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Miso 101

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Miso 101

By Cary Neff, Experience Life

In Japan, making miso a basic cooking ingredient and condiment that’s aged like wine and cheese is an art. But that doesn’t mean it’s complicated to prepare or eat. A good alternative to straight salt, miso is a snap to use in soups, sauces, spreads, salad dressings, dips and marinades.

Food Basics
Miso is a fermented soybean paste, or sometimes a rice or barley paste, that is similar in consistency to nut butters.
Savory, complex, rich and salty, miso is considered a umami flavor. (Umami is the fifth flavor after sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Learn more about it in “The Secret Flavor,” from our July/August 2009 archives.) Miso comes in a variety of colors and variations: Red miso has a rich, savory, salty flavor; light yellow miso is less salty with a subtle tartness and smooth texture; and white miso features a more delicate flavor. You see this variety because some misos in addition to their base of legumes or grains, and the mold, called koji, added to ferment them can contain brown rice, white rice, barley, wheat, buckwheat or ginger. Miso’s flavors also become more complex over time; “bean paste” may be fermented for months or years. You can find miso which is sold refrigerated in a plastic or glass jar, a sealed bag, or in bulk in Japanese and natural food markets and, increasingly, in conventional grocery stores.

Nutritional Know-How
One tablespoon of miso provides 2 grams of easy-to-digest protein and a rich array of probiotic (healthy) bacteria. Miso is also a good source of tryptophan, which helps the body synthesize that protein; manganese, an enzyme activator; zinc, critical to the immune system; and manganese and copper, which are essential for antioxidant functioning and energy production. It’s of particular value for vegetarians because it’s high in vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids (primarily found in animal sources). Miso is high in sodium, though, so don’t go overboard with it as a seasoning.

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Read more: Basics, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Whole Soy Benefits, ,

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Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.


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6:48AM PST on Mar 3, 2015

Thank you.

7:13AM PDT on Aug 18, 2014

Thank you for info

6:40AM PDT on Aug 18, 2014

Thank you. I bought some miso but then did not know what to do with it.

7:46AM PST on Dec 22, 2013

Intriguing to say the very least. Have never had miso but am going to give it a whirl. Don and I CAN! :-))

10:40AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

love miso

3:30PM PST on Feb 3, 2013

Thank you Megan, for Sharing this!

7:47AM PST on Jan 17, 2013


3:12PM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

Miso sounds like a great soup. Yummy!!!! :)

5:20PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

Sounds like a taste treat, good for a soup or addition to other meals as well!

7:14AM PDT on Mar 25, 2012


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