Natto is a traditional cheese-like fermented soy product that's popular in Japan. It's made by boiling or steaming soybeans and then fermenting them with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis natto.
While some people are not fond of the sour aroma and nutty flavor of natto, it's probably one of the world's healthiest foods. That's because natto is a great source of two powerful nutrients: nattokinase and vitamin K2.
Natto Health Benefits
Nattokinase helps to address one of the most overlooked problems in the development of heart disease and high blood pressure: hyperviscosity. In plain words, that means thick, sick, sticky and inflamed blood that moves slowly through the circulatory system.
Hyperviscosity feeds the inflammatory process that damages arteries. The thicker your blood is, the harder your cardiovascular system has to work to squeeze the blood through your blood vessels. Over time, this can cause arteries to become calcified and less elastic. Sluggish blood flow also increases the risk of clot formation. But the nattokinase benefits in natto reinforces the actions of plasmin, your body's own enzyme that breaks down the clotting agent called fibrin, thereby preventing abnormal thickening of the blood.
Natto health benefits also offer a powerful protective effect against osteoporosis because of its high vitamin K2 content. Vitamin K2 helps move calcium into the bones, and at the same time, protects the cardiovascular system by helping to keep calcium out of the arterial walls.
Because of natto's health benefits on blood viscosity, those who are on blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) should not eat natto. But for others trying naturally to improve circulation, lower blood pressure and build stronger bones, natto is truly the super food of choice.
Sold at most Asian grocery stores, in some health-food stores, and online, natto is frequently served with miso, cabbage, eggs, mixed in salads or mixed with seaweed. It is also often eaten as a condiment with raw veggies, crackers or spread on sandwiches.
Natto tends to be described as "an acquired taste." But one of my Heart, Health & Nutrition newsletter subscribers shared with me the following natto recipe to make it more palatable. (Get more heart-healthy recipes.) I think this traditional Japanese version of natto is quite delicious!
- 1 package natto, defrosted
- 1 organic egg
- 3 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- ½ tsp. mustard
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- 1 cup Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions
Combine egg (as fresh as possible), low sodium soy sauce, sesame oil, mustard, and green onion. Combine natto with sauce mixture and spoon over hot rice. You can vary the proportions of soy sauce, sesame and mustard to suit your taste. Although the raw egg is traditional, you can omit this if you have any concerns about eating raw eggs.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): Calories 128, Fat 7g, Sodium 475mg, Carbohydrate 8g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 10g
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Video courtesy of HeartMDInstitute