Three Health Benefits of Miso
Salt is a much-bemoaned ingredient today. Many of us are on low-sodium diets. But whole sources of salt (miso and unrefined sea salt) are so much different, chemically and nutritionally, from processed (refined) salt, that a reasonable amount of these quality salty foods can actually improve our health.
Miso is a fermented soybean paste traditionally made with whole soybeans, koji (a carefully-produced mold spore that aids in the fermentation process), salt, and often grains as well. If the mold idea is grossing you out, think of all the other delicious “moldy” foods you might already love--cheese, sourdough bread, beer, sauerkraut, etc.
If you are gluten-free and/or soy-free, I’m including a recommendation for miso varieties that are either grain-free and/or that are made with beans other than soy.
So what can miso do for you?
1. Strengthen Your Digestive and Immune System:
Because it is a fermented food, miso contains probiotics, beneficial strains of bacteria that can help to strengthen your digestion and absorption of food. Probiotics can also help boost our immune systems. We all have more bacteria in our bodies than cells! Let that bacteria be your buddy by building up your stores of beneficial bacteria.
2. Improve Your Mood:
Amazing new research from the last few years has shown that having the right mix of bacteria in your gut, achieved by including fermented foods with probiotics in your diet while (ideally) decreasing the consumption of refined sugar, can actually decrease anxiety and depression. That’s great news for those of us who tend to be anxious. We can actually eat our way to better brain health.
3.Protect Yourself From Radiation and Cancer Risks:
Miso is perhaps best-known for protecting against radiation exposure in Japan after the second world war. There is also evidence that miso consumption can decrease colon, breast, and gastric tumors. While this mechanism is not entirely understood, its thought that the soy isoflavones (plant-derived compounds with weak estrogen-like activity) found in miso might be responsible for lowering the risk of these cancers.
Interestingly, though miso is about 2.3% NaCl (NaCl = sodium chloride, the same component in regular table salt), this peer-reviewed study found that rats fed a miso-diet did NOT have increased blood pressure, though rats fed a 2.3% NaCl diet DID have increased blood pressure. Scientists concluded that the salt content in miso behaves differently than regular salt.
This leads me to infer that it is the SUM of the miso that matters, not its isolated parts. That’s why I always recommend eating mostly WHOLE foods. Our bodies know how to handle actual food; they’ve had thousands of years to adapt to eating! Our poor bodies, however, don’t always know what to do when we take food apart then put it back in all jumbled up (processed).