Why Natto Is The Most Underrated Probiotic Superfood
Published July 2nd, 2020
When we talk about probiotic foods, we often think of yogurt, cheese, or kombucha. But have you ever heard of natto?
If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, you might have. And you’ve probably scrunched up your nose while trying to eat it.
Natto is a traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans. But unlike other fermented Japanese dishes like miso, it’s relatively unknown to the western world. It never really captured the world’s palate mainly because of its pungent smell and sticky texture. Even the Japanese people can’t seem to agree whether they like it or not.
But if you look past the smell and ickiness, natto can very well be the key to a healthy life. In fact, we dare say it’s the most underrated probiotic superfood in the history of healthy foods.
What Makes Natto a Superfood?
Natto owes its myriad of health benefits to its raw materials: soybeans and a bacterium called Bacillus subtillis.
To make natto, the soybeans are washed and soaked in water for 2 to 12 hours. Then it’s steamed for another six hours. Afterward, the beans are mixed with Bacillus subtillis (natto-kin in Japanese). This mixture is then fermented for 24 hours at 40°C. The fermented soybeans are further aged in a refrigerator for up to a week to develop its characteristic stringiness.
The entire fermentation process not only produces a delicious (albeit smelly) dish. It also creates conditions that promote the growth of probiotics.
Also dubbed as the “good bacteria”, probiotics are beneficial microorganisms. They are naturally found in our bodies and in the foods we eat, particularly fermented foods like natto.
Aside from probiotics, soybeans naturally contain various vitamins and minerals. This makes natto a great source of:
- vitamin K1
- vitamin C
It also contains trace amounts of antioxidants, folate, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.
Health Benefits of Natto
1. Improves Heart Health
Soybeans are a natural source of lecithin, a substance known to lower blood cholesterol levels. This, in turn, improves your blood flow and prevents cardiovascular diseases.
2. Boosts the Immune System
Many of the soybean’s natural vitamins and minerals such as zinc and vitamin C are necessary to immune health. Many studies have also proven probiotic’s immune-boosting properties. This makes natto the ultimate food choice if you want to strengthen your immune system.
3. Rich Source of Protein
It’s a well-known fact that soybeans are rich in protein. In fact, its high protein content makes it a preferred meat substitute in meatless diets. Aside from improving cardiovascular health, soy protein can also reduce the risk of cancer. It’s also proven to benefit pregnant and menopausal women, diabetics, and infants with special conditions.
4. Improves Overall Skin Condition
Natto’s antioxidant properties combined with pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) helps you look younger than your age. This potent combination improves overall skin condition and fights various signs of aging.
5. Aids in Weight Loss
Want to get rid of those muffin tops? Natto can help you achieve your weight loss goals. One cup of natto (175g) contains 5grams of dietary fiber. Its probiotic content also helps regulate digestion. Together, they work to improve your bowel movements which, in turn, helps you maintain your ideal weight.
6. Encourages Cell Regeneration
It’s natural vitamin B2 and antioxidant content helps encourage cell regeneration. This not only makes you look young, but it also makes you feel like one.
7. Strengthens the Bones
Soybeans are a natural source of calcium, which we all know helps strengthen the bones. A study in Japan also found that regular intake of natto can significantly increase bone mineral density. Research done on postmenopausal Japanese women also revealed that those who regularly consume natto have lower risks of osteoporosis.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the health benefits of probiotics and she wants to share that with the world. She also loves to write about healthy foods and other healthy living tips.