On a chilly fall or winter night, or when you’ve got a cold or the flu, nothing tastes better or feels more comforting than a hot bowl of chicken soup just like your grandmother used to make. The myriad ingredients that make up a bowl of chicken soup certainly do their part to help fight off the cold. However, the Japanese have their own culinary contender ready to do battle with any ailments that may seek to invade your body.
It is miso soup. While you only need a few simple ingredients for a traditional miso soup, the combination of those ingredients deliver a powerful punch of healthy nutrients. Together, these ingredients work well to dispel viruses and reduce the risk of many deadly diseases that seek to ravage our bodies.
Miso Soup’s Healthy Ingredients
Each ingredient in miso soup has its own nutrients and health benefits. That is why many already consume the comforting dish often, adding their own additional ingredients to enhance the dish. In Japan, it is consumed daily, often both for breakfast and before bed, which may be one of the reasons why Japanese residents have the lowest rates of breast cancer, heart disease and some of the longest lifespans in the world.
In fact, Japan’s women are some of the healthiest in the world, thanks in part to the Japanese diet and the healthy foods it consists of, including miso, which is, of course, a major ingredient in any miso soup recipe.
Health Benefits of Miso
Miso is actually fermented soy paste, (a few other ingredients are typically added to the soybeans to make the paste). Its health benefits include:
- Helping with digestion.
- Complete protein that’s also packed with probiotics that aid the intestines.
- Vitamins B & E, as well as a good dose of minerals, that serve to strengthen your immune system.
- Improved blood flow.
- Reduction in the risk of various cancers.
- High in antioxidants.
- Lower cholesterol.
Health Benefits of Wakame
The other major ingredients of a traditional miso soup recipe are also just as healthy, including wakame, a seaweed that lowers blood pressure and also serves to lower cholesterol. Additionally, combining miso and wakame will help fight against ailments related to nicotine use. Wakame also contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals, serving to:
- Improve heart health and circulation.
- Lower the risk of cancer.
- Boost energy.
- Help manage weight loss.
- Protect against osteoporosis.
- Regulate hormones.
- Improve bone health.
Health Benefits of Dashi
And, of course, you can’t forget the soup base itself, known as dashi. There are different types of dashi—the kind used for miso soup stock is typically made from kelp or a type of seaweed called kombu; bonito flakes, which are made from dried bonito fish; and shiitake mushrooms. As each of these ingredients are especially healthy on their own, it is no wonder that the dashi is also extremely beneficial to the body.
How to Make Your Own Miso Soup
You can purchase packets of ready made miso soup, to which you can just add hot water. But it is much more fun to make your own miso soup from scratch. It is probably healthier as well, as any packaged soup product may contain too much sodium and other unhealthy ingredients used as preservatives or additives.
The miso soup recipe is fairly simple, and you can usually find all the ingredients in an Asian supermarket.
- To start, boil a quart of water (or dashi–if you can’t find it, you can follow another recipe to make it) and then add two teaspoons of dried wakame. As the wakame simmers, it will slowly reconstitute and expand—this should take about 20 minutes.
- Then, push eight tablespoons of miso paste through a strainer into the simmering water. Give it a stir so that it is evenly distributed, and let it simmer for 1-2 minutes.
And that’s it! You can then add tofu, mushrooms, shrimp or fish, diced vegetables, and many other ingredients to further enhance the dish and create your own umami food experience.