What is Natto? A Quick Guide to Japanese Superfood

What is natto? Why is it so healthy? If you’re curious about Natto, I’ve got all the answers in this post! It’s a unique food, but do you know it’s packed with tons of nutrients? Read on!

Looking for natto recipes? Try my Natto Sushi RollsNatto Cheese Toast, or Natto Chahan!

natto and natto gohan.

Natto is a Japanese superfood! Made from fermented soybeans, its unique flavor and nutritional benefits make it an essential part of Japanese cuisine. Let’s dive into the world of natto and discover from learning what it is to how best to enjoy it; I’ll cover everything you need to know. Let’s get started!

What is Natto?

How to eat natto.

Natto is a traditional Japanese food made by fermenting soybeans. Soybeans are transformed into natto by being steamed and then fermented with natto-kin (a type of bacteria). During the fermentation process, the beans develop a unique stringy texture and a strong aroma.

Natto is slimy, gooey, and sticky, which may be off-putting to those trying it for the first time. However, the taste of Natto offers a subtle sweetness derived from soybeans and a savory umami flavor resulting from the fermentation process. For a deeper dive into Natto’s taste, check out “What does natto taste like?

Health Benefits

natto nutrition.

Natto may be an acquired taste, but fermentation takes soybean’s nutrient-rich content to the next level, providing an even greater boost of health benefits. Let’s find out more!

Great Source of Protein

Natto is rich in high-quality soybean protein. It contains a good balance of the nine essential amino acids we can’t produce. Fermentation helps it become more easily absorbed by our bodies, making the protein within much easier to digest than in raw soybeans.

One pack of natto (50g) contains around 7g of protein, equal to about one egg.

Vitamin B2 to Maintain Your Body

natto in a pack.

Natto contains five times more vitamin B2 than soybeans. It’s necessary to keep skin, hair, and nails healthy and to produce the energy the body needs.

Vitamin K for Bone Health

Natto is a powerhouse of vitamin K – packed with 85 times more than raw soybeans! This vitamin is vital to keeping your bones strong and healthy by locking in calcium. It is also an essential nutrient that helps healthy blood clotting – keeping our wounds safe and promoting fast healing.

By the way, Hikiwari natto (crushed bean natto) contains more vitamin K than whole bean natto as it has more surface area to ferment with natto-kin.

Dietary Fiber Helps Digest

Natto is also rich in dietary fiber, which helps your bowel movement. One pack of natto (50g) contains 3.4g of dietary fiber.

Lecithin to Help Lower Cholesterol Levels

Natto is also packed with lecithin, which can help lower cholesterol levels and protect your arteries from damage.

Nattokinase Keeps Your Blood Healthy

Natto contains a unique enzyme called nattokinase, which helps break up blood clots, lower blood pressure, and flow smoothly. Eating it daily can help protect against serious vascular diseases (a couple of packs per day).

However, nattokinase doesn’t like high temperatures and will be lost when heated above 70C, so if you want the benefit, it is best to eat it cold.

Keep Your Gut Healthy with Natto-kin

soybeans

Natto-kin (bacillus subtilis natto) is a beneficial bacteria that keeps your gut healthy. When your gut works actively and is healthy, bowel movement is improved, boosts your immune system, and prevents you from getting sick (immune cells are concentrated in your gut).

Gut health is a significant factor in our ability to absorb the necessary nutrients. If your gut functions correctly, it blocks harmful substances and makes digestion easier! Fortunately, heating natto doesn’t kill this natto-kin, so you can cook it and still get the benefit.

Where to Buy Natto

natto in a package

Natto is easily found in Asian grocery stores or Japanese supermarkets. Look for it in the tofu or frozen section, where it’s commonly stocked. Natto is typically available in individual packs. The most popular brand, “Okame Natto,” is recognized by the woman’s face on the packaging. You can also find it at online stores such as Japanese Center.

How to Make Natto at Home

how to make natto.

Homemade natto is another option, and it’s relatively simple to make. To create your own batch, you’ll need soybeans and a natto starter. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Rinse the soybeans and then soak them in water.
  2. Cook the soaked soybeans in a pressure cooker.
  3. Spray natto starter to initiate the fermentation process.
  4. Allow the mixture to ferment for a couple of days.

For a visual guide on how to make natto at home, you can watch this video, “How to Make Natto at Home.” It provides a helpful demonstration of the process.

How to Eat Natto

Natto gohan served on a bowl.

Natto can be enjoyed as is, even without seasoning, but it’s often enhanced by mixing it with soy sauce or the accompanying sauce. When you buy natto from the store, it typically includes sauce and mustard, which you can add and mix in.

In Japan, it’s common to eat natto on top of steamed rice, known as natto gohan. This simple combination is a popular breakfast choice enjoyed by people of all generations.

Tasty Recipes Using Natto

How to eat natto: natto recipes

To enjoy all of natto’s benefits, consuming it raw is the ideal approach. However, if that’s not for you, you can cook it in various ways. Natto pairs well with carbohydrates like rice, bread, and noodles, and when combined with other ingredients, it can create a more satisfying culinary experience.

For my favorite natto recipes, check out “Easy Natto Recipes: 11 Beginner-Friendly Dishes.” This post will introduce you to simple and delicious ways to enjoy natto in various dishes.

FAQ

What is natto, and what does it taste like?

Natto is a traditional Japanese dish made by fermenting soybeans. Its flavor is a unique blend of savory and slightly sweet notes, with some comparing it to the flavor of aged cheese. However, its distinctive sticky texture can be off-putting to many people.

What is the sticky stuff in natto?

In the fermentation process of natto, various substances are produced as the natto-kin bacteria break down proteins. It’s the “glutamic acid” and “fructan” formed in this process that makes natto sticky. (source)

What does natto do to your body?

Natto is rich in nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s renowned for its vitamin K2 content, promoting bone health and blood clotting. Natto’s probiotics also contribute to a healthy gut and improved digestion. (source)

How do you eat natto without tasting it?

If you want to minimize the taste, you can mix natto with strong-flavored ingredients like soy sauce, mustard, garlic, and spices. This can help mask the taste while enjoying its nutritional benefits.

Is natto better hot or cold?

To maximize the benefits of natto, it’s ideal to consume it at a cold or room temperature (nattokinase will die over 70C). However, if this doesn’t appeal to your taste, you can also cook it with other ingredients and enjoy it hot.

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Natto ochazuke served on a bowl.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you for such an amazing article about the amazing health benefits of this super healthy underrated Japanese food that I’m planing to try and eat for my bone health due to its high vitamin K and calcium content because I’m trying to keep my bones nice and strong as I age and prevent against osteoporosis because it’s not a good disease and that’s why I’ll eat natto for my general health and help my bones grow strong, I love natto so much. It’s pretty underrated. One of those foods I’ll definitely be eating for my bone health. Never tried it but it looks yummy. Best ever! I love this Japanese food and Japanese food so much!

    1. Thank you for such a nice comment, Everlyn! I’m glad to hear that this is a helpful article for you. I hope you will enjoy my natto recipes and stay healthy:)