A bowl of miraculous miso soup a day could make a world of difference to your health.
Miso, or fermented soybean paste, has been one of the staples of the
Japanese diet for centuries. Usually eaten in soup form, it has numerous health benefits, can combat the effects of ageing, drinking and smoking and tastes great with pretty much everything - from breakfast with a bowl of steamed rice to dinner alongside a full- scale sushi nosh up.
Originally from China, miso, in the fermented form that we know it today, was first produced in Japan in the Jomon period (6000-300 BC). At first, it was a luxury food eaten by Buddhist monks and nobles, but by the 16th century it had become an everyday part of most people's diet. Industrial production of the food began in the 17th century.
How is it made?
Miso is made from soybeans, sometimes rice and occasionally barley. The ingredients are steamed, mixed with a starter and left to ferment for between 6 months and five years.
Each region of Japan has its own type of miso according to the area's climate and eating customs. Shiromiso is a white miso made from rice native to Kyoto, hatchomiso, a sweet soybean miso particular to Aichi Prefecture, and Shinshu, the most widely eaten miso, is a salty, red-coloured paste, produced chiefly in Nagano Prefecture.
Ingredients contained in miso, such as unsaturated fat, isoflavon, yeast and lactic acid, are effective cancer preventatives. According to Japan's National Cancer Centre, people who eat no miso soup at all are at a 50% higher risk of dying of stomach cancer than those who eat it every day.
Studies have also shown that people who eat miso frequently are less susceptible to stomach diseases such as gastritis and duodenal ulcers. Miso is also a source of dietary fibre, which cleans your intestines and is good for your bowels. As they say in Japan, a bowl of miso a day keeps the doctor away!
Vitamin E, daisein, saponin and the brown pigment contained in miso act as anti-oxidants, which are powerful inhibitors of the ageing process. Miso also aids detoxification because the fermentation processes allow the large amounts of protein in the beans to be absorbed easily. The results? Glowing skin and shiny hair. Smoking and Drinking
The Japanese have an old saying that miso soup is good for smokers. This might have originated from the Edo period (1603-1867) when miso soup was used to clean pipes clogged with tar. Whatever the origin, miso has an amazing cleansing ability on the body. Its amino acids help rid your system of harmful toxins and it is often recommended as protection for smokers against the effects of nicotine. Miso can also replenish vitamins and minerals after drinking too.