KOKORO – Would you like some bacteria to go with your meal?

Bandied about as cure-all, probiotics aren’t just a fad. Good bacteria, probiotics help the gut be healthy, “competing for space and food against harmful bacteria and preventing them from settling in the gut,” as explained on the BBC Goodfood website.

Whilst the word is a relative newcomer in our everyday lexicon, good bacteria have been used for centuries to keep the body healthy. A balanced diet is always a win, but sometimes bodies need a little help.

Looking to get all the balancing benefits of probiotics without using supplements?

Miso could be the answer. A staple of the Japanese meal, it has proven to be a good source of the naturally occurring “good bacteria” probiotics. Meaning “fermented beans,” miso paste is made from soy beans and grains, is full of proteins and contains millions of helpful probiotics.

Miso soup is the most famous of the miso paste’s uses and tofu might have found some love with vegetarians and vegans the world over, but why stop there?

“Rich in essential minerals and a good source of various B vitamins, vitamins E, K and folic acid,” miso can be used in more than broth. Salad dressings, stews, marinades… the possibilities are endless.

Unpasteurised miso is rich in enzymes and full of probiotics, but so is natto. An “acquired taste,” natto is also made by fermenting soybeans but here, you can expect extremely strong flavours, and smell.

Unlike miso, natto doesn’t come with the high sodium content associated with most soybeans products. Natto packs a K2 punch – it’s the richest food source of natural K2 – and has been linked to bone health, such as in the scientific paper published in Volume 17, Issue 4 of Nutrition (2001).

“Commonly consumed with rice for breakfast, and often mixed with chives and raw egg,” according to the Well blog of The New York Times, natto has been called a “superfood.” According to Dr. Ralph Holsworth, who has coauthored several studies on the enzyme nattokinase, natto also has blood-thinning actions, which may lessen the severity of heart attacks and strokes.

Who wants a helping of bacteria to go with their meal?

Probiotics might sound uninspiring but they do have proven health benefits that are probably too good to pass up. Whilst the friendly bacteria have been proven to be good for us, not everyone is willing to take supplements. It can be hard to pop a pill, but with miso and natto, getting all the benefits of probiotics doesn’t have to be dull.

Miso should be easy to incorporate into your diet, chances are you already consume some now and then. Natto, on the other hand, is a bit harder to come by. It might, however, be just what the doctor ordered – quite literally – for all of us. Let’s not leave this superfood to the health-conscious, the culinary adventurers and the Japanese cuisine’s lovers!

We could all use a spoonful of fermented soybean to keep our guts happy, our bones strong and our blood circulation running.


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