Pretty is as pretty does. And in the case of Candice Kumai, a clean-eating chef, health journalist and author (with enviable hair, skin and figure) pretty is as pretty eats. Kumai was born and raised by a Japanese mother and a Polish-American father in San Diego, CA. At age 22, she attended Le Cordon Bleu California School of Culinary Arts and followed her true passion for food and wellness into a career as a classically trained chef. At 23 she was the youngest chef to compete on Bravo’s inaugural season of Top Chef and began writing for national magazines at age 24. Today she lives in New York and shares her love for healthy eating with her audience though her website and best-selling books, Clean Green Eats, Clean Green Drinks, Pretty Delicious, Cook Yourself Sexy and Cook Yourself Thin.
At home Candice practices what she preaches. “I am all about clean eating and being good to your beautiful body,” she says. “I only keep whole, clean foods in my home. Whole foods make you feel good, and when you feel good, your whole life starts to improve.” She stocks her pantry with organic produce from the Union Square Green Market and buys green cleaning products and beauty products from her local Whole Foods. When she’s feeling nostalgic for Japanese heritage goods she ducks into Sunrise, her favorite Japanese market. Not surprisingly, with numerous books under her belt, she is often testing recipes at home. “My pantry is over-stocked, from recipe development//work, so we actually do a clean sweep every few months and we donate to City Harvest NYC,” she says. “Now that makes my heart smile.” When not testing recipes for others and cooking for herself she keeps it simple with dishes like roasted kabocha squash fries (recipe from her book, Cook Yourself Sexy) paired with her Avocado Kale Caesar Salad. And as a Californian at heart, she always has an avocado or two around. “I’m an avocado LOVER… it’s just in my blood,” she confesses. “There’s this to-die-for garbanzo bean + tahini + avo dip in my new book that you must whip up!” If you are ready to whip up some of Candice Kumai’s clean, green favorites you can grab a copy of her book and stock some of these healthy items she always has on hand.
1. Turmeric – Turmeric has become popular these days for good reason: it is a natural super booster and detoxifier. Turmeric has long been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for its natural anti-inflammatory properties. I love to use fresh turmeric root to make tea, I sprinkle it in curries, on my eggs and of course in my smoothies.
2. Coconut Oil – When used in moderation, unrefined coconut oil is a delicious, fragrant gift from gorgeous Mama Nature. I like to use coconut oil in moderation in place of butter when cooking Thai- or Indian-inspired recipes and baking treats. I also add coconut oil to my daily natural beauty routine by using it to gently remove eye makeup or soften your legs and that hot, smooth butt!
3. Miso Paste – I grew up eating miso soup for breakfast in Japan and loved every “umami” moment of it. Try it with some white rice and fermented pickles on the side. I prefer red miso to white and often use the organic brand Marukome.
4. Clean Green Eats – My latest book contains some of my favorite recipes!
5. Adzuki Beans – Also known as azuki beans, this beautiful red bean hasn’t been popular in the United States until recently. Adzuki beans are used frequently in Japanese cooking, traditionally served with rice and also made into sweet bean pastes to fill mochi and Japanese pastries. I love my adzuki beans in macrobiotic salads as well as rice dishes.
6. Raw Whole Nuts – I love my raw cashews and almonds! I always have some in the house to snack on.
7. Kale – Super beauty kale, my absolute favorite green, is also one of the cleanest, most popular antioxidant-packed greens available. Kale is chock-full of vitamin K and many other vitamins and nutrients. If you are detoxing from dairy, be sure to eat your calcium- rich kale in its place!
8. Green Tea and Matcha Powder – Rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, packed with vitamins C and E, green tea is a miracle elixir. I love my matcha, traditionally, as a hot tea (it helps me to relax while meditating!), in my tea cakes, in pancakes, crepes, smoothies, and even sprinkled on fish or try it on chocolate! My fave Japanese brand is Matcha Love by Ito en.
9. Lemon Water – I love drinking my lemon water all day every day. I try to sip on 8 to 10 glasses throughout the day. I grab a reusable bottle or a mason jar and squeeze the lemon into my water, releasing the juice, and then add the whole wedge (remember it should be an organic lemon for squeezing!)
10. Avocado – My absolute favorite food, ever. I eat an avocado daily, and it does me a whole lot of good. This heart-healthy fruit is also full of natural fiber and contains high levels of vitamin E and vitamin K. Talk about an internal beauty regime! And it’s packed with cancer-fighting carotenoids, which can help with overall eye health, too!
photo: Andrew Lipovsky