Friday, May 18, 2012

Miso happy it's soup season

Me so happy - geddit? I've rediscovered an old friend: Miso soup.

I first tasted miso soup in Kings Cross in about 1990 when a then boyfriend and I used to go to a hole in the wall Japanese cafe late at night and each tuck into a bowl of miso soup and a bowl of Oyakodon. Oyakodon is a love story in itself and not readily available in many Japanese restaurants; they tend to serve Katsudon, which is fried chicken in the same soup base, but Oyakodon rules for me.

But I digress.

Our local Woolies has recently shifted things around, got rid of some of my favourite products (Orange Power upholstery cleaner, Nairns Oatcakes are two that spring to mind) and added a wider range in other departments. To my happiness, I found instant miso soup there last week. Oh glory.

I hadn't had miso soup for a couple of years, and that first cup was a real delight. I've been having miso soup for lunch every day since.

In fact I've been enjoying my miso so much that I ramped up the quest for real miso paste rather than soup sachets and found it (with no preservatives or MSG, hurrah!) and soup seaweed at the Chinese supermarket in Top Ryde City shopping centre earlier this week, so now I make it with tons of seaweed, and throw in some tofu or tempeh, and also baby spinach leaves for a really filling lunch that literally takes only five minutes to make. (You can also use miso paste in general marinades and salad dressings.)

I did a bit of research on the health benefits of miso soup, and found some interesting results on my trolling around the interweb:

  • Miso soup and miso paste is very high in sodium - most packaged soups are. Luckily I don't have a blood pressure problem.
  • Miso paste is made from fermented soy, as is tempeh (but not tofu). It's actually very healthy for you (unlike, apparently, unfermented soy products). If you think you're doing your body a favour by hoeing into tofu, soy milk and other soy products or products containing processed soy, you're not. You need to hunt out fermented soy such as soy sauce, miso, tempeh and natto. I've used up the last of my tofu today and will be stocking up on Tempeh instead.
  • Miso soup is good for weight loss (but I'm still waiting to see the results of that, my weight hasn't shifted at all this week).
  • Miso paste can also help reduce hot flushes and other signs of menopause - apparently 2 to 3 servings a day are what it takes. See this excerpt below from It's one of several sites that say very similar things
"Recently in the news, a fermented soy bean paste called miso was linked to a substantial decrease in the risk of breast cancer among Japanese women. This epidemiological study was conducted by researchers at Japan’s National Cancer Center . The researchers monitored the eating habits of 21,852 women ages 40-59 for a period of 10 years starting in 1990, by carefully assessing their diets and lifestyle habits. The research found that women who had three or more bowls of miso soup daily reduced their risk of breast cancer by 40% compared to those who only ate one bowl. Those who had two bowls of miso soup reduced their risk by 26%. The conclusion was that the more miso soup and isoflavones taken daily, the less risk of breast cancer. However, researchers were only able to identify this trend with miso soup consumption and not other soy foods or supplements. Soy foods contain isoflavones, but could not be linked, by themselves, with breast cancer risk reduction.

Miso soup consumption has been the subject of many studies, and has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, and radiation poisoning. While no single dietary factor can be responsible for one’s health, it’s hard to refute that miso soup has been a large contributing factor to Japanese health. The main difference between miso soup and other soy foods consumed by the Japanese is the fermentation process. This fermentation transforms the isoflavones in soy into their active aglycone form which can be used by the body for a host of health concerns, including menopause. In addition, this fermentation process also turns soy into a powerful antioxidant.

Several studies have shown that women who consume large amounts of soy-based phytoestrogens have fewer menopausal complaints. Asian diets typically contain 40 to 80 milligrams of soy isoflavones per day, compared to 3 milligrams per day for American diets. A scientific study of 104 postmenopausal women examined the consumption of 60 grams of isolated soy protein with 60 grams of the common milk protein (casein) per day for 12 weeks. Women receiving the soy experienced a 45% reduction in hot flashes, which was significantly different from the milk protein group. This difference was noted by the fourth week of treatment. Nagata performed a study evaluating soy and hot flashes among Japanese women. They found soy to have a protective effect against hot flashes. 101 women who developed moderate to severe hot flashes over 6 years were studied and found to have less hot flashes with higher soy intake."

I'm inclined to take this with a little grain or two of salt as Japanese people could and probably do have different genetic balances to westerners; they may be less prone to certain cancers or menopausal symptoms per se.

Whatever the case, I love miso soup. I'm happy to discover that it's also apparently good for me. I'll also be interested to see if the hot flushes take a back seat as time goes on.

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