Miso is a thick pungent-packed paste used in soups, stews, spreads, dressings, dips and marinades. Whilst renowned as a Japanese condiment, miso originated in China two and a half thousand years ago as a way to preserve soybeans with fermentation.
It consists of squished cooked soybeans, and grains such as rice, buckwheat or barley, which together with salt and a fungus Aspergillus oryzae (called koji in Japan), are left to ferment as a rich flavoured paste. Depending on length of ageing, the mix of grains and seasoning, the flavour can be more or less intense, sweet or salty, with varying colours also (white, yellow, red or brown).
Soy miso is a great source of manganese, zinc, phosporous, and copper, various antioxidants, protein and fibre. It is also renowned for its probiotic prowess because of the friendly lactobacillus bacteria it contains. Probiotics help to support the body’s own friendly bacteria, boosting the immune system, protecting against disease, and aiding food digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
Unpasteurized miso has the best probiotic activity since pasteurization kills natural microbes, so for the greatest health benefits opt for unpasteurized. Studies have shown that regular consumption of miso soup is associated with decreased risk of stomach cancer and breast cancer. Other studies have found miso consumption to reduce the effects of radiation exposure and increase survival rates from cancer, particularly dark miso that has been fermented for a long time.
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