This week we’re offering a nourishing and smooth, yet complex and mineral rich, Chickpea Miso soup as part of our weekly CSK share. Enriched with kombu and bone broth it's not only exciting to the taste buds but, it's exactly what our bodies crave this time of year. With all the cold, wet weather we've been getting (thank goodness for it), we wanted to provide a dish to boost your internal environment and keep your microbiota happy and well fed!
Miso paste is an Asian seasoning made by fermenting grains or beans. Most commonly used are soybeans, barley, brown rice, or chickpeas. Since we avoid gluten and soy at Three Leaves, chickpea miso is a great choice as the base for our soup, The miso paste is made by mixing organic chickpeas with the fungal inoculant, Aspergillus oryzae. and allowing it to slowly ferment at the right temperature. The beautiful result of this ancient process is a smooth-textured paste with a strong, salty flavor. This is a very interesting process that can take from 6 months up to 2 years, How to make Japanese miso paste at home. Often used in Asian cooking, miso is a healthy, probiotic food that helps support digestion by adding beneficial microorganisms to your digestive tract.
Your large intestine contains about 100 trillion beneficial microorganisms from more than 500 different species. These microorganisms, called your normal flora, help you digest your food and process indigestible fiber, which you then eliminate in stool. They also protect you from pathogenic bacteria you ingest with food by maintaining a proper balance of bacterial colonies in your intestine. Mostly anaerobic bacteria that don't require oxygen to live, your normal flora also produce vitamin K, an important clotting factor. If you contract a digestive illness or take antibiotics, some of these beneficial bacteria may die, thus the importance of ingesting them on a daily basis.
Miso paste is a probiotic food that contains millions of microorganisms similar or identical to those beneficial bacteria that live in your large intestine. These microorganisms grow during the fermentation that produces miso, The length of the fermentation process determines the flavor strength of the miso and also contributes to the number of probiotic organisms in the final paste. Nutritionally, miso paste provides mostly carbohydrate with some protein. It is also rich in several of the B-complex vitamins and contains several minerals, including calcium, iron, zinc, copper and magnesium.
Because miso is fermented and contains live active cultures, you can think of it as acting similarly on our digestive system as yogurt. However, one of the benefits of fermented miso is that it contains no dairy and is a suitable source of beneficial probiotics for people with lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivities to foods like kefir, yogurt and cultured cheeses.
The probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods thrive in our gut microbiota, increasing our immunity and improving digestion. Probiotics are still being widely researched, but in recent years probiotics have been tied to health factors including:
- enhanced digestion
- improved immune function
- lower incidences of allergies
- better cognitive health
- lower risk for obesity
- mood regulation
- appetite control and much more
Miso paste is typically added to Japanese soup and other Asian dishes. To use miso in soup, dissolve a tablespoon of the paste in tepid water and add this to a pot of heated water containing vegetables, meat, seaweed or other ingredients of your preference. You might also make a hummus spread adding small amount of miso paste and dipping vegetables or spreading on rice crackers for a snack. Keep in mind that the paste is quite salty and a little goes a long way. Miso is also a flavorful condiment when added to dressing it acts as a great emulsifier. To preserve the living microorganisms in miso paste, avoid subjecting it to high heat. Instead, add the paste to dishes that have already been cooked or heated to serving temperature.
While miso is gaining widespread notoriety for its ability to heal and improve health, the majority of the benefit I receive is from the grounding I feel with the earth and myself after drinking a bowl of miso soup. Its strange ability to comfort and soothe in even the most stressful of times has me convinced that adding miso to your life is an easy way to increase health with minamal effort. Plus, it’s pretty darn tasty to boot.