One of the reasons why I love Japan is for how easy it is to live a healthy lifestyle here. You can find inexpensive and nutritionally balanced meals in any restaurant or convenience store. There are also a number of Japanese foods that have a good reputation for health benefits, such as green tea, various types of seaweeds, nattou, miso…the list goes on and on.
Today, I want to introduce one of my favorite Japanese “health foods”, aojiru.
Aojiru (青汁), literally “green juice”, is a Japanese health supplement that is basically made of powdered organic kale or young barely leaves that is mixed with water or milk and drunk for its high nutritional value.
Here’s a bit of background information. The legend has it that a doctor originally invented a version of the drink during WWII, and eventually decided that kale was the best possible ingredient for it. Eventually, the drink was picked up by beverage companies and mass marketed in the 80’s and began not only using kale, but also young barley and other vegetables as well. Nowadays, there are many varieties of the drink available, sometimes containing things like fruit extracts for added nutrition and collagen to improve skin complexion.
You may be wondering, why is this drink so popular? Well, aojiru is said to have a long list of benefits, including but not limited to antioxidants, skin rejuvenating, sleep improving, metabolism improving, digestion enhancing, colon cleansing, detoxification, cancer risk lowering, headache preventing, energy improving, cholesterol lowering, weight loss, obesity prevention, anti-inflammatory properties, immune system building, body alkalizing, anti-aging and promoting longevity. In short, if you drink this, you will basically live forever and look pretty good while doing so.But does it actually work?
I started drinking aojiru almost a year ago, after returning to Japan after a trip to America. I knew there would be no better time to start drinking it, since my body was in shock after reverting to the American diet for two weeks. I decided that I would drink three packs a day and see what happened.
Here’s my experience:
I started with a cheap barley version, running about ¥900 for 60 packs at the local drugstore. I later ended up buying a more expensive barley version, which ran about ¥2000 for 30 packs which I kept in my desk at work for an after lunch drink.
The first aojiru I drank was a green powder with a floury consistency, and it was a little hard to stir because it stuck to the sides of the glass. The flavor was a lot better than I expected. If you like the taste of matcha, you'll like aojiru.
After my first two drinks, the next morning, less than twenty-four hours back in Japan, I woke up feeling extremely rested and energetic. I went through my morning routine and went back for my first day at work. I was moderately busy introducing myself to and chatting with the new teachers, preparing for my classes, and doing other teacherly things, but to my surprise, I didn't feel any jet lag at all. I was alert all day, and didn't need any coffee. I considered that it could have been the fact that I was mentally refreshed since I hadn't worked for so long, but I still thought I felt better than average.
Over the week, I also started to drink the more expensive version every day at work. It was a fine, green, grain-like powder, and dissolved immediately. It was also extremely delicious.
A week later, I was washing my hands in the bathroom on a particularly sunny afternoon when I looked in the mirror and noticed something spectacular. The dark circles under my eyes, which were always present regardless of how much water I drank or sleep I got, had completely disappeared, and my overall complexion had also improved. I couldn't believe it. The aojiru was working! I actually did look and feel healthier.
Along with the generally healthy feeling and better skin, I can also vouch for the improved digestion. As for sleep enhancing, I'm pretty awful at keeping a regular schedule, so it worked when I first reset my internal clock for Japan time, but quickly stopped working once I got back into the habit of sleeping whenever. My health checks have been pretty good, so perhaps it is indeed contributing to my overall health as well.
Now that my body has gotten used to aojiru, I can't feel the benefits as acutely as the first week or two, but judging by my complexion, it's still working pretty well.
If I've piqued your interest in aojiru, check it out at your local supermarket or drug store.
I've been living in Japan for four years. Originally a JET Program ALT from 2012-2015, I'm currently working in Fukuoka City.