How it’s made: Miso is a traditional Japanese condiment produced by grinding soybeans (and sometimes grains like barley) into a paste, adding salt and koji (a starter enzyme that breaks down proteins), and then allowing it to ferment over a number of weeks. It’s usually dissolved in water to create a flavorful broth.
Nutrition perk: Similar to other fermented products such as yogurt and sauerkraut, miso contains beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Once consumed, the bacteria in miso can take up residence in our digestive tract. A growing pile of research suggests this may positively affect digestive health, immune function, and blood lipid levels.
Need to know: Some brands of miso are heat-treated, which will lay waste to beneficial bacteria. To guarantee your fermented paste is still home to the good-for-you bugs, look for the words “unpasteurized” or “raw” on labels. It’s also important not to boil miso, as the high heat can kill off the probiotics.
How to use it: Perhaps the easiest way to incorporate miso into you daily diet is via salad dressings. Simply whisk it with some olive oil and vinegar to help breathe new life into a boring bowl of greens. If you’re looking for a milder flavor, stick will mellow-tasting yellow miso, rather than robust red miso.
A touch of miso can also crank up the umami flavor in mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, dipping sauces, and meat marinades. It works well as a killer glaze for fish like salmon or sablefish.