health benefits of miso.jpeg

health benefits of miso

What is Miso Soup?
Miso in its purest form is simply a fermented soyabean paste with rice [or barley] and salt. The fermentation process is activated through koji, a ‘starter’ which is a kind of fungus – Aspergillus oryzae to be specific [don’t worry, there isn’t a test at the end]. This grows on the steamed grains and is commonly used for making sake, soy sauce & mirin…an essential for Japanese fermentation foods. Although miso can be made without it, yeast is also an ingredient which is ‘indispensable for good smell’ according to our miso master, Yoshihiro.

The first reaction that takes place is enzymatic degradation which generates amino acids, sugars & many other substances. The next reaction which starts from bonding these amino acids & sugars is known as maillard reaction. The process which can last a few weeks or even many years. The duration of fermenting results in different colours, tastes & varieties of miso. The most common & traditional appearance of miso is a thick paste.

This paste, when boiling water is added, forms the basis of miso soup. Our miso’easy comes in two flavours including a chilli miso which contains a blend of herbs & spices for a simple, warming miso soup.

How is Miso Made?
The first step in any miso making is to create the koji. This is produced by introducing the Aspergillus oryzae fungus onto a grain, typically steamed white rice. Here it gets to work, producing enzymes which are essential to creating the final miso we know & love. The strain of Aspergillus oryzae & its enzymatic composition varies…which impacts the different characteristics of the final miso made.

Next the koji is combined with the other ingredients [soybeans, salt & water] which are enzymatically digested, fermented & aged…a whole lot more delicious than it sounds.

Our itsu miso’easy is made in the stunning Nagano Valley, a short train ride from Tokyo in Japan. Here our beloved miso master, Yoshihiro, has been hand-crafting miso with his family for over 85 years. He has sourced the best ingredients & environment [cool climate & pure soft water flowing from the Nippon Alps], combined with highly skilled people to produce the perfect miso. We couldn’t be prouder to bring it to you to enjoy!

Varieties of Miso
The different colours & strengths of miso are dependent on a number of factors from the Koji species used and its ratio to soybeans; to the fermentation period, amount of salt and the type of grains used. The type of soybean & their cooking method [boiling or steaming] also plays a role. For example, if the ratio of [soybeans: koji] ratio is in favour of soybeans, this tends to result in a stronger/more robust or umami taste. Whereas if the ratio is in favour of the koji, this leads to a milder or more sweet taste. Stirring during the early stages of fermentation accelerates the colouring reaction as it provides oxygen.

Red Miso
Also known as aka miso, it’s the product of long fermentation following a strong maillard reaction. Generally, there tends to a small quantity or ratio of koji used alongside either rice or barley. It has a rich flavour and [as you might suspect] a red-ish colour… the finished colour is what distinguishes this type of miso.

White Miso
In contrast to red miso, white miso {or shiro miso} carries a mild flavour. This variety is a result of a short fermentation period with a minor maillard reaction. There is a large quantity of koji as well as a high percentage of rice. It has a slightly sweet taste and the colour can range from white to light beige.

Awase Miso
Once you know that ‘awase’ means mix, it may be no surprise that awase miso describes is a blend of white & red miso together. The resulting flavour is of medium strength which makes it versatile for cooking…this is our traditional miso’easy.

Health Benefits of Miso Soup
The Japanese enjoy miso for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it is an essential part of their cuisine. The traditional Japanese miso soup is believed to bring a number of health benefits and is often referred to as a ‘superfood’. Miso’s range of health benefits is often cited as part of the reason why the Japanese live such long & healthy lives. We believe that miso is a fascinating food, so have outlined some of the numerous benefits below…

Stimulates the digestive system

The gut is home to trillions of bacteria. Whilst some of these are hugely beneficial others can be particularly harmful. It is important to have the right type of bacteria in your gut to help maintain a healthy gut flora. Janice Chow, M.S., RD., registered dietitian and founder of The Mindful Chow, LCC suggests there is evidence to indicate that miso plays a role in improving digestion, thus reducing gas and bloating.

Strengthens the immune system

As the immune system is recognised as a vital part of the body, there is high demand for food considered to be immune-boosting. Studies have shown that the vitamins often found in miso are believed to help towards improving the body’s immunity functions. In fact, some research has gone on to suggest that these vitamins found in some varieties of miso also maintain the nervous system. This can range from supporting neurological and psychological functions to helping towards the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Nutritional Value of Miso Soup
Aside from its beneficial bacteria and enzymes, a major benefit of miso is its function in maintaining a nutritional balance. Enjoying a miso soup, with a low-calorie content can contribute towards a healthy, balanced diet. itsu’s traditional miso’easy when enjoyed on its own, is just 21kcal per serving.

itsu’s miso’easy is high in protein [this is from the soybeans] and due to the fermentation of the miso, the nutrients have been broken down into their simplest form…making them easier for our bodies to digest.

Serving Suggestions for Miso
For a deliciously comforting bowl of soup, simply add boiling water. Typically, you can add popular toppings such as tofu, wakame seaweed or spring onions…but really anything goes!