The wonders and health benefits of miso

Most people have probably heard of soy but may be less familiar with miso. Miso is a popular condiment in Japan and other Asian countries. It is a paste made of fermented soybeans with miso, which means “fermented beans” in Japanese. Miso has a salty, solid, umami flavor and is quite versatile. Just remember that a little goes a long way!

In addition to its rich, powerful flavor, miso is a powerhouse of nutrients and incredibly healthy.

How are soybeans fermented?

Soybeans are fermented with a garnish, just as they are with sourdough bread, kombucha, and ginger ale. Instead of a sourdough starter, scooby, or gingerbread bug, soybeans are fermented with salt and a starter called koji. Koji is fermentation made from grains, such as rice, or legumes, and a type of fungus called Aspergillus oryzae.

Source: Bon Appétit / Youtube

Koji has been used over the centuries to make many traditional Asian foods, not the least of which is miso! In other news, koji can be used to make umami-filled vegan cheese!

Miso can be divided by color!

There are different grades of miso that are categorized by color. The different color of miso paste is determined by the length of the fermentation process. Making miso can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, with the time it takes having a huge impact on the flavor intensity of the final product. The longer the fermentation process, the stronger and deeper the flavor. A shorter fermentation process will create a lighter, sweeter miso paste.

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You may not find miso paste in all supermarkets, and if you do, you may only find one type. However, if you’re lucky, you may find at least three different types of miso to choose from – red, white, and yellow. Heading to an Asian supermarket may lead to a higher chance of finding a variety of different types of miso.

  • Red miso pasteRed miso paste, also referred to as Miso has a stronger flavor and ferments longer than white or yellow miso. Red miso has a very deep flavor and an umami flavor.
  • White miso paste– white or Shiro Miso paste has a mild and sweet flavour. It is made from rice, barley and soybeans.
  • yellow miso pasteIt is also called yellow miso paste Shincho. It is much less salty than red miso paste and has a milder flavour.

What are the health benefits of eating miso?

First of all, miso paste is rich in vitamins and minerals. However, an ounce of miso paste also contains 12 percent of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) of manganese, 10 percent of the RDI for vitamin K, 6 percent of the RDI for copper, and 5 percent of the RDI for zinc. However, it should be noted that miso paste in general is also high in salt. Just one ounce of miso paste contains 43% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) of sodium.

It is an important source of some B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium and phosphorous. Miso paste also contains all the essential amino acids. Because of the fermentation process soybeans go through, the body absorbs all these nutrients more easily.

Aspergillus oryzae, The bacteria used in miso paste processing, act as a probiotic. This particular strain is believed to help reduce symptoms of digestive distress, including irritable bowel syndrome. The fermentation process the soybeans go through reduces the number of antinutrients the grain has before this process. This makes them easier to digest.

These probiotics nourish and strengthen gut bacteria (the good kind), which in turn may help strengthen the immune system and ward off infection.

How to use miso

Miso paste is commonly used as a broth-like soup. To make this soup, miso paste is simply dissolved in hot water and tofu or vegetables may be added to give it more mass. It can also be used as a topping for toast or as a dip for crackers, chips or baked goods. It also gives a great slaty/umami flavor to vegan cheeses.

Take a look at these OGP recipes for Sunflower ‘Cheddar’ Spread, Garden Picnic Pasta Salad with Vegetables and Herbs, Orange-Miso Tahini Dressing, and Miso Cilantro Edamame Dip, or this handy take on a classic recipe for miso soup with shiitake mushrooms and Ramen noodles.

Check out these recipes you can make with miso!

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