Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

What is Miso?

Types of miso

One of the most popular and well known foods to come out of Japan is miso. Miso is a fermented soybean paste and is one of the most popular seasonings in Japanese cooking. Miso is extremely versatile as it can be used with almost any savoury food and in many cooking styles. Miso is perhaps one of the most important condiments to the Japanese diet and it is certainly no surprise that itfs popularity has grown so much in countries all over the world when its excellent taste and health benefits are considered. This is a food that is still widely used in the Japanese diet and will continue to be in years to come.


The key ingredient to miso is soy beans, but in actual fact miso can be made from almost anything. In fact itfs possible to find miso products made from combinations of soybeans, rice, wheat, buckwheat, barley and millet. Soybeans are fermented together with salt and a fungus for days to create a thick and strong tasting paste called miso. Most of us are familiar with a dark brown coloured miso but in actual fact there are many variations on miso, each being a difference in the base ingredients, fermentation times as well as cooking methodology.


The most widely distributed and perhaps well known is shiromiso (which translates to white miso). This is made from some soybeans, barley and rice. This is known for its delicious sweet taste. It is light and can easily be used in most foods to add a delicious miso flavour. This particular type of miso is fermented over a shorter timeframe than other miso products.


Another type of miso is mugi miso which translates to barley miso. This type is white in colour and is very popular in the southern part of Japan in Kyushu and Shikoku islands. Known for its unique smell, it is not always a favourite with the kids.


In the eastern part of Japan, they produce a yellowish coloured miso called komemiso (which translates to rice miso) This particular variety is made from soybeans and rice. Itfs not always easy to find but well worth trying.


Another miso well worth trying is mame miso, a name which means soybean miso. This type of miso has a darker, brownish looking colour and is particularly delicious. The taste is less sweet than some other varieties and offers a more savoury taste. It takes a long time to ferment but is well worth the wait. Mame miso can easily be found in Aichi prefecture (home to one of Japanfs biggest cities, Nagoya).


The miso that is usually aged for the longest time is known as aka miso or red miso in English. The variation gets its red colour from the length of time it ferments, fermenting this long changes it from a whitish colour to red. This type is quite strong tasting and particular salty.


Shougou miso (translated as mixed miso in English) can take on many forms as it is a mixture of the key ingredients from other miso types like, rice, soybeans and barley. when mixing the base ingredients itfs possible to get the best of both worlds so to speak as combining ingredients allows for a more balanced product.

Health benefits

Miso is really good for you and it is for this reason that many Japanese people have it everyday. It contains a lot of zinc which is a mineral that helps to make our immune systems strong to help us heal ourselves. Miso is also rich in copper and manganese, these two minerals are said to be good for cleansing our bodies from free radicals and giving us energy.


Miso has lots and lots of fibre too. It contains lots of dietary fibre which really helps to keep our digestive systems healthy. Miso helps the body to produce digestive fluids that the stomach needs and is said to strengthen our blood also. Another factor that helps to maintain our digestive systems is the good bacterias found in miso. Like other fermented products such as Natto (fermented soybeans), miso has bacteria that the stomach needs to improve itself. it is said by some professionals that miso can actually help to prevent womenfs risk of breast cancer and control estrogen in womenfs bodies.


Because miso usually contains a type of seaweed called wakame it is also extremely good for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. It is said by some people that miso is actually a really good food to consume for smokers as it naturally fights off some of the illnesses that can come from smoking.

So easy to use

Miso is usually sold as a paste in containers. Because of what it is, it needs to be kept in the refrigerator. It is easy to buy and easy to use. Most people are familiar with miso soup, a commonly served japanese soup that container miso paste, wakame seaweed and a whole host of other ingredients and combinations thereof such as shiitake mushrooms, egg and katsuobushi. When preparing this dish, chefs make sure to put the miso in at the end once the other ingredients have been boiled sufficiently as putting the miso in too early kills beneficial microorganisms contained in miso. Miso can be eaten without cooking also, and many people say that more can be gained from eating raw miso. Miso makes an excellent dip with raw vegetables such as carrots and celery, with the health benefits that these offer combined with the delicious taste, itfs a real winner with most people.


Miso and its many forms is a magical food. A large variety of base ingredients can be combined to create many types of miso each with their own curious characteristics. Miso is very good for our bodies and can be eaten daily. it is easy to find and easy to use making it something that needs to be tried if you havenft already.