Miso paste is a staple in Japanese cuisine and has been consumed for thousands of years. It is a paste made from fermented soybeans and is used in a variety of dishes, including the popular miso soup.
However, miso paste is relatively high in sodium, which can be a concern for those with high blood pressure. Despite this, miso paste offers numerous health benefits and recent research suggests that its sodium content may not be as harmful as previously thought.
In this article, we will explore the nutritional value of miso paste, its sodium content, and its potential impact on cardiovascular health.
Is Miso Paste High In Sodium?
Miso paste is indeed high in sodium, with about 630 milligrams per tablespoon. This means that if you are prone to high blood pressure, you may want to use the ingredient in moderation. The amount of sodium in miso soup varies depending on the chef and type of miso used, but it can have as much as 1,100 milligrams of sodium per 2-cup serving.
However, recent research has shown that despite its high-sodium content, miso does not affect our cardiovascular system in the same way that typical sodium-filled foods can. In animal studies, it was discovered that high-salt diets from miso had little effect on blood pressure compared to high-salt diets from table salt. Additionally, Japanese adults who implement a miso diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular issues, despite the sodium content.
Some researchers speculate that the unique soy protein composition of miso is one of the major reasons it supports the cardiovascular system. Since miso is usually eaten alone, other cardio-supportive foods in miso soups and other miso-flavored dishes may also provide an important role in these research findings.
What Is Miso Paste And How Is It Made?
Miso paste is a traditional Japanese condiment made from fermented soybeans, rice or barley, salt, and a fungus called koji. The fermentation process typically takes several months to a few years, during which the mixture is left to ferment in wooden barrels or ceramic pots. The resulting paste can range in color from light yellow to dark brown and has a unique, savory flavor that is often described as umami.
To make miso paste, the soybeans are first soaked in water for several hours, then cooked until soft. The cooked soybeans are then mashed and mixed with koji and salt. The mixture is then placed in airtight containers and left to ferment at room temperature for several months to several years, depending on the desired flavor and texture.
During the fermentation process, the koji fungus breaks down the complex carbohydrates and proteins in the soybeans into simpler compounds, including amino acids and simple sugars. These compounds give miso its unique flavor profile and also make it easier for the body to digest and absorb the nutrients it contains.
Different types of miso paste can be made by varying the type of grain used (e.g. rice or barley), the proportion of ingredients used, and the length of fermentation time. Lighter-colored miso pastes are typically milder in flavor and have a shorter fermentation time, while darker-colored miso pastes are bolder in flavor and have a longer fermentation time.
Nutritional Value Of Miso Paste
Miso paste contains a variety of important nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. One tablespoon (17g) of miso paste provides 33.7 calories, 1g of fat, 4.3g of carbohydrates, 0.9g of fiber, 1.1g of sugars, and 2.2g of protein. In addition, miso is a rich source of vitamins and minerals such as iron (0.4mg), choline (12.3mg), and vitamin K (5mcg). It also contains smaller amounts of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and phosphorus.
Interestingly, miso made from soybeans is considered to be a source of complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids needed for human health. The fermentation process used to produce miso makes it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients it contains. The fermentation process also promotes the growth of probiotics, beneficial bacteria that provide a wide array of health benefits. A. oryzae is the main probiotic strain found in miso.
However, miso is also very salty with 634mg of sodium per tablespoon. If you are watching your salt intake or prone to high blood pressure, it is important to use miso in moderation. One ounce (28 grams) of miso generally provides you with 56 calories, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fat, and 3 grams of protein. It is also a good source of manganese (12% of the RDI), vitamin K (10% of the RDI), copper (6% of the RDI), and zinc (5% of the RDI).
Sodium Content In Miso Paste
One tablespoon (17g) of miso paste contains about 630 milligrams of sodium. While this is a significant amount of sodium, it is important to note that miso paste is often used as a “green light” source of saltiness when cooking. Miso can also be used as a substitute for salt in recipes, which can help reduce overall sodium intake.
It is worth mentioning that the fermentation process used to produce miso makes it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients it contains. The fermentation process also promotes the growth of probiotics, beneficial bacteria that provide a wide array of health benefits. However, miso is also very salty, so if you are watching your salt intake, you may want to ask your healthcare practitioner before adding large quantities of miso paste to your diet.
How Does Sodium Affect Blood Pressure?
Sodium is an essential mineral that the body needs in small amounts to function properly. However, consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The science behind sodium reduction is clear, as excess sodium intake has been linked with high blood pressure and its cardiovascular complications. Excessive salt intake can cause the body to hold onto water, which increases the pressure on blood vessel walls and raises blood pressure. This extra strain on the heart can lead to the stiffening of blood vessels and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Available evidence suggests a direct relationship between sodium intake and blood pressure values. Excessive sodium consumption has been shown to produce a significant increase in blood pressure and has been linked with the onset of hypertension and its cardiovascular complications. Conversely, reducing sodium intake not only decreases blood pressure levels and hypertension incidence but is also associated with a reduction in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
While miso paste is high in sodium, recent research has shown that it may not affect our cardiovascular system in the same way that typical sodium-filled foods can. In animal studies, it was discovered that high-salt diets from miso had little effect on blood pressure compared to high-salt diets from table salt. Additionally, Japanese adults who implement a miso diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular issues, despite the sodium content. However, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between miso paste and cardiovascular health.
Potential Health Benefits Of Miso Paste
Miso paste is more than just a flavorful ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It also provides a range of potential health benefits due to its rich nutritional profile and probiotic content.
One of the most significant benefits of consuming miso paste is its ability to support digestive health. With 70 percent of the immune system located in the digestive tract, maintaining a healthy gut is essential. Miso paste contains beneficial probiotic bacteria, such as A. oryzae, which can improve gut health, reduce gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Research also suggests that the fungal strain found in miso may reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
In addition to promoting gut health, miso paste also offers potential benefits for heart health. The isoflavones present in soybeans, one of the primary ingredients in miso paste, may lower the risk of heart problems. Studies have shown that higher levels of isoflavones are associated with a lower risk of strokes and heart attacks in some Japanese women. Regular consumption of soybeans has also been correlated with a reduced risk of stomach cancer and liver cancer.
For women going through menopause, consuming miso paste may provide relief from hot flashes, thanks to its isoflavone content. Isoflavones can also improve arterial health in menopausal women.
Despite its high sodium content, research has shown that consuming miso paste does not have the same negative effects on blood pressure as typical high-sodium foods. In fact, Japanese adults who follow a miso-based diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular issues.
Recent Research On Miso Paste And Sodium
Recent research on miso paste and sodium has shown some interesting findings. Despite its high-sodium content, miso does not appear to have the same negative effects on our cardiovascular system as other sodium-filled foods. In fact, animal studies have found that high-salt diets from miso had little effect on blood pressure compared to high-salt diets from table salt.
Additionally, Japanese adults who consume a miso-based diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular issues, despite the sodium content. This suggests that there may be something unique about miso that makes it beneficial for heart health.
Some researchers believe that the soy protein composition of miso may be a major reason for its cardiovascular benefits. Miso contains peptide building-blocks of protein that are formed from soy proteins during the fermentation process. These peptides may have cardio-supportive properties that help protect against heart disease.
It’s also worth noting that miso is often eaten with other healthy foods, such as tofu, seaweed, and scallions. These ingredients may also play a role in the cardiovascular benefits observed in those who consume miso-based diets.