Natto, a staple food in Japan for more than 1,000 years, is a high-protein, low-calorie fermented soybean dish. And although most Americans have never heard of natto, it actually has a long history as a super food. It’s packed with enzymes and nutrients, but its real health effects—including supporting gorgeous skin—are at least in part related to fermentation.Fermentation improves the digestibility of soy and increases nutrient absorption by your body. All fermented foods and drinks are good sources of probiotics—essential to optimal health, especially digestive health. A particularly powerful probiotic called Bacilus subtilis 1 is used to ferment the soybeans in natto.
Studies show that natto can lower cholesterol levels … normalize blood pressure … and improve overall heart health. So promising is natto that it is the currently subject of several studies in the United States.
So if you want more beautiful skin, a healthier heart, stronger bones, and a sharper mind—you might want to make Japan’s best-kept health secret a regular part of your diet. And although natto’s stringy consistency and rather strong smell make it an acquired taste, its health benefits make it worth learning to love.
Little Known Vitamin For Beautiful Skin
Natto is a great source of Vitamin PQQ. This little-known vitamin is essential for maintaining healthy skin, and must be obtained primarily through diet.
Natto is also rich in lecithin, linoleic acid, and fiber, all of which purify the blood and improve digestion, and thus directly contribute to more beautiful skin.
The Long Healthy Lives of the Japanese
The residents of Japan consume about 7.5 billion packets of natto each year. Meanwhile, the Japanese enjoy famously long lives, longest in the world in fact, according to 2015 data published in 2016. And World Health Organization statistics show that the Japanese experience better health outcomes than Americans by several other measures, including:
- A much lower risk of blood clots
- Far fewer deaths due to heart problems
- Japanese women in their 70s suffer a bone mineral density (BMD) loss of only 0.5% per year compared to their Western counterparts, who experience a 1.6% annual BMD loss
- A lower risk for certain cancers—especially of the breast and colon
Natto, K Vitamins, and Stronger Bones
Natto is a powerhouse source of K vitamins, particularly K2 (rare in other foods).
Vitamin K1 (found in green leafy vegetables) makes up about 90% of the vitamin K in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Vitamin K2, unlike K1, isn’t produced in plants, but rather by various types of bacteria.
Vitamin K2 offers outstanding health benefits. Importantly, vitamin K2 remains in the body for longer than K1, and is more effective at lower doses. Like K1, it helps with bone formation, and it may reduce bone loss in post-menopausal women by as much as 80%.
Natto also contains olyglutamin acid, which helps you absorb calcium. Japanese research has demonstrated an association between eating natto and lower rates of cervical bone breakage, a common problem among older people suffering from osteoporosis.
Tips for Enjoying Natto
To find natto, check first at your local Asian markets or health food co-ops. While supplement versions of natto are available, they are not as potent or effective as eating natto itself.
The first trick you need to know is that natto requires whisking. So as soon as you take it out of the package, pour it into a bowl and whip it quickly with a fork about 50 times until it’s slightly foamy.
Secondly, you’ll probably enjoy natto more if you mix it with other strong flavors. The Japanese often eat natto over rice, but unfamiliar Westerners may fare better by adding plenty of flavorful veggies, mustard, tamari, scallions, and if you like it, even some wasabi.