If you are looking for a food with a rich, savory pop of flavor that still offers many fantastic health benefits, it's time to experiment with miso. This seemingly simple paste is full of complex flavors and health-boosting ingredients perfect for helping maintain overall health and wellness.
Read on to explore what miso is and the different varieties available. We will highlight five health benefits of miso, what it tastes like, and how you can get miso into your daily diet.
What Is Miso?
Miso is a staple ingredient in Japanese cooking and has been used for over 1,300 years. Generally found in a paste, miso is made from fermented soybeans, koji, salt, and water. Koji is most often made with rice — sometimes soybeans or barley — fermented with aspergillus oryzae. Once these ingredients are combined into a paste, they are left to ferment for a week — or sometimes many months.
Miso has a umami — or savory — taste. It is used to flavor many different foods like marinades, stews, salad dressings, and gravy. It has even been sneaking its way into desserts. The most common dish you will see miso in is a traditional Asian miso soup.
What Are the Different Kinds of Miso?
There are many variations available when choosing miso paste. These variations are created by altering the ingredients and fermentation time of the miso. While you may find many more variations in Japan, In the United States, you are likely to see three main types of miso — shiro miso, shinshu miso, and aka miso.
White miso — or shiro miso — is generally sweeter in flavor. This type of miso is fermented for less time than the darker varieties. Desserts, light soups, and salad dressings are perfect for shiro miso.
Yellow miso — or shinshu miso — is slightly richer in flavor than the lighter miso. It has been fermented slightly longer. This miso can be used in most recipes for a slightly deeper flavor.
Red miso — or aka miso — is the deepest in flavor. With the longest fermentation time, it can be the most pungent of the miso types. This variety is perfect for hearty recipes because it can be so strong in flavor. Our Veggie Broth with Plant Protein uses red miso to boost its nutritional value and provide that rich umami taste.
What Are the Health Benefits of Miso?
While miso is generally thought to add flavor to dishes, it can also provide potential health benefits. Here are some benefits you may experience when you consume miso paste regularly.
1. Digestive Support
Digestive health is often the key to overall health. Your digestive system is home to over 100 trillion bacteria. These bacteria play a crucial role in the health and balance of your digestion.
Fermented foods, like miso, are a type of probiotic that can help support the healthy bacteria in your gut and aid in gut health.
Koji is also considered a prebiotic. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in the gut. With both probiotic and prebiotic properties, miso may help provide digestive support. Some people believe it helps reduce bloating.
2. May Support Healthy Cholesterol
Cholesterol often gets a bad rap. However, your body needs cholesterol to survive.
Supporting healthy levels of both HDL and LDL in your body is important for hormone support, cell production, and synthesizing vitamin D.
Miso has been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which can support heart health. Miso is also cholesterol-free, making it a healthy choice if you are monitoring your cholesterol levels.
3. Immunity Support
Your immune system is a complex network in the body to fight off pathogens, infections, and diseases. Seventy percent of your immune system is found in your gut. Miso is believed to help maintain your gut health and immune system.
Miso has also been shown to support the immune system when ingested, as it supports a healthy immune response in the small intestines and the spleen.
There are many ways to support your immune system, and maintaining a healthy, whole food diet is at the top of the list. Try adding miso to your day to help give your immune system another layer of support.
Soybeans alone are incredibly high in protein. The protein content of a soybean can be up to 56% of its dry weight. During the fermentation process to miso, the protein can increase by 10%.
Peptides — small chains of amino acids — found in soybeans are also broken down in the fermentation process. Smaller peptides are easy for the body to absorb.
Soybeans are also full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, B vitamins, manganese, calcium, folate, and potassium. These nutrients can also be found in miso, even though the soybeans ferment for an extended period of time. They are also high in fiber, which is why miso may be a beneficial prebiotic. One way to boost your nutrients is with this recipe for Creamy Miso Ramen with Kale and Greens.
5. Probiotic Boost
Aspergillus oryzae is a beneficial bacteria used in the miso fermentation process, and it is also a known probiotic. Probiotics are beneficial, live bacteria that are ingested. These bacteria find their way to your gut, where they help to support the digestive system and maintain your gut health.
What Else Should I Know About Miso?
While miso can be an excellent addition to your diet, offering many potential health benefits, it may not be for everyone. Miso does have a high salt content and may not be best for those who need to watch their salt intake.
