The Japanese grammatical construct "...-te wa ikenai" ("you shouldn't ..." preceded by the continuative form of a verb) sounds like words voiced by a stern parent scolding a misbehaving child. It became popularized in the media after the appearance of a controversial book on food safety published by Shukan Kinyobi in 1999, and has been popping up regularly with regard to things like foods, dieting and other health regimens, medication, selection of physicians and other things, related but not necessarily confined to diet and health in general.
As autumn is a season to be jolly -- meaning lots of social activities -- Shukan Taishu (Sept 26) has run an advisory about how you need to avoid combining 15 different combinations of foods in the same sitting. Disregard such precautions, the magazine warns, and even someone with a cast-iron constitution might find himself doubled over with pain, or making a desperate dash to the toilet.
The article starts by refuting one old wives' tale: eating umeboshi (pickled plums) and eel, which is incorrectly rumored to have a negative impact on digestion. Actually, the sour property of the plums helps to digestion of the fats present in eels, so if anything, it's a good idea to eat them both.
But the ones that follow should definitely be shunned. The first of these combinations is tempura and watermelon.Remarked Satoshi Ikuta, a former professor at the University of Illinois, "As the the saying goes, 'oil and water don't mix.' Eat them together and diarrhea could result."
Number 2: Tempura and "kakigori" (shaved ice with sweet syrup) are to be avoided for the same reasons as above, plus they can reduce the body temperature.
Number 3: Pork and buckwheat noodles should not be consumed cold, say authorities on traditional Asian physiology, as both have the property of cooling down the body.
Number 4: Crab and persimmons together reduce the body temperature. In addition, proteins in crab meat produce tannic acid and albumin, which may result in nausea, stomach pains and other symptoms resembling food poisoning.
Number 5: Too many summer vegetables, such as cucumber, eggplant, bell peppers, okra and acorn squash, which can have the effect of reducing the body's temperature.
Number 6: Avoid milk with fish or shellfish "If incompletely digested, the body generates toxins," said Naomi Hiraji, an authority on traditional Asian herbal medication, saying studies are ongoing to explain why this occurs.
Number 7: Combining vinegar and mutton will cause overheating of the body and lead to abnormalities in the blood.
Number 8: Rice wine and mustard -- said to have negative effects on the skeletal and muscular systems.
Number 9: Carrots and "daikon" (giant radish). While both root vegetables are rich in vitamin C, their respective properties mean consuming them together will cancel out any benefits.
Number 10 is the combination of natto and raw egg. For this one, our foreign readers are probably off the hook, so the less said the better; let's move on.
Number 11: Oysters and seaweeds. "Oysters, which have a reputation for boosting a man's virility, are a rich source of zinc, but 'hijiki,' 'wakame' or other sea vegetables cause the zinc to be excreted," a clinician specializing in male-related problems advised. "Better to avoid eating them together."
Are we forgetting something? Oh yes, Number 12: Beer and fried foods. When alcohol molecules are broken down by the liver, the body generates enzymes that promote the synthesis of fats. At the same time, generation of acetaldehyde can reduce liver function, and lead to development of fatty liver.
Unlucky Number 13 is sanma (mackerel pike) and pickles; number 14, "tarako" (codfish eggs) and sausages; and number 15, the final combination to be avoided are ginkgo nuts and Japanese rice wine. The nuts are particularly popular in autumn, when they're served with "kushi-yaki" (deep-fried tidbits on skewers) or in "chawan-mushi" (savory egg custard).
"Eat too many while drinking sake, and people have been known to get food poisoning caused by the ginkgo toxin (aka methoxypyridoxine) which is present in gingko nuts," the aforementioned Ikuta warns, adding "The safe level would be fewer than 10 nuts per day." Overeating can lead to gastrointestinal distress, and in the most severe cases breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.
Japanese food has a reputation for being good for health, but like everything else, extra caution is needed when consuming certain gustatory delights of autumn.© Japan Today