Rich in probiotics and phytonutrients, miso is the oft-overlooked fermented food that deserves a place in our healthy food roster.
Kombucha. Kefir. Kimchi. Fermented foods, even those that don’t start with K, have been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of years for their ability to supply the body with gut-friendly probiotics. Along with their system-supporting bugs, there’s one major thing that unites these seemingly disparate foods. Can you guess what it is? Most fermented foods boast histories that go back centuries, where they served as both food and medicine for their respective cultures. Along with producing unique flavors and beneficial properties, fermentation is a preservation technique that makes these foods stick around just a bit longer. One excellent example of this? Miso! Hailing from Japan, miso has been around since (at least) the neolithic period. Rich in probiotics and phytonutrients, miso is the oft-overlooked fermented food that deserves a place in our healthy food roster. Ready to find out why? Read on…
What is miso?
Typically made from a mixture of fermented soybeans, koji, and salt, miso has been a staple in the Japanese diet since (at least) Neolithic times and has been used in traditional medicine for just as long. While best known to be made from soybeans, miso can also be made from certain grains, which results in different tastes, textures, and colors. As a general rule, the darker the miso, the richer the taste, with white miso (pictured above), being the most mild.
The benefits of miso:
Miso is different from other soy products in that it’s fermented, resulting in a probiotic-rich superfood. Many people are quick to write off miso because it’s made from soy. With soy getting such a bad rap these days for its antinutrients and potential ability to disrupt thyroid function, hormones – how can miso be healthy? To put it simply: Miso is fermented. By now, we’ve all likely heard at least something about the potential benefits of fermented foods, and miso falls into this camp (along with sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, and kimchi). Through the fermentation process, the soybeans used to create miso undergo a kind of transformation, the product of which is probiotic-rich miso! No only does the fermentation process negate some of the antinutrient properties associated with miso, but the probiotic nature of miso could improve gut health and support immune functions.
How to use miso:
Nutrient-rich miso soup is excellent to sip when you’re feeling under the weather, which makes it perfect for this time of year. Make a classic miso soup by mixing miso paste with water and nori and adding tofu, or blend it into a homemade salad dressing. Miso isn’t often used alone due to how salty it is, but it’s surprisingly versatile and can be added to savory and sweet recipes.
Immune-Supporting Miso-Honey Elixir
2 tsp organic white miso paste
10 oz hot water
1 tbsp raw honey
Pinch of grated fresh ginger
In a kettle or small pot, heat water on the stovetop until hot but not boiling. While water heats, place miso, honey and ginger in a mug. Once warm, pour water into the mug and mix ingredients together until miso and honey are dissolved. Sip and enjoy!
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