The Magic of Miso


Feeling a cold coming on? You may want to give a bowl of hot miso soup a try.

As you probably know, cold and flu season is just around the corner. And although you may have already tried every common option for preventing and treating seasonal infections, you may still come up short.

Why? Because these well-intentioned measures, while helpful, still aren't 100% effective, particularly when exposure becomes unavoidable.

So if you're looking for a delicious way to possibly broaden your defenses, consider trying a bowl of miso soup the next time symptoms set in. Not only may it help stop you from getting sick, it offers a number of other potential health benefits too.

Miso May Help Fight Colds

Miso is a fermented soybean paste that is the basis of the Japanese culinary staple, miso soup. While chicken soup has long had its adherents in the western world, miso soup, commonly eaten in the Far East, was recommended as early as 300 A.D. in a book titled Emergency Formulas to Keep up One's Sleeve, by the Chinese herbalist Ge Hong.

The soup, traditionally garnished with scallions, should be consumed during the beginning stage of a cold, when that run-down feeling starts to make itself known. A mug of hot miso soup, with added tofu, ginger, seaweed, mushrooms or other extras, has been known to stop a cold in a matter of hours.

Although miso's benefit against colds has yet to be tested in a clinical trial, a search of the scientific literature reveals that the food has been the subject of research that supports its use in other areas.

Miso Has Anti-Cancer Properties

Miso is a rich source of the anticancer compounds genistein and daidzein.1 In rodent studies, miso has been associated with a reduction in lung, breast, and liver tumors.2

A study involving rats injected with a colon tumor-promoting substance found a protective effect for miso that varied according to the length of time the miso had undergone fermentation.3

Tumors in rats that received miso that had been fermented for 180 days were smaller in size and showed other favorable characteristics.

Melanoidins, which are plant-produced pigments that are found in miso and soy sauce, have been shown to inhibit the growth of human colon and gastric carcinoma cells, apparently by blocking progression through specific phases of the cell cycle.4

In a study of 21,852 Japanese women, those who consumed three or more cups of miso soup per day had a 40% lower risk of breast cancer in comparison with those who consumed less than a cup.5

Miso Supports Healthy Blood Pressure Levels

Although miso is traditionally high in sodium, a study published in Circulation Journal revealed that low-sodium varieties may be a good alternative for those concerned about their blood pressure.

In a clinical trial, a significant reduction in the diastolic blood pressure was observed among participants given low-sodium soy sauce and miso for six weeks.6

In experiments involving mice, administration of miso was associated with a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.7 Similar effects have been observed in rats as well.8

How to Make Miso Soup

Miso can be found in the refrigerated section of natural food stores and Asian markets. To make miso soup, blend three to four tablespoons of red or white miso with a small amount of hot water.

Stir into a pot that contains a quart of simmering water or stock to which ½ cup chopped scallions, chopped nori or other seaweed, tofu, and shiitake or other mushrooms have been added.

Simmer for at least five more minutes until a slightly thicker consistency is reached.

References:

  1. J Altern Complement Med. 1997 Spring;3(1):7-12. 
  2. J Toxicol Pathol. 2013 Jun;26(2):91-103. 
  3. Oncol Rep. 2005 Dec;14(6):1559-64. 
  4. Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 1997 Dec;12(6):405-9. 
  5. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Jun 18;95(12):906-13. 
  6. Circ J. 2003 Jun;67(6):530-4. 
  7. Fukuoka Igaku Zasshi. 2015 Mar;106(3):54-63. 
  8. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2014;36(5):359-66.

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