Natto – a powerful super food

Natto – gooey, sticky, and stinky [Image source: Flickr].

Have you tasted natto before? It is the gooey, sticky, and stinky fermented soybeans found in Japanese cuisine. A traditional food made from cooked soybeans fermented with the Bacillus subtilis natto starter, natto has been served in Japanese household for breakfast for thousands of years [1]. Natto is not particularly appealing in look, and it is an acquired taste for many, even among the Japanese [2]. Don’t judge it by its appearance though, natto can be one of the most powerful super food, especially for cardiovascular health. A population-based cohort study in Japan that tracked a cohort of twenty-nine thousand men and women over the course of sixteen years found that high intake of natto was significantly associated with a decrease risk of mortality in cardiovascular diseases including stroke [3].

Natto on rice – a traditional Japanese breakfast [image source: Flickr]

Blausen 0088 BloodClot

Nattokinase can help to enhance the body’s ability to dissolve blood clot.

The health promoting benefits of natto come from an enzyme, namely nattokinase, produced by the bacterium B. subtilis during the fermentation of natto. Since its discovery in 1987, nattokinase has been studied extensively. We now know that nattokinase possess strong anti-clotting ability through enhancing the body’s ability to clot-dissolving agents in the blood [3].

While blood clotting is an important process to prevent excessive bleeding when a blood vessel is injured, formation of blood clots within blood vessels without apparent injury can lead to a heart attack or stroke that can be fatal. As such, medications that help to prevent blood clotting, such as aspirin and warfarin, are prescribed to cardiovascular disease patients as a preventive measure. Nattokinase is considered to be a safe, low cost, and powerful natural substitute for these synthetic anti-clotting and blood thinning drugs [4]. For this reason, commercial nattokinase products are now widely as food supplements to improve blood flow and cardiovascular health.

Nattokinase supplement is now widely available commercially.

Prevention of osteoporosis is another potential health benefit of regularly taking natto[image source: Flickr]

Nutritionally natto is rich in protein, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin C, K, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Therefore, it is highly nutritious. Beside cardiovascular health benefits, intake of natto in diet has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, lowering bad cholesterol (LDL), and protect against oxidative stress [5]. Being a rich source of vitamin K2, regular intake of natto can also help to prevent bone loss as shown in studies conducted with both pre- and post- menopausal women [6,7]. So, it you want strong bones, natto can help. Regular intake of natto has also been shown to reduce incidence and intensity of eczema, especially in children and babies [8].

In summary, natto is a superfood packed with essential nutrients and health benefits for the heart, blood, bone, and skin. If you never tasted it, give it a try today.

References

[1]         W. Shurtleff, A. Aoyagi, History of Natto and its relatives, Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, CA, USA, 2012.

[2]         B. Bayley, Why Japan’s ancient natto could be a key to a healthy life : SBS Food, SBS Website. (2017). http://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2017/03/30/why-japans-ancient-natto-could-be-key-healthy-life (accessed September 6, 2017).

[3]         C. Nagata, K. Wada, T. Tamura, K. Konishi, Y. Goto, S. Koda, T. Kawachi, M. Tsuji, K. Nakamura, Dietary soy and natto intake and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japanese adults: the Takayama study, Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 105 (2017) 426–431. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.137281.

[4]         Y. Weng, J. Yao, S. Sparks, K.Y. Wang, Nattokinase: An Oral Antithrombotic Agent for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease., Int. J. Mol. Sci. 18 (2017). doi:10.3390/ijms18030523.

[5]         A. Taniguchi-Fukatsu, H. Yamanaka-Okumura, Y. Naniwa-Kuroki, Y. Nishida, H. Yamamoto, Y. Taketani, E. Takeda, Natto and viscous vegetables in a Japanese-style breakfast improved insulin sensitivity, lipid metabolism and oxidative stress in overweight subjects with impaired glucose tolerance, Br. J. Nutr. 107 (2012) 1184–1191. doi:10.1017/S0007114511004156.

[6]         H. Katsuyama, S. Ideguchi, M. Fukunaga, K. Saijoh, S. Sunami, Usual dietary intake of fermented soybeans (Natto) is associated with bone mineral density in premenopausal women., J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. (Tokyo). 48 (2002) 207–15.

[7]         Y. Ikeda, M. Iki, A. Morita, E. Kajita, S. Kagamimori, Y. Kagawa, H. Yoneshima, Intake of fermented soybeans, natto, is associated with reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women: Japanese Population-Based Osteoporosis (JPOS) Study., J. Nutr. 136 (2006) 1323–8.

[8]         N. Ozawa, N. Shimojo, Y. Suzuki, S. Ochiai, T. Nakano, Y. Morita, Y. Inoue, T. Arima, S. Suzuki, Y. Kohno, Maternal Intake of Natto, a Japan’s Traditional Fermented Soybean Food, during Pregnancy and the Risk of Eczema in Japanese Babies, Allergol. Int. 63 (2014) 261–266. doi:10.2332/allergolint.13-OA-0613.

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