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Ankeny, Iowa, March 19, 2020 — During National Soyfoods Month in April, The Soyfoods Council invites you to discover the culinary and nutrition advantages of enjoying fermented soyfoods. Fermented foods—including miso and tempeh—are the number one superfood trend this year, according to the Pollock PR “What’s Trending in Nutrition” 2020 survey. Similarly, Japanese umami flavors, including miso and natto, are also among the year’s hottest culinary trends listed in the National Restaurant Association “What’s Hot” 2020 survey. Fermented soy foods such as miso, tempeh, and natto offer a satisfying complexity of flavor as well as potential health benefits.

Miso is a fermented soybean paste that adds salty, savory umami flavor notes to everything from salad dressings to meat marinades. It is available in American supermarkets and comes in white, yellow and red varieties that offer a range of flavor intensity. Tempeh also is widely available in supermarkets across the U.S. It is made from fermented soybeans, and combines a firm meaty texture with a mild, nutty flavor. Creative tempeh dishes in restaurants include tempeh Reuben sandwiches, tempeh Caesar salads, and one-bowl meals. Tempeh provides approximately 15 grams of protein and five grams of fiber per serving. Natto, with its sticky texture and cheese-like flavor, appeals to adventurous eaters who like to experiment with global condiments. Made with fermented soybeans, natto is served as a traditional accompaniment for rice in Japan, and also is used as a flavoring in recipes. You can find it in grocery stores that sell Asian ingredients, or make your own natto in an electric pressure cooker by following instructions in YouTube videos. Brands such as NYrture New York Natto also are available online (www.nyrture.com/order-natto.

Fermented soyfoods contain probiotics (live organisms) that can offer potential digestive health benefits when eaten on a regular basis. And, if the benefits of fermented foods are already on your radar, two new studies suggest that fermented soyfoods may offer other protective benefits as well.

Eating fermented soyfoods is related to lower mortality rates. A recent study in Japan involved more than 90,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 74. Participants filled out food frequency questionnaires every five years to assess the types and amounts of soyfoods they consumed. When investigators compared individuals in the top fifth of those consuming fermented soyfoods with participants in the bottom fifth, they found those who ate the most fermented soyfoods were 10 percent less likely to die from all causes during the study period.

Eating natto may contribute to bone health. Those who take bone health into consideration when making food choices will be interested in a recent study suggesting that eating natto is related to a reduced risk of fractures. A Japanese population-based osteoporosis cohort study was based on 1,417 postmenopausal women who were followed for approximately 15 years. Their consumption of natto, tofu, and other soyfoods was surveyed. Women who ate about a serving of natto per day were shown to be only half as likely to suffer a fracture, in comparison to the women who ate natto infrequently.

During National Soyfoods Month in April, embark on a culinary adventure to explore new ways to add miso and tempeh to your everyday meals. If you’re an adventurous eater, experiment with natto, too. For details about research studies related to fermented soyfoods, and a wide range of family-friendly recipes, visit The Soyfoods Council website: www.thesoyfoodscouncil.com.

About the Soyfoods Council: The Soyfoods Council is a non-profit organization, created and funded by Iowa soybean farmers, providing a complete resource to increase awareness of soyfoods, educate and inform media, healthcare professionals, consumers and the retail and foodservice market about the many benefits of soyfoods. Iowa is the country’s number one grower of soybeans and is the Soyfoods Capital of the world.

About the Role of Soyfoods in a Healthful Diet: Soyfoods have played an important role in Asian cuisines for centuries. In recent years they have become popular in Western countries because of their nutrition and health properties. Soyfoods are excellent sources of high-quality protein and provide a healthy mix of polyunsaturated fat. In addition, independent of their nutrient content, there is very intriguing evidence indicating soyfoods reduce the risk of several chronic diseases including coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and certain forms of cancer. All individuals are well-advised to eat a couple of servings of soyfoods every day.

Tempeh Rice Bowl

Tempeh Rice Bowl

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 8-ounce package tempeh
  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups tightly packed leafy greens, such as baby spinach, Swiss chard and/or arugula
  • Crushed peanuts, for garnish
  • Splash of tamari or soy sauce, for serving (optional)
Set the Instant Pot on the sauté function, using the adjust button to increase to more heat. Add the sesame oil, onion, and carrot and sauté for about three minutes. Add the miso and continue sautéing until the miso becomes creamy and mixed well with the vegetables. Add the tempeh, crumbling with your fingers as you remove it from the package. Using a spoon crumble the tempeh while sautéing. Do this for about 8 minutes. The tempeh should begin to resemble small beans (or meat crumbles). Add the brown rice and water. Turn the sauté function off. Cover the Instant Pot, move the steam valve to seal, press manual (high pressure) and adjust the time to 22 minutes. Allow for a natural release.

Remove the lid. Stir in two cups of leafy greens. Prop the lid on the top of the pot, without sealing, for just a few minutes to allow the greens to slightly wilt.

Serve in a bowl with crushed peanuts and a splash of tamari or soy sauce (if using).

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe by JL Fields for The Soyfoods Council

Recipe by JL Fields for The Soyfoods Council

Miso Chicken Soup with Snow Peas and Tofu

This classic miso soup is adapted from a recipe in A Spoonful of Ginger by Nina Simonds. It’s a splendid way to spotlight tofu. Make sure to use the water-packed firm variety.
  • 3 pounds chicken quarters
  • 12 cups water
  • 8 slices fresh ginger, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
  • 1/2 cup miso paste
  • 1 pound water-packed firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 pound snow or snap peas, strings removed
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onion
1. Combine chicken and water and ginger in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce, heat, simmer 1 1/2 hours. Remove chicken and cool. Discard ginger. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup broth.

2. Remove the meat from the chicken, and shred. Discard skin and bones. Add chicken to broth. In a small bowl, combine reserved broth and the miso paste; stir until smooth.

3. Add tofu and snow peas to soup and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and add the miso mixture, and stir well. Ladle soup into serving bowls; top with green onions. Yield: 6 servings.

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