Gut health is a hot topic right now, or should I call it by it’s formal name, your gut microbiome
That’s right, I’m talking about those trillions of little microbes that live in us and have a vital roll in keeping us healthy!
I’m sure you’ve heard of good and bad bacteria and how you need a balance of them (thanks to Inner Health Plus advertising), well this is true. Research has shown that disorders in our internal ecosystem — a loss of diversity of your beneficial bacteria, say, or a proliferation of the “wrong” kind of microbes — may predispose us to obesity and a whole range of chronic diseases, as well as some infections.
The ABC show Catalyst just ran a 2 part series on our gut bacteria and showed how the typical Western diet, high in processed foods and low in fibre, is notably detrimental to its well-being. I encourage you to have a look at both shows if you haven’t already seen them. Very interesting!
So what does this have to do with miso soup I hear you ask? Well you acquire most of the initial microbes in your gut community from your parents, others are picked up from the environment and some come from certain foods we eat.
Have you heard of probiotics? I’m sure many of you have heard of the probiotics Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that are found in good quality yoghurt (like Jalna). Probiotics are cultures or healthy bacteria found in foods. When we eat these foods, this healthy bacteria can join the bacterial colony in our gut, helping to boost the ‘good’ bacteria population. This is a good thing!
There are a lot more foods that contain probiotics other than just yoghurt. Thanks to our multi-cultural influence here in Australia, many of these foods are already available at your local supermarket or delicatessen.
Some examples are:
- Sauerkraut the German pickled cabbage – look for unpasteurised varieties, or make your own as it is cheap and easy!
- Kim chi, the spicy Korean version of pickled cabbage
- Kefir, the fermented milk drink
- Sour Pickles, that use salt and water rather than vinegar for preserving
- and from Japan – Miso
Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, salt, a starter culture and other ingredients such as rice, barley or other grains. There are many different varieties of miso depending on key ingredients and the length of fermentation (from 3 months to 3 years!). Miso has a strong, salty taste, which means that you only need to use a small amount to add amazing flavour.
As miso is a living food, it should be stored in the fridge after opening. It contains a lot of salt which helps to preserve it, so it will last for many months. It is best used uncooked or only just heated (to less than 60 degrees C) to protect it valuable live cultures.
Miso is best known for it’s use in Miso soup, but this tasty paste can used in so many different ways, such as:
- Mix a tablespoon of miso with two tablespoons of white wine to marinade fish, chicken or tofu
- Add a small amount to salad dressings
- Add it any other soups at the end of cooking (remember to allow the soup to cool first)
- Add a little miso to dips such as hummus or babaganoush
- Mix with a little water and add to stir-fries right at the end
- Add to vegetable and bean, lentil or chickpea based casseroles
- Add a little miso paste to mashed potato
This is my version of miso soup. Miso soup is usually made using dashi (stock) as the base. This one is a very untraditional version that uses either vegetable or chicken stock as the base. Kale is cooked in the stock first, then the ‘soup’ is allowed to cool before adding the miso. This is an important step as if the soup is too hot it will kill the live cultures in the miso.
This makes a great quick soup for a busy weekend, served, again very untraditionally, with fresh sourdough bread, which is thought to also contain probiotics! (I can highly recommend Grumpy Baker’s Spelt, Rye and Malt Sourdough. YUM!).
I have added udon or buckwheat noodles to this soup in the past. I have even been known to add pumpkin and/or shredded cooked chicken, depending what I have on hand. So feel free to use this recipe simply as a base and add whatever you have to hand. I can guarantee it will be deeelicious and your gut with thank you (as you will have very happy microbes)!
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 90g (3 cups approx) kale, chopped
- 180g silken pressed tofu, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon miso
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ sheet nori (seaweed), optional
- fresh coriander, to garnish
- Place stock and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Add kale and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until cooked.
- Turn heat off and add tofu, set aside for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile mix together miso and water to a smooth paste.
- If you can, toast the nori sheet for 1-2 minutes in a hot oven, then shred. Otherwise use untoasted.
- Carefully remove tofu from soup and divide between 2 serving bowls.
- Add miso to soup and stir to combine.
- Pour soup evenly between the 2 serving bowls.
- Top with shredded nori and coriander.
Per Serve: 650kJ or 155 calories; P 14g Fat 7g SFat 1g CHO 8g Fibre 4.5g
Note – While probiotic-foods contain live bacteria, prebiotic food provide food for the good bacteria already living in your digestive system, helping them to thrive.
You can find prebiotics in foods such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oats, raw honey, maple syrup and legumes (dried beans, lentils and chickpeas). We need to eat both!
If you want to know more about gut health and current research in this area, here is an amusing and interesting article from the NY times well worth a read – Some of my best friends are bacteria