Soybeans are a versatile ingredient, used to make a variety of different foods prevalent in both Japanese and Western cuisine. These include soy sauce, miso, tofu and quite a few products and food items you probably haven’t heard of before.
Physicians across the globe recommend only eating soybeans when they are fermented. This is because fermented soybeans, also known as natto in Japanese culture, are healthiest and also aid in digestion. While fermented soybeans become many of the products and ingredients mentioned above, they are also widely consumed as a main dish for breakfast in Japan.
As a matter of fact, the Japanese consume approximately 7.5 billion packets of natto per year. The large amount of health benefits contained in natto make it a superfood, and it likely contributes to the longevity of Japan’s residents.
1. What Makes Natto So Healthy?
For starters, any foods that have been fermented are quite healthy, as they contain ample probiotics. Essential for your health, probiotics also aid in digestion and enable your body to better absorb essential nutrients.
A particular healthy probiotic called Bacillus subtilis 1 is used as the fermenting agent in natto. Along with the probiotics, it also contains a large variety of nutrients, vitamins, enzymes and amino acids that help to lower the risks of many diseases and improve overall health and longevity.
2. Decreased Risks of Major Illnesses
According to the World Health Organization, Japan’s residents are at a lower risk of heart disease, breast and colon cancers, osteoporosis, and blood clots. This is likely a direct result of the Japanese diet, of which natto is a major part of.
3. Loaded With Powerful K Vitamins
Vitamin K1 is easy to find in many leafy green vegetables such as spinach. However, another important K vitamin, Vitamin K2 is not as easy to find. Natto happens to have an abundance of K2, which delivers a wide range of health benefits.
K2 stays in the body longer than K1 and helps to improve bone health and density. K2 also helps with the absorption of calcium, also essential for good bone health.
4. Natto’s Nutrients Help to Prevent Blood Clots
The nutrients, enzymes and amino acids in natto help to break up existing clots, prevent new clots from forming, and improve blood circulation. In fact, natto could be a better blood thinner than the expensive blood thinners, with no side effects and long-lasting benefit.
Vitamin K1 also contributes to Natto’s blood-thinning properties, along with the enzymes pyrazine and nattokinase. Together, these form a powerhouse combination that also helps reduce the risk of fibromyalgia, macular degeneration, chronic fatigue and senility.
5. Good for the Skin
As a great source of a little-known vitamin known as pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ), natto also helps to maintain healthy, smooth skin.
Natto, and fermented foods in general, can often be an acquired taste. But you can plainly see the benefit in consuming it often. Eating it cold is the best, and if you aren’t too keen on the flavor, try mixing it with something else like vegetables. You can also add condiments such as mustard, mayonnaise or vinegar to natto. The fermented soybeans can be easily found at Asian supermarkets and many health food establishments and groceries.