If you have allergies or sensitivities to certain foods, you may prefer to stay away from miso or first speak with your healthcare professional. Here are a few points you should keep in mind about miso before adding it to your healthy diet.
While rare, some people experience an allergy to soy products. Because miso is made with soybeans, you may also experience an allergic reaction to miso if you have a soy allergy.
Currently, there is research being done on the allergen levels of miso. Preliminary findings are that the longer the fermentation process of the miso soybean paste, the fewer allergens may be present. Because the research is still ongoing, you may want to avoid miso if you have a soy allergy. If you are curious about miso and how it may affect you, it is best to talk to your doctor.
If you have gluten sensitivity, read the labels on your miso packaging. While it is common for miso to be made with soybeans and rice, barley may also be used. Barley is not a gluten-free grain.
Unless the packaging states explicitly the ingredients used to make the miso, or if the product is marked gluten-free, you may want to avoid consuming it. Look for another miso product that is clearly marked “gluten-free.”
The red miso paste used in our Organic Broths — 24K Chicken Bone Broth, 24K Beef Bone Broth, and Veggie Broth with Plant Protein — are gluten-free. In fact, you can feel confident knowing all Kroma Wellness products are proudly gluten-free.
What Does Miso Taste Like?
There are five key taste profiles — sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami.
Miso falls under the category of umami, which is the Japanese word for savory. You can expect a tangy, salty, nutty, and savory taste when using miso as a seasoning.
Depending on the type of miso used in dishes, you may experience different taste profiles. The lighter the miso, the more mild flavor you will notice. As miso is fermented longer, the color will become a much darker color, turning from a deep red to almost black. These darker miso pastes will have a stronger umami flavor and are better paired with more robust flavors.
How Can I Get Miso in My Diet?
Miso is extremely common in Japanese cooking, and just a spoonful can flavor a soup, but it can be used in any type of cuisine. If you are new to miso, try a lighter miso variety first. This flavor profile is not quite as strong and may be easier to experiment with. As you get more familiar with the miso taste profiles, you may enjoy miso with a deeper flavor.
Miso can be added to stews, gravies, marinades, and soups, like our Veggie Broth With Miso Coconut Milk Soup. While miso is often used in recipes to provide a rich, savory flavor, it does not need to be cooked. You can use miso as a condiment on sandwiches or a dip for raw veggies.
You can also use miso in dessert recipes. It helps punch up the flavors of chocolate in brownies, adds a nutty flavor to caramel, and pairs perfectly with fruit in cobblers.
With the amazing potential benefits of miso and its savory taste, we have added it to a few items in our 5-Day Diet Cleanse. Each of our ingredients is purposefully chosen to bring you the healthiest products with the most delicious taste.
The Bottom Line
Miso has been used in Japanese cooking for over a thousand years. Its nutty, tangy, umami flavor profile can give any recipe a more robust taste. Most commonly known for miso soup, miso can be used in savory and sweet dishes, from stews to cookies.
Depending on the length of the fermentation process, you will notice differences in taste. Darker miso has a more concentrated, deep flavor, while the lighter varieties are known for more subtle flavors.
Miso is more than simply a flavor bomb. It also offers several health benefits, while its probiotic nature can provide digestive support, maintain immune health, and support heart health.
The goal of Kroma Wellness is to bring you powerful healing foods to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Our products are simple to prepare yet packed with the highest quality ingredients.
Fermented foods can add depth to your diet | Harvard Health
Japanese traditional dietary fungus koji Aspergillus oryzae functions as a prebiotic for Blautia coccoides through glycosylceramide: Japanese dietary fungus koji is a new prebiotic | PMC
New Insights into Cholesterol Functions: A Friend or an Enemy? | PMC
Beneficial Biological Effects of Miso with Reference to Radiation Injury, Cancer and Hypertension | PMC
If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut | UCLA Health Connect
Ingestion of miso regulates immunological robustness in mice | PubMed
Chemical and nutritional characteristics of United States soybeans and soybean meals | PubMed
Aspergillus oryzae GB-107 fermentation improves nutritional quality of food soybeans and feed soybean meals | PubMed
Probiotic Aspergillus oryzae produces anti-tumor mediator and exerts anti-tumor effects in pancreatic cancer through the p38 MAPK signaling pathway | PubMed (nih.gov)
Hypoallergenicity of various miso pastes manufactured in Japan | PubMed