I often introduce miso in my cooking classes or recommend its use for healing diets. As it is not a common American food staple, I often find that people are reluctant to pay for a tub of miso that will sit in the back of their refrigerator for most of eternity. Coming to embrace the benefits of serving miso soup on a daily basis can take time for some, unless it is a necessary part of a diet meant for healing purposes. Otherwise, what to do with the soybean paste with Japanese credentials? 

Miso is a paste made from soybeans, sea salt, and koji (a mold starter), and often mixed with rice, barley or other grains. The mixture is allowed to ferment for three months to three years, which produces an enzyme-rich food. The binding agent zybicolin in miso is effective in detoxifying and eliminating elements that are taken into the body through industrial pollution, radioactivity and artificial chemicals in the soil and food system. 

Miso has been a staple in Chinese and Japanese diets dating back about 2,500 years. Today, most of the Japanese population begins their day with a warm bowl of miso soup believed to stimulate the digestion and energize the body. When purchasing miso, avoid the pasteurized version and spend your money on the live enzyme rich product, which is also loaded with beneficial microorganisms.

10 benefits of eating miso

1. Contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

2. Stimulates the secretion of digestive fluids in the stomach.

3. Restores beneficial probiotics to the intestines.

4. Aids in the digestion and assimilation of other foods in the intestines.

5. Is a good vegetable-quality source of B vitamins (especially B12).

6. Strengthens the quality of blood and lymph fluid.

7. Reduces risk for breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.

8. Protects against radiation due to dipilocolonic acid, an alkaloid that chelates heavy metals and discharges them from the body.

9. Strengthens the immune system and helps to lower LDL cholesterol.

10. High in antioxidants that protects against free radicals.

Miso has a wonderful sweet/salty flavor that can be used in a wide variety of recipes. The color of miso can vary from light yellow — good to use in a sweet miso soup during warm weather — to a deep dark brown with earthy tones and hearty flavor — which can be cooked with cubed root vegetables — wakame sea vegetable and dark leafy greens during the colder months. When cooking with miso, use just enough to enhance flavor and avoid overpowering the dish with a strong salty taste.

10 ways to use miso in recipes

1. Use light-colored miso as a dairy substitute in place of milk, butter, and salt in creamed soups.

2. Puree with tofu and lemon juice in place of sour cream.

3. Blend light miso with vinegar, olive oil and herbs for salad dressing.

4. Use unpasteurized miso in marinades to help tenderize animal protein and breakdown vegetable

fiber.

5. Use the dark rice or barley miso, thinned with cooking water as a sauce for water sauteed root vegetables or winter squash.

6. Use dark miso in a vegetable-bean casserole to supply plenty of high quality protein.

7. Make cheese for pizza and wraps with yellow miso and firm tofu.

8. Make a spread using white miso, peanut butter and apple juice to thin.

9. Make a pate with tofu, garlic, white miso, tahini, lemon juice and dulse flakes.

10. Add miso to dipping sauce for spring rolls, norimake rolls or raw vegetables.

Be careful not to get carried away and use miso in everything. Your body will respond to the excess salty taste with cravings for sweets, liquids and fruit. It is suggested that the amount of miso used should not exceed 2 teaspoons per person per day.

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This story was written by Delia Quigley. It originally appeared on Care2.com and is used here with permission. Visit Care2.com to discover more than 5,000 ways to enhance your life — from holistic health and wellness to pets and family life, the experts at Care2.com share great tips for living a healthier, happier and more sustainable lifestyle.