The Miso Truth: A Healthy Choice

What’s In Your Miso Soup That Makes It Healthy?

Miso is a traditional Japanese condiment consisting of a thick paste made from soybeans and processed by fermentation. It’s used to make sauces, spreads and soup stock, or to pickle vegetables and meat. A combination flavor of salty and umami, its color can range between white, yellow, red or brown. Besides soybeans, other types of beans or peas can be used. Other ingredients may also be used to make it, like rice, barley, rye, buckwheat and hemp seeds that can affect the color and flavor. This versatile condiment has many benefits.

Miso is rich in nutrients – vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. One ounce provides only about 56 calories. It also has carbs, fat, protein, manganese, vitamin K, copper, zinc, and 43% of RDI sodium. There are smaller amounts of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium and phosphorus, and choline. It’s a source of complete protein for they contain all the essential amino acids. Fermentation makes it easy to absorb and promotes the growth of probiotics, particularly A. oryzae.

Miso improves digestion. It maintains the gut’s healthy gut flora which defends against toxins and harmful bacteria. It also improves digestion and reduces gas, constipation and antibiotic-related diarrhea or bloating. The probiotics may help reduce symptoms linked to digestive problems including IBD or inflammatory bowel disease. Fermentation also helps improve digestion by reducing the amount of antinutrients in soybeans that can reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Miso may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Stomach cancer, for instance, is linked with high sodium diet, but miso doesn’t appear to increase the risk of stomach cancer the way other high-salt foods do, according to studies. Beneficial compounds in soy may potentially counter the cancer-promoting effects of salt. Additionally, there’s a reduced risk of lung, colon, stomach and breast cancers in animal studies (especially for miso varieties fermented for 180 days or longer). Regular miso consumption may reduce risk of liver and breast cancer, potentially for postmenopausal women. Rich in antioxidants, miso protects cells against damage from free radicals.

Miso may strengthen the immune system. The probiotics in miso may help strengthen gut flora, in turn boosting immunity and reducing the growth of harmful bacteria. A diet that’s rich in probiotics may help reduce the risk of being sick and help in faster recovery. It may reduce the need for antibiotics by up to 33%. That said, different probiotic strains can have different effects on your health. However, more studies are needed using miso-specific strains before strong conclusions can be made.

Due to the high sodium content of miso, it may not be a good choice for those who need to limit their salt intake due to a medical condition.