6 Health Benefits of Miso

If you spend any time reading (or scrolling social media) about health and wellness, you’ve probably noticed that gut health is gaining more attention as we come to better understand the role our intestines play in overall health and well-being. From weight management to immune response, gut health is as complex as it is essential. 

Enter miso, a staple of Japanese cuisine. 

While commonly known for its savory and umami flavor, miso also holds a wealth of gut-boosting benefits. It’s no wonder this fermented soybean paste has also become increasingly popular in the Western world.

Let’s break down the potential benefits of miso for your gut and overall health.

What Is Miso and What Are the Different Types?

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji, or Aspergillus oryzae. The koji is typically made with rice, barley, or other grains. Miso’s robust umami flavor and creamy texture make it versatile in sauces, soups, and marinades.

When you hear the word “miso,” you might think of miso soup. With its savory flavor and comforting warmth, miso soup is a popular way to enjoy miso’s potential health benefits. Its low calories and delicious taste make it a perfect addition to any diet. 

But people with a high miso soup intake should pay attention to how much sodium they consume. While miso soup has many benefits, some packaged brands have a high sodium content. Miso soup nutrition varies depending on the ingredients added and the amount of miso paste used in each serving.

There are several types of miso, but the two most commonly used are white and red.

  • White miso has a shorter fermentation time and milder flavor.
  • Red miso ferments longer for a richer, deeper taste. 
  • Yellow miso, also known as Shinshu miso, is a sweet and earthy variety with a light, golden color that falls between white and red in terms of fermentation length and taste.

The different miso varieties have nuanced flavors. Their role in your diet can depend on your tastes and the nutritional benefits you seek. 

The calorie count in miso paste is generally low if you’re watching your caloric intake. A tablespoon of paste (17g) has about 34 calories, making it a healthier alternative to many other flavor-enhancing sauces.

6 Gut Health Benefits of Miso

Let’s take a look at six gut-boosting benefits of miso. Miso’s nutritional value can vary depending on the type and brand, so be sure to check labels and track your intake.

1. Provides a very complete source of proteins

As a high-protein food, miso is valuable for vegetarians and vegans who want to get the full range of essential amino acids. Not only does miso provide proteins, but it also assists in digestion, easing the workload of the stomach and small intestines.

Proteins are vital for cell growth and repair and act as messengers between cell channels. Miso proteins are easily digestible and can be particularly beneficial for people with digestive issues who may have trouble consuming and processing meat proteins.

Guide to Protein | MyFitnessPalGuide to Protein | MyFitnessPal

2. Reduces gas and bloating

Miso’s fermentation process breaks down complex sugars in soybeans, which often cause gas. Miso’s natural digestive enzymes support this process, reducing the likelihood of experiencing gas and bloating after meals.

Unfortunately, some people are sensitive to soy products, so starting with a small intake of miso and gradually increasing it might be the best way to incorporate it into their diet. This approach will allow them to discover miso’s benefits without the discomfort that too-sudden changes in diet can bring about.

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3. Helps you maintain a healthy microbiome

The health of your digestive system hinges on the balance of your gut microbiome. Fermented foods, like miso, teem with beneficial bacteria that reinforce your gut’s front line.

These miso probiotics support food digestion, produce essential vitamins, and even contribute to regulating mood and mental health. Regular miso consumption can help maintain a diverse and healthy microbial population in the gut.

Another significant health benefit of miso for your microbiome is its rich dietary fiber content. Fiber is essential to gut health, aiding digestion and facilitating regular bowel movements.

4. Provides several nutrients for your daily diet

Miso’s composition depends on the ingredients used. But a single serving can include a significant portion of the daily recommended intake of several essential nutrients, such as manganese, copper, and vitamin K.

Manganese and copper are essential for forming connective tissues and helping break down macronutrients, among other functions. Additionally, vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and plays a role in bone health.

5. Gives you a source of probiotics to support immune response

The probiotics in miso are vital to digestion and strengthening the human body’s immune responses. A well-functioning gut, complemented by probiotics like those found in miso, can bolster the body’s ability to fight illnesses and diseases.

Maintaining a healthy balance in your gut can prevent the spread of harmful strains of bacteria and pathogens. Left unchecked, these toxic agents can lead to infections and various health issues.

6. Reduces the risk of inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are characterized by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. The beneficial effects of the microorganisms in miso can help prevent and manage these diseases.

Some studies suggest regularly eating miso can reduce stomach inflammation and lower the risk of developing chronic digestive disorders. This may be due to miso’s rich probiotic content and anti-inflammatory properties.

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