Understanding Miso

I was recently asked about miso.  So I figured it would be a good idea to give some useful information about this valuable food product.  First let’s start with the pronunciation.  It’s mee-so, very simple.

Now let’s talk about the taste and types of miso, a Japanese diet staple.  It has a very distinct flavor.  Although it’s salty, it adds a wonderful creaminess to foods.  Miso is a fermented food which changes its appearance depending upon the ingredients used and the time of fermentation.  Miso can be made from soybeans (most often), chickpeas, brown rice and/or barley.
White Miso is made from soybeans and rice with rice being the more prominent ingredient.  The actual color can range from white to tan.  White miso has a rather sweet taste and has the smoothest or creamiest texture.  This one is perfect to use as a spread, dressing or light soup.

Yellow Miso is typically made with soybeans, barley and a bit of rice.  Its color can range from yellow to light tan and is fermented longer than white miso.  Unlike the very light taste of white miso, yellow miso has an earthy taste.  Yellow miso can be used as a condiment as well as for marinades and sauces.

Red Miso mostly found to be made from soybeans and barley or other grains.  Red miso has a much longer fermentation time which produces the red to dark brown color.  The flavor is very strong so this is best used when you want its distinct taste to stand out.  Red miso may also be referred to as barley miso.

Chickpea Miso is wonderful option for those who shouldn’t take in soy.  It’s made from chickpeas and brown rice with a fermentation time of 3 months or so.   The texture of chickpea miso is more like chunky almond butter rather than being creamy like white miso.  great alternative for those who are sensitive to soy.  It is generally made from a combination of brown rice and chickpeas and is aged from 1-3 months.  Chickpea miso can be used as a direct substitute to white miso.
According to the George Mateljan Foundation, miso does not have the negative effect once thought on the cardiovascular system.  Miso has been considered to be high in sodium.  However, it has recently been found that the intake of miso does not raise the blood pressure where the same amount of table salt intake raised the blood pressure significantly.

Miso is considered one of the best health foods because of its digestive agents and enzymes and bacteria that help with digestion along with contained nutrients.  Miso is a good source of B-12, vitamin A, vitamin K, phosphorus, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium and protein.  In addition, miso is vital is aiding the body with absorbing calcium and magnesium.  On top of all of this, miso is an excellent probiotic.  According to Dena McDowell, “miso is an effective probiotic because of its low pH, it is able to get past the stomach acid intact allowing for the active probiotics to effectively enter the small intestine.”  Miso contains enzymes that inhibit the overgrowth of bad bacteria within the digestion system.

So hopefully now you have a better understanding of miso.  Oh, by the way, miso should not be heated.  Doing so destroys its beneficial qualities.  So if you decide to cook your food, add miso at the end once the food has been removed from the heat.



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