Many people recognize miso soup from Japanese restaurants, as it seems to accompany every dish. But why is it a staple of Japanese cuisine? It probably has something to do with all the health benefits it has to offer.
Miso and Gut Health
Miso literally translates to “fermented beans,” and, indeed, it is made from fermented soybeans and grains. It’s been part of Japanese cuisine for over 1,000 years. It’s also used in the country’s traditional food preservation techniques, like miso pickling. However, it’s incredibly rich umami flavor quickly found its way into marinades, sauces, glazes, and soups.
As fermented foods are known to contain a high number of helpful bacteria called probiotics, it’s no wonder that consuming miso is linked to a variety of gut health benefits. Probiotics are generally thought to decrease inflammation, improve digestion, and support a healthy immune system.
Many of these findings are still preliminary and require further research. However, there’s no doubt that adding a probiotic-spiced broth like miso to your diet will help your gut flora. Even if it only helps you digest your meal, that’s nothing to scoff at.
Beyond its probiotic benefits, miso is also packed with nutrients that are good for you.
Miso and Brain Health
Miso paste is just brimming with nutrients and a plethora of B vitamins, including B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B9 (folate). B3, B5, and B9 are specifically important to support and protect the nervous system and ensure it functions properly.
A lack of B vitamins in your diet puts you at risk of all of the following:
- Brain fog
- Elevated stress levels
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Fatigue and low-energy levels
- Poor short- or long-term memory
As you can see, it’s extremely important to make sure you’re eating the right foods and taking the right supplements.
Vitamin B9 (folate) is also one of the most important to take during pregnancy, as it helps prevent a birth defect called spina bifida, in which the spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly.
Additionally, probiotic-rich foods are linked to improved memory and reduced stress levels, anxiety, depression, and even OCD. It’s amazing what can happen when that overall inflammation is reduced.
Miso and Your Skeletal System
Miso is also super-rich in vitamin K, a group of fat-soluble nutrients that play an important role in bone health, regulating blood calcium levels, and blood clotting.
Although extreme cases of deficiency are rare, stress and the Standard American Diet are great contributors to many micronutrient imbalances in our bodies. These put us at risk for a variety of diseases, including osteoporosis and other skeletal system problems.
Vitamin K is usually found in leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and collards, as well as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, fish, liver, meat, and eggs. Miso actually packs an astonishing 29 micro units per 100 grams, making it incredibly easy to replenish your storage.
Miso and Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular diseases are on the rise due to poor diet, bad sleeping habits, environmental pollution, and increased daily stress levels. We have to do whatever we can to counteract these negative factors. Paying more attention to what we eat and how much we sleep, as well as implementing a self-care routine can all help.
Consuming miso paste has been linked to protecting against strokes, as well as having a positive effect on daily heart rate variability. Although more studies need to be conducted, these findings showcase miso’s great potential in fighting one of the hardest health issues people deal with today.
Who Should Avoid Miso?
Although it’s considered safe for most people, miso does contain a lot of salt. If your doctor has instructed you to follow a low-sodium diet, definitely check with her before adding miso to your diet.
Because of its high vitamin K levels and their role in blood clotting, those who are on blood-thinning medication should also check with their physician before consuming miso.
Finally, because miso is made from fermented soybeans, which are considered goitrogens, anyone with a thyroid condition should avoid miso until they get their doctor’s approval.
How to Include Miso in Your Diet
From making miso soup to marinating your salmon fillet with it, there are tons of ways you can incorporate miso into your meals and start enjoying all of its benefits. You can find miso paste at most supermarkets or online. Pick some up and start experimenting with recipes.
Miso adds a unique salty and rich flavor, so make sure you try it with smaller portions first so you can get used to the taste. It pairs really well with fatty fish, meat, root vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, and other rich and hearty flavors. It will further enhance the taste of ingredients without overpowering them.
Need some inspiration? Check out these 59 recipes.
Miso is a nutrient-rich ingredient that’s definitely worth keeping on hand. Not only is it delicious, but the incredible amount of health benefits it brings to the table are mind-boggling. Try out some recipes and get your miso on!