Brownie Muffins For Active Teens

Jannine Myers

Protein bars are a regular shopping list item for many athletes and recreational exercisers, and provided they aren’t filled with unnecessary added sugars, “questionable” ingredients, or poor quality protein, they can occasionally add value to one’s diet. I find them particularly useful when travelling, or after races, or on days when my diet is lacking in protein.

But what about young athletes? I have a young athlete at home with me; my 13-year old daughter. She spends approximately 12 hours a week at her dance studio and besides the fact that she trains hard and puts her muscles to work daily, she is also still growing. She needs quality protein in her diet just as I do!

It’s too costly for me to buy extra protein bars (and I also wouldn’t want my daughter to get addicted to the sugary candy-bar appeal of them), however I don’t mind giving her occasional home-made “treats” that she can enjoy in place of generic supermarket muesli and cereal protein bars. The following recipe is one that she really enjoys, and one you might also like to try for your active teens:

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Ingredients

2 cups chickpeas, canned is fine but drain and wash first

3 tbsps coconut oil

1 tbsp of plunger or instant decaf coffee (optional)

250ml Unsweetened Almond Milk

3 scoops of quality chocolate whey protein (1 scoop = 25g protein)

2 tbsps cocoa or cacao powder

3/4 cup organic oats

3/4 cup ground almonds

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup low GI sugar

1/4 cup molasses

2 tbsps tapioca flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Boil water and add about 4 to 5 tbsps to the coffee. Then, simply add all the ingredients to a food processor, pour the coffee over, and pulse until combined. If you are omitting the coffee, just add a little extra water. Pour the mixture into pre-greased muffin pans (recipe makes 16 muffins), and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (15 to 17 mins if you prefer a really moist brownie, or up to 20 mins if you prefer more of a dense cake texture).

Nutritional Data per muffin: Calories 160; Carbs 18.95g (Sugars 9.45g); Fat: 6.25g (Saturated Fat 2.49g); Protein 7.9g; Fiber 2.5g

 

Trying To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Jannine Myers

There are many reasons to feel grateful for living in New Zealand, but cheap food is not one of them. Grocery shopping for the average family is either a major financial burden or a nutritional nightmare. I don’t claim to have the perfect solution, but I do have a system to share that may work as well for some of you as it does for me.

First of all, before you even begin, I recommend spending a few weeks lining your pantry shelves with some staple ingredients such as spices, seasonings, sauces, healthy oils, dried fruits and nuts, seeds, baking essentials, and also canned beans, legumes, and low-sodium vegetables. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to go! This is how I do my weekly grocery shopping, and it does not involve writing out or taking a shopping list (unless there are a few specific items that I want to remember to pick up):

1. Start with your nearest fresh fruit and vegetable store and grab a basket. Go down all the aisles and only put in your basket whichever fruits and vegetables are selling for the best and cheapest price in terms of quality and quantity. The selection of “sale price” fruits and vegetables tend to differ from week to week, allowing for not only an affordable selection of varied fresh produce but also a wider range of nutrients.

2. Go next to your local supermarket of choice and be prepared to only reach out for “best deal” options. The produce section is always the first area when you walk into most supermarkets, but since you will have already bought your fruits and vegetables, just walk right through towards the deli section. I usually do a quick scan of the deli area to see if there are any exceptionally good deals available but if not, I keep moving.

3. Beyond the deli section you’ll start to encounter the meats in the back of the store, as well as the first aisle entry. My strategy when supermarket shopping is to specifically look for: a) whichever protein foods are on sale, to include eggs, all lean meats, seafood, and vegetarian options; b) top up on the cheapest complex carb options, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, seeded breads, etc. (root vegetables would have been purchased at the fruit and vegetable store); c) choose whichever dairy (and/or refrigerated vegan) products are on sale, and d), top up on any pantry staples that need replacing.

The main thing to keep in mind is that your objective is to specifically seek out the weekly deals on: fruits and vegetables, meat and non-meat proteins, complex carbohydrates, and dairy and/or vegan cold products.

Once you get home, it’s always a good idea to start food preparation right away. I almost always plan my grocery shopping trips on days that I am off work and have enough time to shop and meal prep all in one go. You’ll find that by practicing this one habit, the likelihood of food being wasted will be significantly reduced.

By now you’re probably wondering how I create my meals without having planned an advance menu, and the answer to that is that I simply mix and match the groceries I come home with. All of our meals are built around the concept of a balanced plate that contains some type of lean protein, a complex carbohydrate, a decent size serving of vegetables, and a small serving of some type of healthy fat (such as avocado, nuts and seeds, or olive oil, for example). By the end of the week, if protein options are completely used up, I start using pantry supplements such as beans and legumes.

