Miso Varieties and Health Benefits

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Miso is a salty, fermented grain or bean that’s sold as a paste. When you dissolve miso in hot water, it adds rich, umami flavor to your dishes. 

Miso is most associated with Japanese cuisine, and the famous miso soup with tofu and kombu seaweed. The culinary uses for miso do not stop there though.

Miso comes in many types with variations in flavor.

The three most common types are white (shiro, sweet, mellow) miso, red (aka) miso, and yellow (shinshu) miso. White is mildest and red is strongest, while yellow is in the middle. 

Miso can be made from rice, barley, soybean, chickpeas, and more.

Soy-based misos are the most common type, but you can easily find soy-free varieties. 

The best misos are sold in the refrigerated section of a health food or Asian grocery store, and it will last in the refrigerator for months; if not years. Avoid buying shelf-stable miso.

Health benefits

Due to the high salt and sour fermented tastes, miso encourages hydration and water retention, which can be really helpful for dry individuals that suffer with constipation or dry skin.

Miso is definitely most supportive for Vata types for this reason, and it is very supportive.

All fermented foods are warming, so that warmth is going to benefit Kapha types who tend toward cold, dull digestion. Use in moderation though, since the salt encourages water retention and can raise blood pressure.

Pitta types are going to want to use miso the least, since miso contains the metabolic byproducts of bacteria (from fermentation), and too much can spoil their blood.

Of all the types, Pitta is most sensitive to toxins, additives, and anything funky in food.

When choosing miso for your dosha, Vata types can enjoy any type of miso, while Kapha and Pitta types can choose the milder versions, such as the white or yellow misos.

Miso is probiotic

Miso is worth including in your diet for its probiotic benefits.

To preserve this benefit, avoid overheating or boiling miso, as it kills the beneficial bacteria.

Add it last after turning off the heat. It is good practice to stir the miso into very hot water to fully dissolve it, then transfer to your soup, sauce, etc. 

Culinary applications

Miso is a sweet and salty option to add savory flavor to any dish.

For a quick soup, boil carrots or other root vegetables, then create a broth with miso, green onions, and bit of sesame oil.

For a quick sauce, combine miso with a bit of water and tahini (sesame paste), maybe some lemon. Have it with cooked rice, steamed vegetables, lentils, or meat. Top with some fresh parsley.

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