As creatures of habit, most of us tend to eat the same or similar foods over and over again. But what if there are new and unusual foods (to us, at least) that could deliver remarkable health benefits if added to our diets? I happened to have discovered one such amazing food recently, and I’d like to introduce it to you for consideration.
Natto is by no means a new food. It’s been a traditional and popular, yet polarizing health food for centuries in Japan. About 7.5 billion packets of natto are sold each year. It’s clear that many people love it and eat it daily (it’s a popular breakfast staple), but some people just can’t stand the stuff.
Natto is essentially steamed soybeans that have been fermented with a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis and then aged for about a week. The resulting product looks like the soybeans have been covered in some sort of stringy slime (my wife said they look like alien eggs). This can be off-putting for some. The smell is even more of an issue for others, as it resembles the aroma of well-worn socks or an extremely strong cheese.
The Taste of Natto
I’m somewhat on the fence about natto’s palatability. I’ve tried it a couple times and the smell and texture are definitely tough to get used to. Natto is usually eaten with steamed rice, soy sauce or tamari, and chopped green onions. I had to douse my bowl with tamari to get the natto all down, which meant the sodium content of my meal skyrocketed.
For most people, new foods and flavors typically take about ten to fifteen tries to become familiar. While I’ll definitely try natto again sometime soon, I’m not really looking forward to it much. (By the way, in case you’re wondering, the worldwide natto federation is not paying me for this article, despite my “glowing” reviews.)
Even thought natto might be a tough food to stomach or at best an “acquired” taste, its unique nutritional profile might have you consider trying it anyway.
The Great Things About Natto
Excellent source of both vitamin K1 and K2 – Vitamin K1 can be found in green leafy vegetables, but few foods contain both K1 and K2. Both vitamins can help regulate blood clotting and improve heart health. And Vitamin K2 has been shown to possess significant anti-carcinogenic qualities, possibly helping to reduce the risk of prostate cancer by up to 35%.1
Nattokinase for heart health – Natto is the only dietary source of nattokinase, an enzyme that also helps significantly with regulating blood clotting, and which has been shown to have a profound beneficial effect on protecting our bodies from heart disease and hypertension.2
Natto is a micronutrient powerhouse – In addition to vitamin K, natto contains sizeable amounts of vitamins C and B, as well as riboflavin, folate, B6, and even B12 (vegans rejoice). On top of that it has generous amounts of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, and even iron (100g of natto contains 8.6 mg of iron). It’s also full of fiber to help you feel full on fewer calories.
Probiotics – Since Natto is a fermented food, it contains a whole host of beneficial bacteria, especially Bacillus subtilis, to aid in digestion and help to maintain a healthy gut flora balance.
Give Natto a Go
If you’re adventurous enough to try unusual foods, give natto a shot. You may even end up loving it instantly as some people do. Just take it right out of its package and put it on top of some steamed brown rice, add some tamari and chopped green onions, and maybe even use a little hot sauce. This meal will provide you with a nearly complete package of nutrients, some hard-to-find enzymes, and some powerful health benefits.
1. Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J, “Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg).” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. April 2008.
2. Kim JY, Gum SN, Paik JK, et al. “Effects of nattokinase on blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial.” Hypertension Research. August 2008.
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