The Truth About Miso

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning. It's produced through the fermentation of rice, barley, or soybeans, which are combined with salt and a fungus called kojikin (via One Green Planet). The word itself means "fermented beans," and the most common miso is made with soy. A common way of serving miso is in miso soup, which is often served with sushi in Japanese restaurants.

The most common miso is a thick paste made from fermented soybeans. During the fermentation process, grains like barley, rice, or buckwheat may be added for flavor. However, soybeans, usually in the form of tofu, serve as the main foundation for fermentation. Sometimes miso will be used with another grain and labeled based on that grain, such as "rice miso," but that miso still has its foundation in soybeans.

Miso usually has a paste-like texture, and its color varies based on the type of fermentation. For example, fermentation that is done using a lot of white rice and a shorter duration of time will result in lighter colored miso, while darker colored miso is fermented for much longer periods of time — even up to several years.

The difference in fermentation time affects the taste of the miso as well. White miso, with the least amount of time in fermentation, is the sweetest variety. It is also considered by many to be the most versatile for cooking. The darker colored miso, on the other hand, has a stronger flavor.

The health benefits of miso

The flavor of miso is usually described as salty and umami, which is a word that means savory. The color can vary between white, yellow, red, or brown, depending on the variety used (via Healthline).

Miso has many health benefits. For one, it improves your digestion, as the probiotics found in miso may help reduce the symptoms common with digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Another benefit of miso is it can protect the body from certain cancers. Studies have found miso reduced the risk of liver and breast cancer by approximately 50 percent. However, the protection from breast cancer seems most beneficial in post-menopausal women.

Additional health benefits of miso include a potential reduction in LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol, a potential reduction in blood pressure, protection against type 2 diabetes, and improved memory while also reducing symptoms of anxiety.

There is very little downside to adding miso to your diet (if you're on a low-sodium diet or taking a blood thinner, however, consult your healthcare provider before trying it).