Make probiotic foods, like miso, part of your weight loss meal plans


Miso Paste: An Asian Health Food


Spicy Asian foods are rapidly gaining popularity. Move over wasabi and sriracha. Miso paste, a fermented soybean flavor enhancer, is hot on your heels. This versatile, umami flavored food, is showing up on gourmet restaurant menus and in increasing numbers of food products.

In Japan people begin their day with a bowl of miso soup, which they believe stimulates digestion and energizes the body. Miso soup is made from miso paste combined with a vegetable broth known as “dashi broth,” salt, and water. Miso paste, long a staple of Asian diets, is made by adding grains such as rice, barley, or wheat, to fermented soybeans.

There are many different types of miso paste available. The length of fermentation, which ranges from a few months to as long as three years, affects the taste, color and texture. White miso is the mildest, the yellow version tastes a little stronger, and red miso, which typically contains only soybeans, has a deeper flavor and should only be used with hearty dishes.

A one cup bowl of miso soup contains a negligible 30 calories. If you choose to add cubed tofu, you’ll consume about 85 calories, while getting 6 grams each of protein and carbs, along with a bit of fiber.


Probiotics for Healthy Weight Loss Meal Plans


Plan on including probiotic foods in your healthy weight loss meals plans. Miso is one of the handful of healthful probiotic foods. This tasty paste is rich in antioxidants, as well as essential minerals like copper, zinc, and manganese, which promote a healthy immune system. Eating miso also supplies Vitamin B2, critical for metabolizing food, and Vitamin K to maintain bone strength and prevent heart disease.

If you buy miso paste, you will only use a little at a time and may wonder how long you can store the excess. So long as you keep it refrigerated, it will last at least several months, and by some estimates, up to a year.


Health Benefits of Miso and Miso Paste


1. Miso is a Fermented Food that Promotes Good Gut Bacteria


Like yogurt and kimchi, miso is a fermented food that contains live cultures. The fermentation process creates healthy “gut flora,” by enhancing the good bacteria and destroying the bad type that leads to health problems. Probiotic foods strengthen the immune system, facilitate digestion, and may prevent a wide range of diseases.


2. Miso Has Cancer Prevention Effects


Consumption of miso has been shown to decrease the risk of an impressive array of cancers, including large intestine, colon, breast, lung, and liver cancers.


3. Miso Helps Control High Blood Pressure


Many people worry that eating miso products will increase their blood pressure because it contains a lot of salt. This is not the case. In fact, lab testing demonstrates that drinking miso soup lowers blood pressure. It may be that absorption of sodium from the miso is delayed due to the other nutrients in fermented soy. Testing on middle-aged and older Japanese adults found that those who consumed that most miso soup were more likely to have a lower heart rate and that eating miso did not increase the incidence of hypertension.


4. Miso Helps Relieve Depression and Stress


According to the American Psychological Association, 15-20 percent of older adults in the United States have experienced depression. A study of postmenopausal Chinese women who consumed soy products showed decreased depression and perceived stress levels.


5. Miso Helps Prevent Osteoporosis


About 1 in 10 adults over aged 65 suffer from osteoporosis, which can lead to bone fractures and falls. The soybeans in miso contain a high amount of calcium and are rich plant estrogens known as isoflavones, which research demonstrates promote bone health and helps prevent osteoporosis.


6. The Protein in Miso Helps Fight Infection and Control Cardiometabolic Risks


Adequate protein is necessary to fight infection and heal wounds. Older adults require more protein due to physiological age changes which cause slower protein turnover resulting in a decrease in skeletal muscle. A one cup serving of miso soup supplies 6 grams, making it a rich source of protein. A study at Wake Forest School of Medicine compared soy protein and non-soy protein sources and determined that soy protein was “at least as good as other protein sources” for weight loss and improvement of cardiometabolic risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.



How to Use Miso Paste in Your Weight Loss Meal Plans


Miso paste is not just for making miso soup. It’s a healthful addition to your weight loss meal plans. Use miso to impart a savory flavor to marinades and salad dressings. British food writer, cookbook author and BBC broadcaster Nigel Slater uses miso extensively in his recipes. Try this delicious miso marinade next time you barbeque chicken. Combine 4 tbsp. each of white miso, mirin (a type of rice wine), and honey. Let the chicken marinate in the miso sauce for an hour. Then wrap it in foil and grill at low to medium heat so the marinade doesn’t burn.


For a flavor boost, try adding a tad of miso to a stir fry after you remove it from the heat. Other ways to get the health benefits of miso include using it to make pan sauce for fish or meat, adding it to vegetables before roasting, and incorporating it into stews.


Click here for a slightly different version of this article about probiotic foods as part of your weight loss meal plans which first appeared on Lifetime