Miso is produced by fermentation of soy and sometimes rice and barley. A mix of soybeans, millet, and buckwheat are all used to make miso. It takes usually years for the fermentation process but sometimes can only take up to five days. The added salt controls the fermentation of miso. The grains and soy blend together and join through a bacterial action during the fermentation process. It contains live bacterial cultures known as lactobacillus similar to the kind found in yogurt.
Miso has been used in the daily diet of Japan for years, but this soy paste originated in China during the third century BC. There are different varieties of miso depending on the region of Japan. The white and red misos are quite popular in Japan. Miso usually comes as a paste and should always be refrigerated after opening. It is eaten daily in Japan. It is usually added to soup such as udon or ramen giving it an earthy flavor.
Miso is known for its health benefits. It probably contains 13 to 20% vegetable protein. There is a trace of B12 and it is loaded with minerals. Another benefit is its live bacterial cultures so it aids in good digestion. It can reestablish a healthy gut so it is great to use after antibiotics. Miso has been known to treat radiation sickness and also neutralizes the effect of smoking and air pollution. If used 4-6 times per week for 6 months, it will remove toxic metals from the body. It can also be used to prevent toxic buildup.
It is wise to always keep miso in a glass, wood or enamel container as it will absorb the toxins from plastic with prolonged storage. Miso is best eaten early in the meal since it will activate and encourage digestion. It is best to use miso in moderation due to the high salt content. The saltiness can have adverse reactions by weakening the nervous system and the heart. The fermentation of miso will also promote yeast buildup if used in large amounts.
Miso can be added to soups, guacamole, pesto and works great with nut and sesame butters. To make your own miso soup is fairly simple:
Basic Miso Soup
2 Tbsp. miso paste
3-4 cups water
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
Sautéed Kombu (seaweed)
1 cup of your favorite chopped vegetables
Sauté Kombu and chopped vegetables for a couple of minutes. Add miso, water and oil along with Kombu vegetable mixture to medium size pan. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Murray, Michael,N.D., The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods;Atria Books,New York,2005