Miso: A Protein–Rich Vegetarian Seasoning

Miso is a great Japanese seasoning that you should become acquainted with. It's a healthy addition to your diet, and a good replacement for non vegetarian condiments, like Worcestershire sauce.

What's Miso? It's a fermented soybean paste that's a staple in East Asian cooking. They make it by combining cooked soybeans, mold (koji), salt, and grains (usually rice or barley). Then it's fermented for approximately six months to two years.

There are several different types that range in darkness and color. The darker it is, the longer it's been fermented. The color and fermentation time affects the flavor, which ranges from sweet to savory.

Another Great Source of Vegetarian Protein

This versatile seasoning is high in both the quantity and quality of vegetarian protein. Most average about 12 to 13 percent protein. Hatcho, another type, is more than 20 percent.

The protein quality is the percentage that can be used by the body. Miso has an NPU (Net Protein Utilization) rating of up to 72. This means that your body can use 72 percent of the protein.

There are three reasons for its high NPU.

  • The fermentation process makes food easier to digest.
  • Soybeans and grains have a high combined NPU rating.
  • It has all eight essential, and nine nonessential amino acids, which makes it easier for your body to use.

Helps You Absorb and Digest Food

This is a living food like yogurt. It contains lactobacillus, other healthful microorganisms, and digestive enzymes.

The Perfect Seasoning

Miso does not taste very salty, but it has four times more salt than sea water.

Because of its flavor and peanut-butter-like texture, you can use it to make soup, marinades, or salad dressings. Or, add it to dressings, casseroles, relishes and toppings. Best of all, you can use it in place of salt, bouillon, anchovies, and Worcestershire sauce.

References

Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole foods; Asian traditions and modern nutrition.

William Shurtleff, Akiko Aoyagi, The book of miso, Volume 1, (Random House: 1981)

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