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How to Buy and Use Miso - a Healthy Soy Food
by Barbara Minton
(The Best Years in Life) Miso is a delicious fermented food that has been eaten in China and Japan for many centuries. Today it is a favorite of health minded people in the West because of its many anti-aging benefits. Miso and other fermented foods and drinks help build up the inner ecosystem and assure the digestive tract is amply supplied with beneficial bacteria. These bacteria help digest, synthesize and assimilate nutrients so necessary for good health and anti-aging. They also strengthen the immune system, keeping it ready to fight infection and cancer.
Miso can raise the nutritional value of many recipes
Miso is a fermented soybean paste with a salty taste, a buttery texture and a unique nutritional profile that make it a versatile condiment for a host of different recipes, and a foundation for traditional miso soup. In addition to soybeans, miso can be made from rice, barley or wheat.
Miso is made by adding a yeast mold known as koji to soybeans and other ingredients and allowing them to ferment for a period of time ranging from months to years, depending on the specific type of miso being produced. When the fermentation process is completed, the mixture is ground into a paste similar in texture to nut butter.
The color, taste, texture, and saltiness of miso depend on the exact ingredients used and the duration of the fermentation process. Miso can range in color from white to brown. The darker the coloring, the more robust the flavor and saltiness. The six popular types of miso are:
* Hatcho miso
(made from soybeans only)
Making miso is esteemed as an art form in Asia. In the U.S., interest in miso is increasing due to the growing interest in health and the popularity of Asian food culture stimulated by research suggesting it has numerous health benefits.
Prepared miso is widely available in the U.S.
Miso is available already prepared at health food stores and many traditional markets, particularly those that stock foods from around the world. Because the lighter colored misos have a more delicate flavor, they are better suited for soups, dressings and light sauces. The darker varieties go best with foods having pungent flavors. If stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container, miso can be kept for up to a year.
Certified organic miso made with sea salt is the best choice. Miso should ideally have a fermentation time of between six months and two years.
Miso is a versatile food
Miso-tahini sandwiches are
delicious. Spread miso on a piece of bread and top with tahini, a sauce made
from sesame seeds. Sprinkle on slivered almonds or slivered radishes.
Combine miso with olive oil, ginger and garlic to make a delicious dressing that can be used on salads, cold grain dishes, or pasta.
Carry dried miso soup packets and use them at coffee break time.
Traditional miso soup is quick and easy to prepare. Its health benefits are legendary, making chicken soup pale in comparison.
Traditional Miso Soup Recipe
5-inch strip wakame (sea
vegetable), or 2 teaspoons dried wakame
Soak the wakame in water for 10 minutes and slice into 1.5 inch pieces.
Thinly slice onions.
Put water, onions and wakame in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes, until tender.
Remove 1.5 cups of broth from the saucepan and place in a bowl.
Allow water in the bowl to cool a bit and add the miso, mixing it into the water (the water should be cooled to a temperature of 105 degrees or lower so the beneficial microflora and enzymes in the miso remain intact).
Turn off heat, allowing the remaining water in the saucepan to also cool to 105 degrees or below. When it has cooled, add the miso broth to the soup in the saucepan. Add chopped parsley green onions, ginger or watercress for garnish.
This is a vegetarian version of miso soup. Dried bonito fish flakes found in Asian markets can be added to this soup to make a more substantial broth. Simmer one tablespoon of bonito flakes in the soup water for 10 minutes and strain.
Sip miso soup for your health
Many studies have shown the health benefits of miso on humans and animals. Benefits include reduced risks of breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancer, and protection from radiation. Researchers have found that consuming one bowl of miso soup per day, as do most residents of Japan, can drastically lower the risks of breast cancer.
Miso has a very alkalizing effect on the body and strengthens the immune system to combat infection. Its high antioxidant activity gives it anti-aging properties.
Miso helps the body maintain nutritional balance. It is loaded with other nutrients along with its beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Miso provides protein, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin K, choline, linoleic acid, lecithin, and dietary fiber. Its high content of the amino acid tryptophan makes miso a good choice right before bedtime. Tryptophan is nature's sleep inducer.
Miso helps preserve skin beauty through its content of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that helps skin stay soft and free of pigment.
Miso is a good choice for women with menopausal complaints because its phytoestrogens are able to fill estrogen receptors and reduce such symptoms as hot flashes and night sweats.
The long, slow process of fermentation needed to break down soy requires more hardy bacteria than is used for other fermented products, contributing the special health benefits of miso. Dr. Hiro Watanabe, an expert in developmental biology and cancer prevention in Japan, conducted several animal and human studies using freeze dried rice miso. His goal was the understanding of how miso protects against cancer, radiation and other diseases.
Dr. Watanabe's studies showed that for cancers like those of the breast and prostate, the ideal length of fermentation was between 6 months and 2 years. He found that miso fermented for 180 days is typically a rich color and has plenty of healthy microflora.
According to Dr. Watanabe's studies, the sodium in miso did not produce adverse effects in people with salt sensitivity and hypertension. For cancer, Dr. Watanabe recommended 3 cups of miso a day. For high blood pressure, he recommended 2 cups, and for relief of menopausal symptoms, he recommended 1 to 3 cups per day. His maintenance amount is 1 cup per day. He noted the beneficial effects of replacing the salt used in food preparation with miso.
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