I believe when our bodies are in balance they heal naturally. We often hear about ways to strengthen our immune system and the benefits of eating superfoods. I find magazines regularly leave out some of the most beneficial superfoods we have. One such superfood is the category of fermented foods. Adding these foods to your diet will strengthen both the immune system as well as the digestive system, our first defenses against illness.
Fermented foods are nutrient dense but most importantly they contain living probiotics. Our digestive system battles an onslaught of environmental pollutants daily. Probiotics help to rid the body of these pollutants and simultaneously repopulate our digestive system with beneficial bacteria to improve the absorption of vitamins and minerals into the body.
Many of us unknowingly eat fermented foods everyday. Coffee, tea, chocolate, wine, and beer are just a few we are familiar with. The real benefits of fermentation can be obtained by adding unpasteurized yogurt and kefir, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, naturally fermented vegetables or miso to name a few. Truly one of my favorite foods is miso.
In Physical Constitution and Food, Dr. Shinichiro Akizuki, director of St. Francis Hospital, Nagasaki, writes:
I have found that, with very few exceptions, families, which make a practice of serving miso soup daily, are almost never sick…. I believe that miso belongs to the highest class of medicines, those which help prevent disease and strengthen the body through continued usage…Some people speak of miso as a condiment, but miso brings out the flavor and nutritional value in all foods and helps the body to digest and assimilate whatever we eat….
–The Book of Miso, page 25.
Miso is typically made with soybeans, cultured grain and sea salt and fermented. Any number of other vegetables, greens or grains can be used and will affect the flavor and use of the miso. The amount of time the miso is aged will deepen the flavor and strengthen the health benefits of the final product.
The two most common categories are white miso and dark miso. The difference is the length of fermentation and the ingredients. White miso is aged a shorter time and has a mild flavor. Dark miso is generally aged longer, has heartier grains or vegetables and is better for more strong earthy flavors. Miso can be a condiment to a meal or makes a great addition to soups and stews.
The most common miso preparation is soup. It can be as simple as heating water and adding the miso. You can personalize it by adding any vegetables or meats. The best miso I have ever tried is South River Miso. They prepare their miso using a traditional centuries old farmhouse tradition called inaka miso. Hand crafted in small batches by food artisans they create a unique product much like a fine wine. (Disclaimer: I receive no compensation for talking about this product. I just love it so much I want to share it with you.)
Miso soup is the simplest soup recipe with arguably the best nutritional value. Here is the recipe I commonly use in cold, damp weather when I need a pick me up or I’m feeling a little under the weather.
1 cup boiled water
2 tsp Dark Miso or 2-3 tsp of White Miso
Mix the miso into the warm water until dissolved. Savor the rich flavor of the meal. You can also boil the water with some seaweed added for additional flavor and nutritional punch.
Note: NEVER add miso to boiling water as it will destroy all the beneficial living probiotics.
What I love about miso is it can be kept indefinitely in the refrigerator. We keep several varieties in our fridge at all times. So if you forget about it, miso will be waiting for you in the back of fridge when you find it. I wish I had known this before I discarded an unopened container many years before I realized how wonderful it is.
Have you ever tried miso? I would love to hear your experience.