Natto is a popular dish in Japan. Although it is quite common among the Japanese population, not many have heard of this nutritious food.
Natto is fermented soybeans. Fermentation is a process in which sugars are converted to acid or alcohol with the help of microorganisms like bacteria and yeast. The microorganism that helps in fermenting soybeans is a bacterium called Bacillus subtilis. Natto has a unique pungent smell and it has a nutty flavor.
In Japan, natto is usually garnished with soy sauce, chives, mustard, or other seasonings and served with cooked rice. Natto is eaten for breakfast or even as a snack.
Nutritional Facts About Natto
Natto contains a number of nutrients that are essential for our body. A 100-gram portion of natto offers the following nutrients:
- Calories – 211 kcal
- Proteins – 19 g
- Fats – 11 g
- Carbohydrates – 13 g
- Dietary Fiber – 5 g
- Magnesium – 115 mg
- Phosphorus – 174 mg
- Potassium – 729 mg
- Sodium – 7 mg
- Zinc – 3 mg
- Vitamin C – 13 mg
- Thiamin – 0.160 mg
- Riboflavin – 0.190 mg
- Vitamin B-6 – 0.130 mg
Apart from these nutrients, natto also contains traces of folate and pantothenic acid and also has antioxidative properties.1
Since natto is fermented, it also favors the growth of probiotics which are beneficial bacteria. One benefit is that they help with better digestion which in turn helps your stomach to absorb nutrients better.2 They also contain fewer antinutrients – compounds that hinder the absorption of nutrients – and other toxic components.3
4 Health Benefits Of Natto
1. Improves Digestion
As mentioned earlier, fermentation provides a lot of health benefits to your body. Because of the presence of the useful bacteria, it contributes to a healthy gut flora. This helps with better digestion of the food you eat.
Results of an animal study show how Bacillus subtilis has a positive effect on the colon mucosal inflammation and plasma cytokines levels in inflammatory bowel disease.4
In addition, soybeans naturally contain antinutrients (compounds that hinder the process of absorption of nutrients); however, the fermentation of soybeans reduces the level of antinutrients, improving digestion.
2. Increases Bone Strength
Natto is a good source of calcium, one of the most important minerals required to strengthen your bones. Natto is also one of the sources of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is important for your bones because it helps to bring calcium into your bones.5
Results of a study show how natto can help prevent the development of osteoporosis and, in postmenopausal women, postmenopausal bone loss.6 Natto contains menaquinone-7 or other bioavailable isoflavones that help build bone strength.
3. Promotes Heart Health
Natto may also help in providing a healthy heart. This is because it is a good source of fiber and probiotics and both can lower cholesterol levels. This reduces the risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases.7
Natto fermentation produces an enzyme called nattokinase that can help dissolve blood clots.8 Moreover, nattokinase enzyme plays an important role in maintaining blood pressure. Results of a study show that the intake of nattokinase supplements significantly reduced systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Therefore, natto may be used in the prevention and treatment of hypertension.9
4. May Boost The Immune System
Because of the presence of probiotics, natto may enhance your immune system. Due to the presence of Bacillus subtilis, it is found that the immune system of elders can be stimulated. In addition, it can also provide a resistance to common infectious diseases in senior citizens.10 It is also known that probiotics may help in reducing the effects of acute upper respiratory tract infections in immunocompetent children.11
In addition, natto contains nutrients like vitamin C, zinc, and others that help boost the immune system.12
Besides these benefits, natto may also help reduce the risk of certain cancers like liver, prostate, and breast cancer. It may also help in weight loss because of the presence of fiber and probiotics, leading to better digestion. Foods rich in probiotics may help in improving brain health by reducing the symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression, and other conditions. However, very little research has been conducted in these fields and more evidence is required to substantiate these statements.
Natto is generally safe for consumption. However, it contains vitamin K1 which has blood-thinning properties. Therefore, if you are already taking blood-thinning medications, it is always better to consult your doctor about adding natto to your diet. Also, eating too much of anything cannot be good; therefore, even if you add natto to your diet, do so in moderate amounts.
|↑1||Iwai, Kunihisa, Natsuko Nakaya, Yoshihiro Kawasaki, and Hajime Matsue. “Antioxidative functions of natto, a kind of fermented soybeans: effect on LDL oxidation and lipid metabolism in cholesterol-fed rats.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 50, no. 12 (2002): 3597-3601.|
|↑2||Tamang, Jyoti P., Dong-Hwa Shin, Su-Jin Jung, and Soo-Wan Chae. “Functional properties of microorganisms in fermented foods.” Frontiers in microbiology 7 (2016).|
|↑3||Reddy, N. R., and M. D. Pierson. “Reduction in antinutritional and toxic components in plant foods by fermentationaaThe term ‘plant foods’ is used in the context of food derived from plant sources.” Food Research International 27, no. 3 (1994): 281-290.|
|↑4||Selvam, R., P. Maheswari, P. Kavitha, M. Ravichandran, Benedikt Sas, and C. N. Ramchand. “Effect of Bacillus subtilis PB6, a natural probiotic on colon mucosal inflammation and plasma cytokines levels in inflammatory bowel disease.” Indian Journal Of Biochemistry and Biophysic 46, no. 1 (2009): 79-85.|
|↑5||Maresz, Katarzyna. “Proper calcium use: Vitamin K2 as a promoter of bone and cardiovascular health.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 14, no. 1 (2015): 34.|
|↑6||Ikeda, Yukihiro, Masayuki Iki, Akemi Morita, Etsuko Kajita, Sadanobu Kagamimori, Yoshiko Kagawa, and Hideo Yoneshima. “Intake of fermented soybeans, natto, is associated with reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women: Japanese Population-Based Osteoporosis (JPOS) Study.” The journal of nutrition 136, no. 5 (2006): 1323-1328.|
|↑7||Kumar, Manoj, Ravinder Nagpal, Rajesh Kumar, R. Hemalatha, Vinod Verma, Ashok Kumar, Chaitali Chakraborty et al. “Cholesterol-lowering probiotics as potential biotherapeutics for metabolic diseases.” Experimental diabetes research 2012 (2012).|
|↑8||Kurosawa, Yuko, Shinsuke Nirengi, Toshiyuki Homma, Kazuki Esaki, Mitsuhiro Ohta, Joseph F. Clark, and Takafumi Hamaoka. “A single-dose of oral nattokinase potentiates thrombolysis and anti-coagulation profiles.” Scientific reports 5 (2015).|
|↑9||Kim, Ji Young, Si Nae Gum, Jean Kyung Paik, Hyo Hee Lim, Kyong-Chol Kim, Kazuya Ogasawara, Kenichi Inoue, Sungha Park, Yangsoo Jang, and Jong Ho Lee. “Effects of nattokinase on blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial.” Hypertension Research 31, no. 8 (2008): 1583.|
|↑10||Lefevre, Marie, Silvia M. Racedo, Gabrielle Ripert, Béatrice Housez, Murielle Cazaubiel, Corinne Maudet, Peter Jüsten, Philippe Marteau, and Maria C. Urdaci. “Probiotic strain Bacillus subtilis CU1 stimulates immune system of elderly during common infectious disease period: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study.” Immunity & Ageing 12, no. 1 (2015): 24.|
|↑11||Ozen, Metehan, Gonca Kocabas Sandal, and Ener Cagri Dinleyici. “Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review.” Expert opinion on biological therapy 15, no. 1 (2015): 9-20.|
|↑12||Wintergerst, Eva S., Silvia Maggini, and Dietrich H. Hornig. “Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 51, no. 4 (2007): 301-323.|