If you’ve lately felt bloated, this might be a sign of an unresolved gut issue. Luckily, there's a superfood– the newest food trend to hit TikTok –that might just do the trick: natto.
This traditional Japanese dish has been garnering a lot of attention on social media recently and for good reason. Natto is rich in nutrients that can improve gut health and support a healthy immune system.
In this article, we'll explore the health benefits of natto and why it's worth considering adding to your diet.
What is Natto?
Natto, an acquired taste for some, is made by fermenting soybeans with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. During the fermentation process, the bacteria produce a slimy texture and a pungent odor that some people find unappealing.
According to Japanese Chef, Yuki Gumi, natto has been a staple in Japanese diets for centuries and is a highly regarded easy-to-prepare breakfast dish. This superfood is often accompanied by rice, soy sauce, and mustard. What's even more impressive is its versatility, as it can be used to add a touch of umami (the savory flavor often associated with soup broths) to a wide range of other flavors.
The fermentation process that creates natto is similar to that of other fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchi. During fermentation, bacteria break down the soybeans, which creates multiple essential nutrients like protein, fiber, iron, manganese, and Vitamin K2, according to Registered Dietitian Jon Lanman.
Natto also contains a variety of bioactive compounds like nattokinase, which has been shown to have numerous health benefits on the gastrointestinal tract by promoting a healthy balance of gut bacteria and boosting metabolism.
Apart from gut health, nattokinase can also improve cardiovascular health by preventing blood clot formation, thus lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes, which are major contributors to mortality rates worldwide, as reported by the World Health Organization.
Health Benefits of Natto
Natto is rich in essential nutrients that are beneficial for your gut and overall health. Here are the top 5 benefits of natto:
Improved Digestive Health
One of the most significant and well-known benefits of natto is its probiotic content. Probiotics are live microorganisms that support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, which in turn helps with digestion
The probiotics in natto shield your gut from toxins and bad bacteria that may cause constipation, bloating, and other gastrointestinal problems (GI) such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a study revealed.
Improved digestion is essential in breaking down food into nutrients that the body utilizes for energy, growth, and cellular repair. Moreover, a healthy digestive system offers a strong immune function against viruses and toxins, explains Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist Maria Adams.
In addition to its probiotic content, natto is also a rich source of many essential vitamins and minerals. For example, natto is an excellent source of vitamin K2, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It's also high in iron, calcium, and magnesium.
You know how bodybuilders are always talking about getting their protein? Well, natto is a great source of plant-based protein, so you can get those gains without having to eat a bunch of meat.
Fiber is another important nutrient found in natto. It is beneficial for your digestive system as it sweeps away all the waste and toxins from your body. Plus, it can help you feel full and satisfied, so you don't end up snacking on junk food all day, Dr. Seth Rosen, a Gastroenterologist, explains.
Improved Cholesterol Level
First, let's talk about what cholesterol is. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in your blood that can build up in your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. There are two types of cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, while HDL is considered "good" cholesterol.
Now, here's where natto comes in as the hero of our story. Natto contains a substance called nattokinase, a type of enzyme that can break down fibrin, a protein that contributes to the formation of blood clots, a study shows. By breaking down fibrin, nattokinase can help to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Furthermore, the fiber in natto binds to cholesterol in the digestive system, preventing its absorption into the bloodstream, and lowering cholesterol levels, according to Gastroenterologist Dr. William Chey.
Overall, while more research is needed to fully understand the potential cholesterol-lowering benefits of natto, early studies are promising.
Helps Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural response by your body's immune system to injury, infection, or harmful stimuli. However, chronic inflammation can contribute to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, arthritis, and cancer, as reported by the British Heart Foundation.
As previously mentioned, natto contains nattokinase, this type of enzyme has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties by breaking down excess fibrin in the bloodstream.
Natto is also a rich source of antioxidants and Vitamin K2, which can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Best Protein Source for Vegans
According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a critical role in many of your body's functions, from building and repairing tissues to maintaining a healthy immune system. Whether you're a longtime vegan or just looking to add more plant-based protein to your diet, natto is definitely a food to keep on your radar.
While many people associate protein with animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy, natto is an excellent protein option for vegans and vegetarians. It's also low in calories and fat, making it a healthy addition to any diet.
In fact, a single serving of natto (about 100 grams) contains around 17 grams of protein, making it a great option for vegans and vegetarians looking to meet their protein needs, according to a study. And because natto is a fermented food, it also contains probiotics that can help support a healthy gut microbiome.
Natto has taken TikTok by storm, but it has long been a popular dish in Japanese cuisine. This fermented soybean dish is known for its many health benefits, such as improved gut health, heart health, and immune system function. Moreover, natto is an excellent source of plant-based protein, vitamins, and minerals. If you're looking to improve your gut health and add some diversity to your diet, give natto a try!
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