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5 Health Benefits of Bonito Flakes + 3 Simple Recipes

Jamie Sukroo - 26 Aug 2020

5 Health Benefits of Bonito Flakes + 3 Simple Recipes

Up until recently I had absolutely no idea what Bonito Flakes (Katsuobushi / Dried Tuna Flakes) were, yet I had eaten them without my knowledge every time I had Japanese food.

It’s been said that Bonito Flakes are so ubiquitous in Japan that they are like Salt and Pepper in Western Cuisine. They are one of the foods responsible for imparting the wonderful Umami flavour (the 5th flavour after Sour, Salty, Sweet, and Bitter) that has made Japanese cuisine famous the world over.

What Are Bonito Flakes (Katsuobushi)?

Bonito Flakes or Katsuobushi are made from fish (either skipjack Tuna or the cheaper Bonito fish) that has been dried, smoked, and then shaved into flakes. The product from Japan has very high levels of Benzopyrene (a known carcinogenic) due to the smoking process employed. The Bonito Flakes we sell have extremely low levels of Benzopyrene (well under EU limits) due to a patented Spanish smoking process. We also use the more premium Skipjack tuna caught in pristine Atlantic waters. We love Bonito Flakes but hate benzopyrene!

What Are the Health Benefits of Bonito Flakes (Katsuobushi)?

Below are 5 of the numerous health benefits of Bonito Flakes:

  1. Anti Aging – this one is a bit dubious as I couldn’t find any scientific evidence to back it up! Katsuo Dashi (Dried Bonito Broth – recipe later) which is made from bonito flakes has a distinct umami flavor from its high “inosinic acid” content. The high energy produced by the inosinic acid activates the body cells. This should in theory lead to an anti-aging effect! Bonito flakes are also rich in numerous amino acids that the human body cannot produce which are also fundamental for creating collagen which keeps your skin supple.
  2. Relief from Fatigue – see this study where scientific researchers showed that katsuo dashi made by bonito flakes may reduce mental fatigue, and increase overall performance on simple calculation tasks.
  3. Lowering Blood Pressure – see this study where daily ingestion of bonito broth was shown to significantly lower systolic blood pressure, reduce levels of a urinary oxidative stress marker, and improve emotional states.
  4. Preventing or Reducing Symptoms of Depression – Bonito flakes might improve ones mental condition (see this study) by increasing blood flow i.e. by enhancing peripheral circulation. It also might reduce levels of a urinary oxidative stress marker, and improve emotional states.
    When dried-bonito broth was ingested, the urinary 8-OHdG (oxidative stress marker) content significantly decreased during the ingestion period, while no significant changes were observed when water was ingested.
  5. Treating Obesity & Reducing Inflammation – Mice in this study which were fed condensed fermentative extract of bonito (BoE), skipjack tuna, achieved maximum weight reductions of 7.4% (males) and 11.4% (females) compared to the control group. The researchers concluded – “…The antiobesity and anti-inflammatory effects of BoE were demonstrated with our examination system…”. Others have suggested that the traditional Japanese umami taste (from Bonito Flakes and some other Japanese foods) can provide the same sense of fullness and satisfaction that sweet and high-fat foods do in Western diets. This explains why traditional Japanese cuisine has relatively low calorie and fat content but remains highly palatable. Because of this, Japanese food can make a positive contribution to the health of people around the world.

Some Bonito Flake Recipes for You to Try:

/// Light Dashi Stock

Ingredients:

  • Water – 1 litre
  • Kombu Kelp – 20g
  • Bonito Flakes – 25 grams

Method:

  • Step 1  Cut a couple of slits into your kombu, then add it and your water to a saucepan. Allow to soak for 30 minutes or, ideally, overnight.
  • Step 2  Bring the dashi to a near-boil over a low to medium heat. Skim the surface of any impurities occasionally.
  • Step 3  When you start to see bubbles around the edge of the pan, take the pan off the heat and remove the kombu. Let the liquid cool down slightly.
  • Step 4  Add the bonito fish flakes and bring the dashi to the boil, again skimming the surface occasionally.
  • Step 5  When the dashi is boiling, reduce the heat, let the dashi simmer for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat. Let the fish flakes sink to the bottom (this will take about 10 minutes).
  • Step 6  Strain the dashi into a bowl using a sieve lined with a clean woven cloth or paper towel. When all the dashi strains through, give the cloth or paper towel a squeeze to release the last of the dashi.

/// Onigiri (Rice Ball) with Crab Sticks, Bonito Flakes, and Mayonnaise

Ingredients (per Rice Ball snack)

  • Rice – Approx. 1 Espresso Cup
  • 1 Japanese Crabstick diced
  • Bonito Flakes – A sprinkling or to your taste
  • Japanese Mayonnaise (like Kewpie brand) – to your taste
  • Salt – to your taste
  • Nori Seaweed – one sheet

Method:

  • Step 1 Put plastic wrap on a plate. Spread the rice on the wrap and add all ingredients apart from the salt.
  • Step 2 Roll the rice until it’s shaped into a ball.
  • Step 3 Season your rice ball with salt and wrap it with the nori seaweed.

/// Bell Pepper and Bonito Flakes

Ingredients

・Bell peppers – 1 per serving
・Bonito flakes – 2 tablespoons
・ Japanese Shoyu Soy Sauce – To Taste

Method:

  • Step 1 – Rinse the bell peppers, cut in half and take off the stem.
  • Step 2 – Cook the bell peppers in a frying pan (do not add oil).
  • Step 3 – When the bell peppers are well cooked, put them onto a plate, add bonito flakes and shoyu (Japanese soy sauce).
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