Miso is a fermented whole-soy food. This thick paste is commonly mixed with hot water to make a delicious soup that’s a staple in Japanese and Korean cuisines. White miso has a mellower flavor than red miso, and making miso soup can be as easy as mixing one tablespoon of miso with two cups of hot water and whatever vegetables you prefer.

The process of producing miso involves adding a lot of salt, so it was always something I avoided—until I actually looked into it. Read my Beans chapter in How Not to Die for the details, but it turns out miso is not associated with the stomach cancer risk attributed to the salt in other fermented foods like kimchi, nor the risk of developing high blood pressure. But what if you are already hypertensive?

Men and women with stage 1 or 2 hypertension (blood pressures ranging from 130 to 159 over 85 to 99) were randomized to eat either two bowls a day of miso soup, which alone exceeded the recommended daily sodium limit, or soybeans with no added salt for two months. Surprisingly, the miso group ended up with lower nighttime blood pressures than the soybean control group. The mechanism is unclear. Given a slight drop in body weight in the miso group, the miso may have a diuretic effect by increasing sodium excretion through the kidneys, a phenomenon that has been demonstrated in rats. Regardless, miso is now a staple of my kitchen and cookbooks.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

Image Credit: Image by 宏和 東涌 from Pixabay. This image has been modified.

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