Move over wasabi and sriracha — miso paste, a fermented soybean flavor enhancer is hot on your heels. Miso is a healthy probiotic food. It’s rich in antioxidants, as well as essential minerals like copper, zinc, and manganese, which promote a healthy immune system. Eating miso also supplies vitamin B2 (also known as riboflavin), critical for metabolizing food, and vitamin K, critical for maintaining healthy bone density.
Miso Paste Varieties
Miso paste, long a staple of Asian diets, is made by adding grains such as rice, barley, or wheat, to fermented soybeans. There are a few different types of miso paste available. The length of fermentation, which ranges from a few months to as long as three years, affects the taste, color and texture. White miso paste is the mildest, the yellow version tastes a little stronger, and red miso, which typically contains only soybeans, has a deeper flavor and should only be used with hearty dishes.
Miso Soup Calories
A one-cup bowl of miso soup contains just 30 calories. If you add cubed tofu, you’ll consume about 85 calories while taking in 6 grams each of protein and carbs, along with a bit of fiber.
Miso Soup Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits
1. Miso is a fermented food that promotes good gut bacteria.
Like yogurt and kimchi, miso is a fermented food that contains live cultures. In Japan people begin their day with a bowl of miso soup to stimulate digestion and energize the body.
2. Miso doesn’t increase the incidence of hypertension.
Many people worry that eating miso products will increase their blood pressure because it contains a lot of salt. This is not the case. A study examining the association between the frequency of miso soup consumption and blood pressure and heart rate among older Japanese adults found that the “frequency of miso soup consumption was not associated with blood pressure” and that “the heart rate was, however, lower in the participants who reported a high frequency of miso soup consumption.”
3. Probiotic foods like miso are good for our mental health.
Eating foods that contain probiotics has benefits for both our bodies and our brains. A scientific review published in Psychosomatics, a peer-reviewed medical journal, concluded that “Gut microbiota may contribute to dysfunction in psychiatric illnesses. New opportunities to modulate existing gut microbiota using probiotics could be novel targets for clinical interventions.”
4. Miso is good for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.
The soybeans in miso contain a high amount of calcium and are rich in plant estrogens known as isoflavones, which promote bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. According the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 54 million Americans live with osteoporosis or low bone mass. Worldwide, it’s reported that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men age 50 and older will experience osteoporotic fractures.
5. Miso is a rich source of protein and can control cardiometabolic risks.
Miso is a rich source of protein. A one-cup serving of miso soup supplies 6 grams of soy protein. For too long, dietary guidelines have overlooked the ways our nutritional needs change as we age. And that includes protein. Older adults actually require more protein because of physiological age changes, which cause slower protein turnover resulting in a decrease in skeletal muscle.
A study at Wake Forest School of Medicine compared soy protein and non-soy protein sources and determined that soy protein was “at least as good as other protein sources” for weight loss and improvement of risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Miso Paste Isn’t Just for Making Miso Soup
Miso paste can be used to impart a savory flavor to marinades and salad dressings. British food writer, cookbook author and BBC broadcaster Nigel Slater uses miso extensively in his recipes. Try his delicious miso marinade next time you barbeque chicken. For a flavor boost, try adding a tad of miso to a stirfry after you remove it from the heat. Other ways to enjoy the health benefits of miso include using it to make pan sauce for fish or meat, adding it to vegetables before roasting and incorporating it into stews.
Here are three tasty recipes using miso to try:
1. Crispy Garlic Miso Glazed Salmon from Honest Cooking
This yummy salmon is easy to make, and its miso and soy marinade creates a satisfying crisp and caramelized crust after being roasted in the oven.
2. Ginger Miso Soba Soup from Fork Knife Swoon
Perfect for the cold winter months, soba noodles swim in a rich, flavorful ginger-miso broth that will warm you right up.
3. Zucchini Noodles and Avocado Miso from Love and Lemons
For a healthy meal that’s on the lighter side, this recipe swaps out pasta for zucchini noodles flavored with a tasty avocado miso sauce.