The World's Healthiest Foods
Soy sauce (tamari)

The well-balanced, smooth rich flavor of tamari goes beyond its saltiness and blends so well with so many spices that the salt shaker won’t even be missed; low sodium varieties are also available. Tamari can be found in your local health food stores and supermarkets year-round.

Tamari is dark brown in color and usually slightly thicker than regular soy sauce. The salty fermented paste derived from soy beans, called miso, actually served as the basis for development of tamari. This development occurred during the Edo period (1603-1867) in Asia, when extra water was added to the miso paste to create a thick, dark sauce. The flavor of this sauce was called tamari. Later, changes in the process added wheat to the paste's ingredients, and today, tamari can be purchased as either wheat-containing or wheat-free.

 


Health Benefits

Most people have heard by now that too much salt in the diet can be bad for your health. Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In fact, societies with diets that are high in sodium and low in potassium typically have a much higher rate of heart disease than societies with diets that are low in sodium.

So does this mean that you have to sacrifice taste for health? Of course not. Soy sauce, while still high in sodium, has a flavor that goes beyond its saltiness. This means that you can use less soy sauce than you would salt to get the same level of enjoyment from your foods. And soy sauce blends so well with many spices – garlic, ginger, onions, etc. – that you won’t even miss your salt shaker. Some brands even have low sodium varieties of soy sauce available. So, rather than dousing your food with salt, try just a touch of soy sauce instead.

Our food ranking system, based on nutrient density, qualified tamari as a good source of niacin (vitamin B3), manganese, and protein. Of course, it would take far too much tamari to provide any substantial amount of a person's daily vitamin, mineral or protein needs. Nevertheless, for the calories it costs, tamari, unlike salt, delivers an unusual amount of nutrients to the person who uses it.

NOTE: If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and told by your doctor to limit your salt intake, you may want to limit your intake of soy sauce as well or try a low-sodium variety instead.

Description

The salty fermented paste derived from soy beans, called miso, actually served as the basis for development of tamari. This development occurred during the Edo period (1603-1867) in Asia, when extra water was added to the miso paste to create a thick, dark sauce. The flavor of this sauce was called tamari. Later, changes in the process added wheat to the paste's ingredients, and today, tamari can be purchased as either wheat-containing or wheat-free.

Tamari is dark brown in color and usually slightly thicker than regular soy sauce. It has a well-balanced smooth flavor that is rich and salty.

The soybean that serves as the basis for tamari has the scientific name Glycine max.

History

Soy sauce was invented in China, where it has been used as a condiment for close to 2,500 years. In the 7th century, Buddhist monks introduced soy sauce into Japan where it is known as shoyu. The Japanese word “tamari” is derived from the verb “tamaru” that signifies “to accumulate,” referring to the fact that tamari was traditionally produced as the liquid byproduct that was produced during the fermentation of miso. Japan is the leading producer of tamari.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Use tamari as a seasoning when healthy sautéing vegetables.

Combine tamari, garlic and ginger and use as a marinade for baked tofu, tempeh or chicken.

Keep a container of tamari on the dinner table and use instead of table salt for seasoning foods.

Serve brown rice with a Japanese flair by sprinkling some tamari, sesame seeds and nori strips on top.

Safety

Tamari, Soybeans, and Food Allergy

Although allergic reactions can occur to virtually any food, research studies on food allergy consistently report more problems with some foods than with others. Common symptoms associated with an allergic reaction to food include: chronic gastrointestinal disturbances; frequent infections, e.g. ear infections, bladder infections, bed-wetting; asthma, sinusitis; eczema, skin rash, acne, hives; bursitis, joint pain; fatigue, headache, migraine; hyperactivity, depression, insomnia.

Individuals who suspect food allergy to be an underlying factor in their health problems may want to avoid commonly allergenic foods. Soybeans and products such as tamari that are made from them are among the foods most commonly associated with allergic reactions. Other foods commonly associated with allergic reactions include: cow’s milk, wheat, eggs, beef, oranges, corn, pork, chicken, peanuts, yeast, strawberry, tomato, and spinach. These foods do not need to be eaten in their pure, isolated form in order to trigger an adverse reaction. For example, yogurt made from cow’s milk is also a common allergenic food, even though the cow’s milk has been processed and fermented in order to make the yogurt. Ice cream made from cow’s milk would be an equally good example.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

 

Tamari (Soy Sauce)
1.00 tbs
10.80 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
sodium 1005.48 mg 41.9 69.8 excellent
tryptophan 0.03 g 9.4 15.6 very good
manganese 0.09 mg 4.5 7.5 good
protein 1.89 g 3.8 6.3 good
vitamin B3 (niacin) 0.72 mg 3.6 6.0 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

References

  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2004-11-20 19:40:03
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation