Vitamin D – the Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I had planned to use some of my lockdown down-time to write about health and wellness during the Covid-19 crisis.  I had also planned to work on new recipe ideas.  But between being out of China for a period of time, a brief self-imposed quarantine with my 2 year old upon returning to Shanghai, working on a master degree, and finishing out the last few months of my 3 year contract with United Family Hospital, I simply wasn’t in the mood to write for fun.  But now I’m back and feeling excited for what is next, especially because I have a new plant based online consulting project, which I will talk about in a future post.

Vitamin D Supplement

I’ll restart with something practical and essential – vitamin D!  Many of us may be at risk of not getting enough of this sunshine vitamin if we’re confined to our homes.  Vitamin D deficiency can affect our mood, amongst other symptoms, including bone pain & muscle weakness.  Additionally, research has found that vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system.  We have been out of corona lockdown in Shanghai for a while now but with the rainy season, many of us still may not be getting enough. Furthermore, some health conditions such as IBD may increase the need for vitamin D.

Here’s the science!  Vitamin D comes in two forms which are Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) both of which are metabolized in the liver to 25(OH)D (calcifediol) and then converted in the kidneys to 25(OH)2D ( calcitriol) otherwise known as the active form. That’s a lot of science in one sentence but it’s worth understanding how vitamin D2 and D3 form the same compound.  However, research has found that Vitamin D3 may be able to produce more 25(OH)D than vitamin D2 so it’s better at raising and sustaining serum levels.  That said, there is a wide range of intake levels recommended by different health authorities and testing isn’t very reliable.  Therefore, if you chose to take supplements, getting the required amount of any vitamin D supplement can be even more important than the type you’re getting.

So where to get your vitamin D? Sunshine! If you’re not currently deficient, the sun is the best source. What to do if every day is rainy and you have sworn yourself to staying indoors? Food and supplements can help, although there are few good food sources. A daily multivitamin contains vitamin D (D2 or D3). Some animal foods (D3), plant foods (D2), and fortified dairy and plant-based milks (D2) also contain vitamin D. Animal foods with vitamin D include salmon, beef liver, eggs (yolk part).  Plant foods include some varieties of sun exposed mushrooms such as button mushrooms.  As someone who chooses a plant-based lifestyle and spends time outdoors, I prefer to take a daily multivitamin as my “insurance policy”.

Until the next time, Eat Well Shanghai!

Jessica W.



Persimmons revisited

Persimmons are one of the fall fruits  that pack a powerful nutritional  punch.

This month, I’ll revisit a post from around 8 years ago – all about persimmons!  This tomato lookalike appears in the wet markets and grocery stores in Shanghai around this time every year.  When at its peak, it should taste quite sweet, with a hint of a honey taste.  Its texture is similar to that of an apricot and its skin is a bit tougher than an apple.  Nutritionally, it is one remarkable fruit!

Turns out that persimmons are one of the fall fruits  that packs a powerful nutritional  punch. This fruit is so good that in one study comparing the heart healthy benefits of apples to persimmons, persimmons came out tops in almost every category, from having more fiber to being far richer in helpful anti-oxidants.  This prompted one researcher to quip  “a persimmon a day will keep more doctors away”.

Persimmons have been cultivated in China for ages and are part of the Chinese diet for just as long.  Apart from being sold across the country, persimmons from China are also exported to Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan and Russia.  Indeed, Korea and Japan also grow their own.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), persimmons are used to treat diarrhea, high  blood pressure and hardening of the arteries among other ailments.

This time TCM aligns very well with western nutrition as the persimmon is a very good source of fiber, one medium fruit has 6 gms of fiber, nearly 25% of the recommended level for a heart healthy diet. Persimmons are rich in the anti-oxidants, beta-carotene and lycopene, both powerful anti-cancer agents . One persimmon provides over 50% of the recommended daily levels of vitamin A and 25 % of the recommended level of vitamin C. Vitamin A plays an important role in strengthening your immune system while vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant , reducing inflammation that can lead to artery damage.

Persimmons are in season through November so check them out at the local market or grocery store.  They are on sale at Epermarket for RMB 22.50 per kilo.  Don’t delay and treat yourself to a healthy bite today. 🙂

Until the next time – EWS! – Jessica W.

Fall Foodie Classes in Shanghai 2019

Cooking classes in Shanghai

We all appreciate how important it is to be able to cook (or have a partner / friend who can cook!) in order to have a healthy diet.  If you enjoy cooking but are lacking healthy recipe ideas or cooking skills, please consider coming to my new class series being offered at CieCAS cooking school. CieCAS is a beautiful new cooking school that is set up to give professional and non-professional classes.

