Spice up your life & the Okinawan diet


Khalil Chrif Tribak
Teppanyaki & sushi Chief, Benihana
Bratislava, Slovakia

Khalil is a master of his art when it comes to food and its subtle shades, oils and spices. On his career path as a chef, he isn’t interested only in the symphony of taste, but no less in the nutritional benefits of ingredients. Being a chef in an extra good shape and spirits, it was clear to us that he can reveal certain secrets on how to eat well and smart. Here is what we were curious about and what we found out.


The power of herbs

Herbs and spices have a long history of medicinal use dated as far as 8000 BC. In the modern days, researchers are still proving that these culinary treasures can help consumers to healthier diet.

Spices do not only excite your taste buds but they are composed of an impressive list of phyto-nutrients, essential oils, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that are essential for overall wellness. Spices have been an integral part of our food since centuries. Today they become even more relevant for us, all thanks to the Arab and European explorers who spread spices from their place of origin to the rest of the planet. My favorite spice is chili. Chili peppers are available throughout the year to add zest to flavorful dishes around the world and health to those brave enough to risk their fiery heat. More importantly, chili contains vitamins C, A, E, K, B2, B3, B6, copper, iron, potassium, manganese, fiber – it is a super natural supplement. Besides, all that heat you feel after eating hot chili peppers takes energy – and calories to produce.

Use your oils wisely

Scientists discovered that heating up vegetable oil leads to the release of high concentrations of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to illnesses including cancer, heart disease and dementia. However, out new research found that sunflower oil and corn oil produced aldehydes at levels 20 times higher than recommended by the WHO. Olive oil, rapeseed oil, butter and goose fat produces far fewer harmful chemicals. In my experience, when cooking a steak or fried egg, I prefer to use rapeseed oil – the end result is always tastier. I use goose fat for high heat roasting in the oven. As I’m Mediterranean myself, in our household, we never cooked with olive oil. It’s always been added at the end of cooking or just drizzled on bread.


The secret of Japanese longevity

According to various sources, Japanese have a life expectancy among the highest in the world. Some say this is thanks to the Okinawan way of eating. Statistically, Okinawa can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. This diet contains mostly green and yellow vegetables, small quantities of rice and fish or seafood.

Eating a traditional Japanese miso soup before each meal is generally recommend.

Sweet potatoes should be regular in your menu as a healthy lunch, they are extremely rich in antioxidants. With their typical purple color, they are the stars of this diet. Generally allowed foods are fruits, vegetables, seafood, avocados, nuts, poultry, brown rice, tofu, olive oil, water and black, jasmine or green tea. On the contrary, the Okinawa diet prohibits industrially processed and fried foods, white pasta, dairy products, bread, sweets and processed oils.

Last but not least, there is the Okinawan dinner time mantra ”hara hachi bu“; which means ”eat until you are 8/10ths full“.





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