Finally, it’s not necessary, but if you enjoy baking as much as I do, I use up ripened or excess fruits and vegetables by making bread loaves and muffins, and I use dried fruits and nuts to make biscuits; I prefer to have healthier home-baked sweets on hand in place of store-bought packaged goods.

A final tip: have plenty of portable containers available to pre-pack meals for school and work, and to also store ready-made meals in the freezer that can be pulled out later in the week and re-heated.

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Jannine Myers

– Nutrition and diet has always been important to me, but it becomes even more so during times of training, racing, illness, and injury. Just as I would normally pay attention to how I fuel my body during peak training phases, I also pay extra attention to my food choices whenever my body is under other types of physical (or emotional) stress.

Key Tip # 5 – Get interested in nutrition! Seek out information on the web and at the library, or consult a dietitian if necessary; learn what foods will help to speed up your recovery. Since my immediate goal is injury/recovery-related, my kitchen efforts at this time are focused on meals that contain a lot of anti-inflammatory foods such as broccoli, salmon, walnuts, flax and chia seeds, blueberries, and ginger and turmeric. On that note, I’ll leave you with one of my anti-inflammatory (and easily portable) breakfast meals:

Turmeric-Ginger Fruit Blend With Oats 

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Ingredients (Serves 4):

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 small banana

1 small apple

3 dried dates

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 cup oats

Toppings: 

Plain greek yogurt, a couple of pieces of fresh fruit (optional), pumpkin seeds, coconut shreds

 

Directions:

Mix the coconut milk, banana, apple, and spices together in a blender.

In four bowls (or containers with lids), add 1/4 cup dry oats to each. Top with a little water to moisten the oats. Pour the coconut milk mixture in even portions over all four oat bowls. Refrigerate for at least an hour. When you’re ready to eat, top with a dollop of yogurt, some pumpkin seeds and coconut shreds.

Enjoy :)

A Brussels Sprouts Recipe You Might Actually Enjoy

Jannine Myers

Brussels sprouts are one of those odd vegetables that people seem to either love or hate; I personally love them! If you’re in the “indifferent” camp and don’t mind eating them, but won’t go out of your way to buy them because you’re not sure how to cook them or what to pair them with, give this recipe a try.

I made this a couple of nights ago, and not only was it super quick and easy, but it was also really delicious. And on a nutritional note, there are so many reasons why you should include brussels sprouts in your diet, including the following:

– a great source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, and B vitamins

– high in Vitamins C and K

– a reasonably good source of protein when compared with other green vegetables

– can potentially fight different types of cancer and improve bone health

[The following recipe directions recommend adding the brussels sprouts last, and cooking for no more than 5 minutes – brussels sprouts are nutritionally optimal when they are not overcooked].

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Ingredients

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsps Thai red curry paste

3 cups cubed cooked pumpkin, kumara, and potato (to save time, I stopped at the deli section of my local supermarket and picked up a pre-packaged container of already roasted vegetables).

1 can (400g) organic black beans

1 can (400g) coconut milk

brussels sprouts, washed and halved (about 2 cups)

brown rice, cooked (to serve as base for the curry)

Directions

Heat oil in pan, and gently saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the red curry paste and cook for a further 1 or 2 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables, coconut milk,, and drained black beans. Cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and a sprinkle of organic sugar, and stir through. Cook over low heat for a further 5 minutes and remove from the stovetop.

Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

[Recipe by Angela Casley, Viva]

No-Bake Apricot-Oat Slice

Jannine Myers

It hasn’t been much of a summer here in Auckland, but unlike the absence of sunshine there is definitely an abundance of sweet summer “stone” fruits. I’ve been enjoying daily servings of my choice of plums, peaches, nectarines, and apricots, and while I love seeing my fruit basket full, the fruits sometimes ripen faster than we can get around to eating them. When that happens it’s time to get innovative. Yesterday I did just that, and the end result was a No-Bake Apricot-Oat Slice made with pantry ingredients already on hand:

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Ingredients

5 or 6 medium size apricots

1 tsp sugar (optional)

1/4 cup peanut butter with chia seeds

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 cups organic oats

1/2 cup whey chocolate protein powder

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

A few large chunks of dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)

Directions

Skin and roughly chop the apricots, then add to a small saucepan. Add enough water to soak the apricots and bring to a slow boil (add a little sugar if you wish). Once boiling, cover and simmer until the fruit softens. Remove the lid, increase to medium heat and allow the water to evaporate. Reduce heat again and add remaining wet ingredients (peanut butter, almond milk, and molasses). Slowly heat the mixture through, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a separate mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients and mix together. Next, add the apricot mixture to the dry ingredients and combine well. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly grease. Pour the mixture into baking tray and spread out evenly using a spatula.