I am partnering with CieCAS to offer classes which include; How to Eat a Balanced Diet, Good Food, Good Mood, Taste is the Key for a Successful Diet (class about spices), The Importance of Healthy Fats, and Healthy Meals for Toddlers. The classes will be a mix of nutrition advice, cooking your own healthy meals, and fun! There will even be wine. J  Add me on WeChat (search Jess_Detroit or 13795400864) to get more information or scan the QR code on the flyer below. If these classes don’t work for you, there always seems to be someone in Shanghai providing interesting cooking classes such as Shiyin (swangyin), Expatcucina (official account), and Nutri Cooking (Nurit_Segev).

Classes start on 16th Oct 2019.

We will be using seasonal produce that is either organic or meets all EU safety standards. The products are regularly tested by the company who will be providing them for the classes (Goma Greens).   Hope to see you there!

Here is a brief intro to some of the foods we will use:


Peppers are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. The vitamin C in peppers helps to increase iron absorption so include them in iron rich meals. Vitamin C also protects against infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. Capsanthin is just one of a few powerful antioxidants found in peppers which give red peppers their color.

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato

Pumpkin and sweet potato are full of fiber and vitamin A.  Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protects from infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. Increasing fiber helps prevent constipation and controls blood sugar.

Cruciferous Vegetables- Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Brussels Sprouts etc.

Cruciferous vegetables are known for their anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting phytonutrients, and most are rich in minerals such as folate. Folate helps prevents birth defects and may influence immune response. These high fiber low calorie vegetables make for a combination that will keep you feeling full and satisfied.

Whole Grains- Barley, Oats, Buckwheat, Bulgur, Brown Rice, and Whole-Grain Pastas etc.

Whole grains are rich in B vitamins and minerals (iron, copper, zinc, magnesium). Vitamin B impacts our energy levels and promotes cell health. Refining grains strips away half the B vitamins plus many nutrients that cannot be replaced through fortification. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and also aids in the production of energy.


Until the next time – maybe at the classes! – Jessica W.
















A break in the country

It can be easy to get lost in the concrete jungle that is Shanghai but there are many opportunities to enjoy nature near to the city.  Yangcheng Lake is one such place. It’s a freshwater lake located between Kunshan and Suzhou, easily accessible by train.  It’s famous for Chinese mitten (or hairy) crabs which are considered a delicacy.

Biking by the Lake

Geese by the Lake

It was a very hot and sunny weekend and I was the only person crazy enough to go on a bike ride.  I rarely saw anyone except the farm workers, sweltering in the sun picking vegetables in their wide brimmed hats and somehow still smiling.

Flowers in the organic farm

I saw beautiful birds, butterflies, and wildflowers in full bloom.  In the Yue Feng Island Organic Farm, located on the grounds of the Fairmont Yangcheng Lake Hotel, there were grapes, tomatoes, various gourds, bitter melons, and pomegranates.  I love to see how the huge variety of vegetables and fruits are grown here in China; I had never seen a pomegranate tree before – a new one for my list ;).  I love being outside and active in the summer; it’s a great time to enjoy nature while getting some exercise.  What could be more beautiful than biking around a lake with a 33-acre organic farm!  Looking at all those beautiful fruits and vegetables gets me inspired about meal planning.

Delicious Food

Vegetables in the organic farm

Hotels and restaurants in the Yangcheng Lake area make great use of the local produce.  While Shanghainese food is too sweet for me, I find Chinese food from country areas to be very delicious and healthy.  Even though the Fairmont emphasizes hairy crabs as their specialty, I could also find some great plant-based dishes on the menu.  The food was fresh, light, and well balanced with amazing flavor.  Dishes included pumpkin and lily bulb with local honey, steamed tofu with truffle mushroom sauce & broccoli, and tofu soup with various greens & mushrooms.  I also had organic crystal ice plant salad with edible flowers – a must try green for expats.  Crystal ice plant is a dewy looking succulent plant. Its’ the ‘caviar of edible flowers’ according to the internet.  😉

Crystal Ice Plant Salad – Delicious!
Crystal Ice Plant up close

You will be surprised you can eat it and will likely either love or hate it.  Maybe the fact that it has vitamins and minerals, and is allegedly good for your digestion will make it taste better.  I was also surprised to discover that lily bulb is edible; it is indeed a tasty root vegetable.  I ate more flowers than I imagined possible.  I really loved all these dishes and have been craving them ever since. I also bought some grapes from the organic farm which were delicious.

I highly recommend getting out of Shanghai and enjoying seasonal summer produce from its source. Yangcheng Lake is one of many nearby places great for nature and hiking that won’t break the bank. Often, areas that are “off the beaten path” are the most interesting and relaxing; even with a 15-month-old baby in tow!

The Logistics

Yangcheng Lake is a freshwater lake located between the cities of Kunshan and Suzhou.  I travelled from Shanghai by train to Yangcheng Lake Railway Station; the station nearest to my hotel.  Stations in Kunshan and Suzhou may also be used; depending on your final destination by the lake.  I stayed at the beautiful Fairmont Yangcheng Lake Hotel.