Skip to comments.Why Japanís Ancient Natto Could Be a Key to a Healthy Life
Posted on 04/07/2017 2:13:24 PM PDT by nickcarraway
It's not the prettiest dish, but natto has some powerful health benefits.
When you think of Japanese cuisine, fresh, delicate flavours and intricately presented morsels spring to mind. Amidst all this loveliness, gooey, sticky and stinky fermented soybeans seem somewhat out of place. Called natto, this pungent dish is lesser known in Australia, but it lurks in the freezer section of Asian supermarkets, waiting for adventurous types to seek it out. Craig Anderson, star of My Japanese Diet (screening April 6 on SBS) is one such culinary maverick.
In fact, when SBS Food calls him to chat about the documentary, hes just finished a bowl of natto on rice a daily ritual since filming My Japanese Diet, which sees him swap his former diet of burgers, pizza and lollies for traditional Japanese food. Natto is a food that divides Japan: half of them hate it and half like it, says Anderson, who maintained his Japanese diet even after cameras stopped rolling. People complain that natto smells like foot odour mixed with paint thinner, but when I eat it, it tastes like Dijon mustard over cannellini beans and it provides protein and carbs that keeps me going through the day, he says.
Craig Anderson in My Japanese Diet Craig Anderson tries natto for the first time in Japan.
Natto, a traditional food in Japan for thousands of years, is made by cooking fermented soybeans. It has a flavour that has been described as akin to fermented cheese. While some love the taste and the sticky-stringy texture, it's often served with condiments such as sliced green onions, wasabi or pickled ginger. Cooking, too, helps make it approachable (Japanese food writer Makiko Itoh, of popular blog JustBento, suggests using it in stir-fries or curries, or in her pan fried natto and potato cakes).
The health perks of natto Natto may not sound that appealing if you aren't a fan of funky flavours, but the growing body of research supporting its health benefits certainly is. Dr Kevin Wang, associate professor of molecular biology ant Northeastern State University, US, is one of the leading researchers exploring nattokinase, an enzyme extracted from natto. Nattokinase has the ability to get into the blood stream and can directly destroy blood clots, thin the blood and improve blood flow, he says. It cleans out the blood vessels, reducing the risk of hypertension and stroke and can also reduce the risk of heart attack.
According to Wang (who takes nattokinase supplements twice daily), it may well serve as a natural, side-effect free alternative to pharmaceutical anticoagulants such as warfarin. If youd prefer to try the food version rather than a supplement, youll still reap the benefits. We did an experiment where we found even one natto bean can dissolve fibrin [a protein involved in blood clots], Wang tells SBS.
Natto Even a small serving of natto may have benefits.
Next generation natto As well as cardiovascular benefits, natto is a rich source of vitamin K2, which is important for bone health. In a 2012 Japanese study, scientists found that habitual intake of natto was associated with significantly higher bone mineral density, which they ascribed largely to the vitamin K content of natto. Other research tracking the bone mineral density change of postmenopausal Japanese women over time discovered that those who consumed natto regularly were less likely to experience bone loss, and as such, may be better protected against osteoporosis.
In the near future we may not even need to cultivate a taste for natto or add yet another supplement to our overly crammed medicine cabinets. My current research is trying to introduce nattokinase genes into vegetables such as tomato and cucumber, and Im hoping people will be able to access this in the next three to five years and that the price will be similar to regular fruit and vegetables, Dr Wang says. Ive also been engineering soybeans to produce more nattokinase, so we dont have to have the fermented ones.
Fermented foods in the Japanese diet Natto isnt the only fermented superfood in the Japanese diet. As Anderson discovered during his stay in Japan, the line-up of fermented foods that the Japanese enjoy ranges from pickled vegetables (tsukemono) as a side dish or seasoning, to pickled ginger on top of sushi, umeboshi plums, miso soup and soy sauce, which is made from fermented soy beans. A traditional Japanese meal includes all these little bowls of things and theres always a fermented product there, he recalls. For Anderson, fermented Japanese foods are now a part of his regular diet. When I make bento boxes to take to work for lunch, I put an umeboshi plum on top of the rice and Ill often add pickled vegetables to my bowl of rice and natto at breakfast, he says.
According to Nicole Dynan, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, fermented foods are well worth incorporating. They are considered probiotics because they contain live bacteria, and there is evidence that they are beneficial in the treatment of diarrhoea, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease and also just for protection against infection generally, she says. Fermentation can also increase some of the micronutrients in food, B vitamins particularly, and for some people it can make food more digestible.
If youre keen to branch out into Japanese fermented foods, sipping on miso soup, using pickled vegetables as a seasoning or trying natto is a great place to start.
In My Japanese Diet, award-winning actor and comedian Craig Anderson sets out on a dieting experiment towards better health by eating nothing but traditional Japanese cooking for 12 weeks. Watch his journey to Japan, and his new healthy regime, on SBS on April 6 at 8.30, then on SBS On Demand.
It’s INCREDIBLY good for you.
It’s sticky and smells exactly like a horrid FART.
The weird thing:
People who can tolerate it are CRAZY about it.
Oh look another “super food”. Really people, why do you keep believing this crap over and over and over and over. Every year same scam, different food.
I really like it.
Next generation natto As well as cardiovascular benefits, natto is a rich source of vitamin K2, which is important for bone health.
I take K2 in a pill and it’s worked miracles for me.
The other ones great 4u:
1. Soba noodles - made of buckwheat
2. Kombucha - Fermented drink, pretty pricey in the USA, it’s easy and fun to make after you get the scoby (disgusting looking starter thing)
If you could get hooked on these two (easy) paired with Natto (harder), it would be AMAZINGLY good for you.
Green tea, too, but less so.
Nattokinase pills (2000 iu) seem to do the same, without the sticky mess. OTOH, as an aficionado of nihonryori (Japanese cuisine), I don’t mind natto, or to put it another way, it does natto bother me.
It’s delicious and makes you feel amazing.
When my wife eats natto, I have to leave the room.
Spent 3 years in Japan and love the food. Except natto.
Just couldn’t get over the smell. And it tastes just like it smells.
Even a lot of Japanese won’t eat natto, mainly because they can’t stand the smell or dislike the slime. I understand you have to be from certain prefectures where it is customary to eat it. Unfortunately, my wife’s family is.
you eat ancient Chinese nattos if you want to.
just keep it to yourself.
I tried to like natto, really I did. I do everything I can for my health, but natto defeats me.
Besides,it’s hard to find. Got it a Uwajimaya, large terrific Asian mkt in Seattle, but I don’t live there now.
If I could find it powdered in a capsule, I’d buy it. Headed to AMZ now to investigate.
Please explain further..
I wonder if the fermented tofu I use in my Chinese cooking has the same benefits? Really delicious in dishes like twice-cooked pork with cabbage and a couple different types of chilis.
As it turns out, AMZ has many kinds of nattokinase in capsule form. I put the most popular in my cart. More than 500 excellent reviews, plus it is not very expensive.
Same people who dutch oven themselves.
After all, I LOVE "stinky tofu" that is common among the Chinese, but I don't dare eat it in public given too many people can't stand the smell.
And Asahi biiru acts as a liquid Brillo pad that scrubs out your guts and plants you in the benjo the next day, all day. The memories - all near death experiences...
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