Soy is one of the more controversial foods in the world of nutrition. For years, it was touted as a healthy source of plant protein, and was processed into various meat-like, dairy-like substances such as soy milk, soy ice cream, soy cheese, soy baby formula, and various soy-based vegan meat substitutes. Then nutritional research began to question soy’s health benefits. Dr. Kaayla T Daniel’s book, The Whole Soy Story, shed light on the potential dark side of soy, and presented a review of literature that suggests that soy’s phytoestrogens have a negative estrogenic effect on various hormones and systems of the body such as both the male and female reproductive hormones, and the thyroid. Moreover, this research also linked soy intake to certain cancers.

Then the argument came out that people in Asian countries such as Japan, have had soy as a staple in their regular diets forever, and have none of the aforementioned negative health issues. The difference is that traditional Asian diets use traditionally fermented whole soy preparations in small quantities, such as natto, tempeh, and miso rather than supersized quantities of processed genetically modified soy products in the American food supply.

Like many other nutrition topics, there is conflicting information regarding the safety of soy.

At the NAA, we follow the principles of bioindividuality–meaning, different people benefit from different foods and can tolerate different types and amounts of macro and micronutrients. We also do find that many traditional fermented food preparations from all around the world benefit many people.

Miso is one example of a traditionally fermented food with known skin and health benefits when consumed in small quantities. In fact, miso soup is a soup we recommended for its beauty nutritious benefits in our Soup is the New Smoothie webinar (the replay is available anytime for NAA members in their private Webinar Library), as an alternative to bone broth. Miso is a paste that is made by fermenting soybeans, barley, rice, and the fungus kojikin for a period of several months to several years. It comes in many varieties: yellow, red, white, and more. Many herbalists make their own miso, adding detoxifying herbs and other vegetables for additional health benefits and flavor.

Here are 4 reasons to have miso in your skin-healthy kitchen:

1. Miso promotes healthy digestion. Proper digestion is essential to skin health, as the root cause of most skin conditions is found in the gastrointestinal tract. Miso contains three elements to healthy digestion: enzymes, fiber (which also functions as a prebiotic), and probiotic strains (may contain Koji fungi/Aspergillus oryzae, Saccharomyces rouxii yeast, and Lactobacillus acidophilus).

2. Miso is rich with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which nourish and protect healthy skin cells from within. It contains Vitamins B12, B2, and choline; Vitamins E, and K, in addition to manganese, copper, and zinc; and phenolic acids like ferulic, coumaric, syringic, vanillic, and kojic acid.

3. Miso delivers bioavailable proteins and beneficial essential fatty acids, known to benefit the skin. Skin cells are primarily made of various proteins. Miso contains amino acids, peptides, and complete proteins, including tryptophan, defensins, glycinin, conglycinin, lunacin; and essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid, and lecithin.

4. Miso is versatile. Miso paste can be made into soups (try this super simple miso soup recipe), sauces, salad dressings, and add that salty, umami flavor to many dishes. Just a small amount adds a big boost of flavor and is enough to deliver the health benefits you’d want. Though it contains high amounts of sodium, it does not pose the same health risks as table salt and other high sodium foods. Its different varieties also lend slightly different benefits and flavor profiles, depending on the plants used to make it, and the length of fermentation time.

As with anything else, if you have concerns or questions about whether miso is a good idea for your particular diet, talk to your licensed health practitioner–preferably one with an integrative, functional, or naturopathic approach. Practice moderation and listen to your body. Also, when shopping, quality matters. Choose miso that is organic and non-GMO.

Is miso a staple in your diet?

Or do you have particularly strong feelings about it that you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below!


The Dark Side of Soy

Benefits of Miso Soup: 10 Reasons You Should Be Eating It

Image credit: “Roasted Miso Paste” by Pelican
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