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Cooking Healthy with Miso

Miso (pronounced MEE-so) may be one of the World's Healthiest Foods you haven't tried, but it's easy to boost your nutrition by incorporating this health-promoting flavor-enhancer into your meals.

Miso is made by fermenting soybeans into a thick, flavorful paste with the help of a B12-synthesizing bacteria, and therefore is commonly recommended as a source of B12 for vegans. Depending on the way its fermentation process is carried out, miso can have a deep, rich, salty taste or a much lighter, subtly sweet one. You can think of miso as healthful substitute for bouillion cubes.

While a boullion cube adds salt to soups, a single 25-calorie-tablespoon of miso provides not just rich, salty flavor, but the trace minerals zinc, manganese and copper plus 2 grams of protein.

In Japan, more than 80% of all miso is used for soup! In Japan, miso soups usually start with dashi - a soup stock often made using another of the World's Healthiest Foods - sea vegetables - but it's fine to start with water. The ratio of miso paste to water is usually 1/2 cup of miso paste to 6 cups of water (or in the case of many Japanese soups, 6 cups of dashi). Simply stir in the miso, allowing it to dissolve in the water as it simmers. In Japan, chunks of tofu are usually added to this miso broth, along with vegetables, such as thinly sliced scallions or carrots.

Soups and stir-fries (check our Miso Stir Fry) are a great way to bring this World's Healthiest Food into your meals, but be creative. You can replace salt in virtually any vegetable recipe with miso. For richer flavor, add miso to the water when cooking brown rice or any grain. Add a dollop to the pot or pressure cooker when cooking beans. And be sure to try several types of miso. Red miso is heartiest, followed by yellow and then white.