Sunday marked the winter solstice, known as dongji in Korean. People traditionally celebrate the shortest day of the year by sharing a steaming hot bowl of red bean porridge and dried persimmons with their family and neighbors. Such treats are not only delicious but also nutritious and packed with health benefits.
◆ Red Bean Porridge
In the past, the red color of the porridge was thought to dispel evil spirits, so it became a tradition to eat it during the winter solstice and the longest night of the year. Rich in vitamin B1, vitamin A, nicotinic acid, calcium, phosphorus, iron and fiber, the dish offers a good nutritional balance.
Red beans are also good for helping with weight loss. As they contain saponin -- a glycoside that helps with their absorption -- in their skin and are rich in fiber, they help the body digest food and discharge unnecessary liquids. Nutrition experts recommend that those with digestive problems eat rice mixed with red beans as the latter are easier to digest than other cereals. They are also made up of 68.4 percent carbohydrates.
But as red beans can cause hemolysis (the breaking down of red blood cells), consuming them in large amounts can lead to diarrhea and raise blood sugar levels for diabetics. It is also better to add salt to the porridge as sugar destroys the saponin in red beans.
◆ Dried Persimmons
Each 100 g of persimmon contains 180 international units of vitamin A, which is essential for the production of rhodopsin, a purple pigment that makes it easier to distinguish objects at night. It also helps keep the skin and mucous membrane cells healthy.
Persimmons can also strengthen the capillaries and are used to treat persistent coughs, phlegm, diarrhea in children, and hangovers for adults. But diabetics should avoid taking them in large amounts due to their high sugar levels.