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Natto beans

March 2017

natto beans

Let’s face it, we have all seen so many food fads come and go that no one is going to take on a new food without at least a few questions being asked or a little research.

So when we heard about the new craze for natto beans, here at Laterlife that is exactly what we did...asked a few questions and did some research.

Natto comes from Japan where it has been a traditional food for centuries. Natto beans are simply soy beans that have been specially treated.

Usually smaller beans are used, washed and soaked in water for several hours so they expand, and then they are steamed for around 6 hours. After this they are mixed with the bacterium Bacillus Subtilis and then fermented at around 40 °C for a day or so. Then the beans are cooled and aged, today usually in a refrigerator, for up to a week.

After all this, they come out with a powerful smell, a strong flavour and even worse, a slimy texture. While the Japanese, who often eat natto for breakfast with soy sauce and mustard, are well used to it and love it, it can definitely be an acquired taste for people used to western diets.

So why would we bother?   This is because natto is packed with great nutritional value and also health benefits. For instance, just one cup of natto will include 31g protein, 1284 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 9583 mg of omega-6 fatty acids, 9.4 g of dietary fibre,, plus calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Then don’t forget the vitamins – vitamin C and K. thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid and choline.

These are not just traces. Natto contained for instance 100 times more vitamin K2 than cheese – this is very important at our age because vitamin K2 is a key component in maintaining bone mineral density.

It is the fermentation that makes such a difference although this does tend to reduce its vitamin A content.  But fermentation helps these beans to be easily digested and absorbed. An enzyme nattokinase is created during the fermentation process and this has a number of health benefits. They also are rich in probiotic content, and most of us know we need good levels of probiotics for what is termed nowadays as gut health.

Natto really is the process and can actually be made with other beans such as black beans or kidney beans, but soybeans are the best and produce the most nutritious results.

One downside apart from the taste is that natto is not a slimming food, it has over 300 calories per cup full. But as a substitute for some foods rather than an additional to a normal diet, they can be very beneficial.

You can make natto beans at home, but it is becoming more and more readily available at specialist food shops around the UK and as an incoming trend, you will undoubtedly hear a lot more about it.

 

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