It’s likely that you have enjoyed a steaming bowl of miso soup at your local Asian restaurant. If you’re an amateur chef, you may also have used this traditional Japanese paste to add umami — the distinct savory flavor — to your favorite dishes.
Did you know that miso paste has benefits that far outweigh its fantastic culinary uses? Having a bowl of miso soup or integrating the paste in your sauces, dressings, and marinades on the daily can help your digestion, immune system, and protect you from major diseases.
Ready to learn more about this amazing ingredient? We’ve got the deets for you along with some great recipes from the Food Monster App to whet your appetite!
Miso Soba Soup With Mushrooms/One Green Planet
Made up of fermented soy beans with the addition of grains such as rice, buckwheat, or barley mixed with salt and a fungus named koji, miso paste has a texture similar to nut butter. Depending on the particular grain added to the soybean paste and how long it’s fermented, miso can take on different colors and tastes.
The main types of miso you will usually find are white, yellow, and red.
White miso has a mellow and sweeter taste thanks to its shortened fermentation time and heavy use of rice to form its paste. If you are a novice when it comes to miso, this is the perfect variety to try. Simply try incorporating it in salad dressings, or as part of a sauce to top your veggie bowls.
Yellow miso, similar to white miso, has a subtle salty flavor. Usually fermented with barley instead of rice, this type of paste has a darker hue and a stronger flavor perfect for soups or glazing plant-based proteins and vegetables.
Red miso is the boldest flavored type of the bunch due to its long fermentation and rich fermented soybean base. This is the variety you want for soups, stir fry, and heartier dishes.
Regardless of the variety you choose, miso paste can be great for your health. Here are the five of the main benefits:
Yogi Bowl With Ginger Miso Tahini Dressing/One Green Planet
Thanks to its main ingredient — soybeans — miso contains a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
It’s rich in manganese, vitamin K, copper, and zinc and it’s also a good source of B-vitamins, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, and phosphorus. It also has antioxidants including isoflavonoids and phenolic acids.
Apart from its micronutrient content, miso provides us with all 8 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
Miso-Turmeric Glazed Eggplant With Spicy Chickpeas/One Green Planet
Fermentation, an important part of creating miso, makes miso paste rich in probiotic compounds.
The koji fungus used in making miso acts on our digestive system by improving the state of our gut flora, which is has both good bacteria and less desirable bacteria. By encouraging the growth of the beneficial bacteria, miso affects the assimilation of nutrients and our ability to digest food properly.
Comforting Miso and Ginger Soup/One Green Planet
Thanks to its impact on our gut flora, miso also boosts our immune system. That’s because probiotic-rich foods encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, which along with helping our digestion, also interact with important cells for our immune system.
Our immune system‘s ability to recognize antigens is dependent on the presence of a sub-type of microbes in our gut. These microbes, which miso supports the growth of, are responsible for reducing inflammatory responses and building our immunity.
Miso Turmeric Ginger Dressing/One Green Planet
Rich in isoflavonoids and phenolic acids due to the soybeans it contains, miso shows strong antioxidant properties. These compounds fight free radicals that promote inflammation in our bodies. Isoflavones found in miso are broken down into genistein by our gut. Genistein is a compound that downregulates cytokines and their inflammatory effect on our immune system.
Lowering inflammation in the body is essential as a high level of inflammation is related to an increased risk of developing obesity and diseases such as atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer.
Zucchini and Edamame Miso Soup/One Green Planet
Another benefit of isoflavones found in miso are their protective effects against heart disease. These antioxidant compounds play a role in inhibiting apoptosis — the death of arterial cells — a process which, combined with a high level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein or homocysteine in the blood, can lead to the development of atherosclerosis.
Having miso as part of our daily diet may also reduce cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, two important factors in cardiovascular disease.
Want to reap all the amazing health benefits of miso? Here are some recipes for you to try:
If you’re unfamiliar with miso in the kitchen, trying it out in its most popular form — soup — is a great way to start! You can make your own at home with these Raw Instant Miso Soup Bombs (pictured above). If you’re looking for a more elaborate and creative soup, this Comforting Miso and Ginger Soup, this White Miso Vegetable Soup, or this Moroccan Miso, Lentil, and Pumpkin Soup will certainly satisfy your taste buds.
Although miso soup is one of our favorites, that’s far from being the only option when it comes to cooking with miso paste. It can also be used to flavor vegetables and plant-based proteins. Case in point, this Miso Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini, these Sticky Miso Grilled Veggie Skewers, this Maple Miso Tofu With Butternut Squash and Broccoli, and this Sake-Stewed Miso Kabocha Squash. Can you say yum?
Miso is also a great addition to creamy dishes such as these Sweet Potato Noodles With Miso Sauce, this Miso Cauliflower Cashew Alfredo With Kale and Peas, this Asian Slaw Salad with Miso Ginger Dressing, and this Cold Soba Bowl With Lemon Miso Sauce.
In short, from sauces to dressings and marinades, miso is a versatile ingredient that adds umami and flair to the most simple of dishes.
Do you cook with miso? If so, what are your favorite recipes? Let us know in the comments!
If you want to find even more delicious uses for miso, like How To Make Miso Soup in 10 Minutes, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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