Melt the dark chocolate and spread over the apricot-oat slice. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then slice and store in an airtight container. Keep refrigerated.

Enjoy with your morning or afternoon tea/coffee, or as a pre-workout snack (and although not as sweet as store-bought granola bars, they’d also be a great, and healthier school snack).

Chasing The Shadow Of My Future Self

Jannine Myers

A friend shared with me a video clip which cleverly portrays a runner as two identical persons running at the same time, with one of the runners always slightly behind the other. The catch phrase at the end of the video says, “And so it goes on and on, chasing the person you want to become.”

Watching the video made me think about my own runs and how I often run the same paths and routes, alone with my thoughts, and every once in a while catching a glimpse of my shadow ahead of me.

My shadow, I realized, can potentially be a glimpse of the “me” I hope to become; a shadow of myself that’s wrapped up in all of my hopes and dreams. I can metaphorically choose the path my shadow will take, by setting for myself specific goals that can progressively be moved towards with each running step I take.

I challenge us all to make 2018 the year that we each chase after our future desired self!

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Switch to Japanese Washoku-Style Eating for Health and Longevity

Jannine Myers

This week’s post is a little unusual but I hope you enjoy it. I had lunch recently with some elderly Japanese ladies; these women have been friends of mine for more than ten years and they have become like family to me. I have learned so much from them over the years about Japanese history and culture, and at our lunch they had more to share with me. I learned about this year’s Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival in Okinawa, and how several thousand Okinawans who live abroad returned to Okinawa to reunite with family members and enjoy a joint celebration (read this article for more information about Okinawa’s first wave of overseas migration).

The second thing I learned – which is the subject of this post – is about the traditional Japanese washoku diet. One of the ladies in the group attributes hers and her husband’s good health to the diet that they both follow; I asked her to describe for me what their daily meals typically consist of:

[Note: breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals generally include the same foods with the exception of protein source which alternates between tofu, lean cuts of meat, fish and seafood]

  • Genmai (brown rice) and beans – brown rice is high in fiber and has been linked with reduced cholesterol levels, while beans (of any kind) are really quite an amazing food with their long list of healthy nutrients.
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  • Natto – natto is fermented soybeans that have been soaked, steamed or boiled, then allowed time to ferment after the bacteria Bacillus subtilis has been added. Natto is most definitely an acquired taste, but it’s rich in both macro and micronutrients and it offers an extensive array of health benefits, hence the reason it’s enjoyed by many as a Japanese dietary staple.
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  • Miso soup – miso is also a fermented and nutritionally dense food. Lighter-colored miso is much milder (and generally sweeter) in taste than darker-colored miso, and the lighter colors indicate a shorter fermentation process. It’s probiotic properties aid in intestinal health but also help to build a stronger immune system.
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  • Other daily foods that are added to meals typically include small side servings of various kinds of seasonal vegetables (especially root vegetables) that are prepared and/or cooked in different ways. And of course, a lean protein source is always included.
  • Daily beverages include traditional Japanese teas, but two beverages my friend added to the list were Japanese black vinegar (which contains citric acid that supposedly benefits the brain and immune system by causing an increase in energy production), and hot water infused with fresh ginger and black Okinawan sugar (this beverage is especially helpful during the winter months as it is believed to warm the body from within and also promote better blood circulation).
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    Japanese Black Vinegar

And one last food that I’ve saved till last – since it’s quite interesting and I had never heard of it until now – is black garlic:

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According to my friend, she and her husband add rice and water to their rice cooker, then add several garlic bulbs on top of the rice before cooking. When the rice is done and the setting has moved to “Warm,” they leave the rice cooker unopened and untouched (no changes are made to the setting), for a minimum of two full weeks. The aroma is a little pungent at first, but it eventually settles down and when the garlic bulbs are removed two or three weeks later they look like those in the image above. The garlic cloves are peeled and eaten as is, and apparently taste very sweet and delicious; not bitter at all.

(Click this link and scroll down for a more detailed explanation of black garlic and why it is considered a health food).

Finally, if you’ve never eaten a traditional Japanese washoku meal, here’s an example of how it is typically plated:

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