The Wonders of Miso

Images courtesy of Eden Foods. Genmai is sweeter, Hacho is more medicinal. - Mary

The many benefits of this medicinal food... miso helps in the digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates; helps restore the friendly bacteria which is lost from antibiotic treatment; helps the blood be more alkaline; is a positive dietary tool in the prevention of osteoporosis; may help to combat estrogen sensitive cancers.  

Article by Jason R. Hackler, L.Ac., Associate, Natural Life Therapy Center

The Japanese have been using miso as a medicinal food for the past 2500 years. It is said that a Japanese homemaker has an average of 365 different recipes for miso soup. In the West, miso is becoming more and more popular and many of its health benefits are emerging.  

Miso is a fermented soybean paste. Through the fermentation process, miso creates enzymes that help in the digestive process of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Miso contains powerful microflora called Lactic Acid Bacteria, which are vital in the digestive process. As many of you have heard, broad spectrum antibiotics kill off all bacteria including the friendly microflora, which has many health benefits. Miso helps restore the friendly bacteria which is lost from antibiotic treatment.  

Miso is also a way to help maintain the blood more alkaline. American diets tend to be very acidic in nature, and keeping the blood more alkaline is important for efficient calcium absorption. Acidic diets, containing meats, sugar and soft drinks, encourages the body to leech calcium and other minerals from the bones. Miso is thus a positive dietary tool in the prevention of osteoporosis.  

There are other healthy benefits of miso, including research showing that miso may help to combat estrogen sensitive cancers: “Miso produces a compound called Genistein, which blocks the growth of new capillaries that supply tumors and deters the proliferation of cancer cells.”(Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science).  

Dr. Duckworth and I frequently drink miso ourselves and often recommend it to our patients. Miso can be consumed in many ways and one of the easiest is making a miso broth; just take a large teaspoon of miso paste and dissolve it in 6-8 ounces of hot water. Drink it any time of day.  

You can also make a simple miso soup; see below for the recipe. Remember, miso is said to be a “live food”, so don’t boil it because that destroys the beneficial enzymes.  

Simple Miso Soup (serving for 2)  

2-4 inch piece of Wakame sea vegetable
2 oz tofu (cut in cubes)
1 small or 2 stalks green onion (cut up)
2 cups water
2 large teaspoons of miso
1 small teaspoon of fresh grated ginger  

Soak Wakame for 5 minutes in a small amount of water. Drain and cut off harder edges. Bring everything to a boil except the miso and tofu. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes with pot covered. Turn heat to low, add tofu and miso, stirring miso until dissolved. Then simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Serve and enjoy.  

Miso is good anytime of year, even Summer. Preparing the body for the next season, especially a cooler season, is especially wise.  

Jason R. Hackler, L.Ac., Associate NLTC