Miso Soup: A Delicious Bowl of Health
Miso has been eaten in Japan and China for many centuries and has been attracting the attention of many of us because of its health and anti-aging benefits. It’s also quite delicious. When you aren’t feeling well a bowl of miso soup can be especially soothing.
While it was once thought that soy was the reason for the low rates of heart disease, breast and prostate cancer in Asia, more evidence is now showing us that it is the consumption of traditional fermented soy products (usually eaten every day) that are providing the real benefits.
Traced from ancient China, where it was known as hisio, a seasoning prized by aristocrats, miso was perfected in Japan from the 7th century to today.
Making miso is an art form in Japan. It is made of soybeans and koji, a culture starter made from beneficial molds, yeast and lactic acid bacteria. As long as you choose unpasteruized miso, you will be getting the benefits of live friendly microflora for the health of your inner ecosystem. There are many types of miso, some made with just soy beans and soy koji (called Hatcho miso, a favorite in Japan) and others made with barley and rice. No matter which type you choose, this fermented superfood has many health benefits.
Many studies have been done on miso, some on humans and some on animals. These studies are showing the following benefits of miso2:
- Reduces risks of cancer including breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer.
- Protection from radiation
- Immune strengthening
- Antiviral — miso is very alkalizing and strengthening to the immune system helping to combat a viral infection.
- Prevents aging – high in antioxidants, miso protects from free radicals that cause signs of aging.
- Helps maintain nutritional balance – full of nutrients, beneficial bacteria and enzymes, miso provides: protein, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin K, tryptophan, choline, dietary fiber, linoleic acid and lecithin.
- Helps preserve beautiful skin – miso contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that helps your skin stay soft and free of pigments.
- Helps reduce menopausal complaints – the isoflavones in miso have been shown to reduce hot flashes.
Length of Fermentation Matters
Soy protein is hard to digest and takes a long, slow process of fermentation to break it down. Bacteria that can digest soy are much more hardy than the more fragile bacteria used to ferment vegetables, young coconut water and milk. With miso, length of fermentation matters. Hiro Watanabe, PhD, an expert in developmental biology and cancer prevention in Japan, conducted several animal and human studies using freeze dried rice miso to better understand how miso protects against cancer, radiation and other diseases.
Dr. Watanabe’s studies showed that when it comes to healing illnesses like breast and prostate cancer, the ideal length of fermentation was between 180 days (6 months) and 2 years.
Dr Watanabe also found that miso fermented for 180 days is typically a rich color and has plenty of healthy microflora. After 2 years of fermentation, the amount of friendly bacteria has begun to disappear. According to Dr. Watanabe’s studies, the sodium in miso did not show adverse effects for people with salt sensitivity and hypertension. Here are the amounts of miso soup he recommended for different health conditions:
- Cancer – 3 or more cups per day
- High blood pressure – 2 cups per day
- Menopause – 1 – 3 cups per day
- During the cold and chilly times or the year, miso soup is a great food to eat every day.
- During the summer months our body needs much less salt and we are less likely to want a hot broth, so I recommend using it to make delicious salad dressings that complete and compliment your garden fresh salads.
- For health maintenance, follow your intuition when it comes to how much miso soup you enjoy. This delicious, healing food is a great way to nourish yourself to great health!
What about soy curd and other processed soy products?
Once thought to be the cure-all for many ills and the lifesaver for vegetarian and gluten-free diets, more and more studies are showing that soy is NOT the health food you may think it is…unless it’s fermented and non-GMO (not genetically modified). Unfermented soy has been linked to digestive distress, immune system breakdown, PMS, endometriosis, reproductive problems for men and women, allergies, ADD, higher risk of heart disease and cancer, malnutrition and loss of libido.1
Who’s At Risk?
While sales of soy are slowing as people learn about the risks, there are still people using soy. According to Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, who wrote The Whole Soy Story, the most at risk populations, are: infants who are taking soy baby formula, vegetarians (especially vegans) eating a high soy diet, and mid-life women eating a lot of soyfoods thinking it will help with the symptoms of menopause. So how can you get the benefits of soy, without the risks?
1 Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN. The Whole Soy Story. Wise Traditions Conference, November 2006. http://www.fleetwoodonsite.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=11&osCsid=710d1e5b3567d83b3ec429eb228bb160
2 Hiro Watanabe, PhD The Magic of Miso. Wise Traditions Conference, November 2006.
Miso soup ‘cuts breast cancer risk’. BBC News Online, June, 2003.
Make Your Own Miso Soup
Miso Master Organic Miso is a recommended brand that is certified organic and GMO/GEO-free. You will find in the refrigerator section of a whole foods market or health food store. There are many different kinds to try, each with its own unique flavor. Red miso is the darkest with the strongest flavor, best for fall or winter, and Barley, Brown Rice, or Chickpea for anytime, and Mellow White Miso for spring, and Sweet White Miso is best for summer months (according to the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang and eating with the seasons). You can use it as a savory spread or add it to salad dressings for a delicious dose of protein, minerals and anti-aging power. The best way to enjoy miso, however, may be to sip your miso in a warming cup of soup as the Japanese have been doing for centuries. If you are really in a hurry simply, dissolve a heaping spoonful of your favorite miso paste into a cup of hot water that you’ve poured into a favorite coffee mug. To make a more traditional miso soup, follow this easy recipe:
EZ Traditional Miso Soup Recipe
2 Tbs ready-to-eat wakame (sea vegetable)
1 large onion, sliced
4 Cups filtered water
2 Tablespoons miso (ideally, fermented for 6 months – 2 years)
Garnish – chopped parsley, green onions, ginger or watercress
- Soak the wakame in water for 10 minutes and slice in into small pieces- it expands!
- Thinly slice onions
- Put water, onions and wakame in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to simmer for 10 – 20 minutes, until tender.
- Remove 1.5 cups of broth from the saucepan, 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 not be boiling, because it can kill the live beneficial micro flora and enzymes in miso. In general, the micro flora in koji, the starter used to make miso, die at 105° F).
- Turn off heat, allow the water to cool a bit.
- Add the miso broth to the soup in the saucepan and add chopped parsley, green onions, ginger or watercress for garnish.
Serve in your favorite soup bowl, and sit back and enjoy the warming nourishment that only miso soup can bring you!
It is my hope that this article and recipe offered you both Information and Inspiration on your road to health and wellness! If you have any questions, or feel that you can benefit from the one-on-one support that I offer through holistic health coaching, please feel free to contact me, Medea Galligan MS Nutrition, at (877) 989-9144, or through my website at www.HealthyLifestyleConcepts.com.