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Discover how natto benefits your gut health

Natto benefits your gut health

Natto, a traditional Japanese food made by fermenting soybeans with a type of bacteria called Bacillus subtilis, is well-loved in Japan for its unique flavours and many health benefits, particularly for digestion. It's becoming popular worldwide, not only because of its distinct taste and texture but also due to its impressive health benefits, especially for gut health. This detailed guide explores how natto can play a key role in a diet focused on improving digestive health and overall well-being.

Natto the fermented superfood

Natto, the fermented superfood

Natto is made by first soaking whole soybeans, then steaming or boiling them, and finally adding the bacteria Bacillus subtilis natto. Over time, the beans ferment and turn into a sticky, stringy mixture with a strong, cheesy smell and a unique taste. In Japan, people often eat natto with rice and sometimes add mustard, chives, or soy sauce to improve its flavour.

The fermentation process changes how the soybeans look and taste, and it also boosts their nutritional value. Fermented foods like natto are called functional foods because they offer health benefits beyond just nutrition, mainly due to the probiotics they contain. Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits to the person eating them.

The nutritional profile of natto

Natto is packed with a variety of nutrients that make it a valuable health food, including:

Proteins and Amino Acids: Natto is an excellent source of high-quality protein, containing all nine essential amino acids needed for good health. These amino acids are crucial for building and repairing tissues, making hormones and enzymes, and supporting various metabolic functions. For those following plant-based diets, natto provides a complete protein source that can be hard to find in non-animal products. This makes it especially useful for maintaining muscle, supporting metabolism, and overall bodily health.

Vitamins: Natto is one of the best natural sources of Vitamin K2, which is key for bone health. It activates proteins that help bind calcium to the bones, making them stronger. Vitamin K2 also helps prevent the hardening of arteries by keeping calcium out of artery walls and other body tissues. Additionally, natto is rich in Vitamin C, which supports the immune system, helps make collagen, and acts as an antioxidant to protect the body. It also contains B-vitamins like B6 and B12, which are essential for energy production, brain health, and making important molecules. B-vitamins are involved in everything from metabolism and creating red blood cells to maintaining proper nerve function.

Minerals: Natto is rich in several important minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, each playing a key role in maintaining good health:

  • Iron is necessary for making haemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen throughout your blood.
  • Calcium is important not just for strong bones and teeth but also helps nerves send messages and muscles to contract correctly.
  • Magnesium is involved in over 300 processes in the body, including generating energy, moving muscles, and helping nerves function properly.
  • Potassium helps keep blood pressure in check, balances fluids in your body, and ensures that nerves and muscles work as they should.
  • Zinc boosts the immune system, helps build proteins, aids in healing wounds, and is essential for DNA creation and cell division.

Dietary Fibre: Natto is high in dietary fibre, which is great for digestive health. Fibre helps food move through your intestines more quickly, adds bulk to your stool, and helps prevent constipation. It also supports a healthy gut by maintaining good bacteria, which is crucial for absorbing nutrients properly, keeping the immune system strong, and may even reduce the risk of some chronic diseases.

Enzymes: A special feature of natto is nattokinase, an enzyme that forms during the fermentation process. Nattokinase is known for its potential benefits for heart health. It is believed to help prevent blood clots, which can reduce the risk of serious issues like strokes and heart attacks. This enzyme also helps break down unwanted proteins in the blood, which supports smoother blood flow and can lower blood pressure.

Overall, natto's rich array of nutrients makes it a superfood that can boost many aspects of health, from heart health and strong bones to good digestion and a robust immune system. It's a valuable food to include in a balanced diet. 

natto on gut health

Probiotic effects of natto on gut health

The probiotics in natto, particularly Bacillus subtilis, offer several benefits for your gut, including:

Balancing gut Microbiota: The probiotics in natto help keep the gut bacteria balanced, which is important for digestive health and can prevent issues like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

Improving Digestive Function: These bacteria help break down complex carbohydrates and proteins, making digestion easier and reducing problems like bloating and gas.

Supporting the Immune System: Much of the immune system is based in the gut. By improving the health of gut bacteria, natto boosts the immune system, helping the body to better fight off germs.

Reducing Inflammation: Chronic inflammation can lead to many health problems, including digestive issues. Natto has properties that help lower inflammation in the digestive tract.

Reducing Inflammation

Cardiovascular benefits linked to natto consumption

Natto has a big impact on heart health, mainly thanks to two key ingredients: nattokinase and Vitamin K2. Together, these components offer several benefits that can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Enzyme Science Nattokinase Pro - 60 Capsules

Nattokinase and cardiovascular health

Nattokinase, a powerful enzyme found in natto, has become well-known for its possible benefits for heart health. This enzyme is key in the natural process that breaks down blood clots. Blood clots are dangerous because they can block major blood vessels and lead to severe problems like strokes and heart attacks. Nattokinase helps the body break down clots by dissolving fibrin, a protein that is a major part of blood clots, and by stopping platelets from clumping together too much.

Additionally, nattokinase might help improve how well blood flows through the body by making the blood less thick, which helps prevent clots from forming in the first place. Some studies suggest that taking nattokinase supplements could lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. The enzyme also boosts the production of plasmin, another enzyme that prevents blood from clotting too easily, and it may increase the effectiveness of other substances that break down clots. This makes nattokinase an important component in maintaining a healthy heart and blood vessels.

Vitamin K2, the protector against vascular calcification

Vitamin K2 is very important for heart health, apart from its well-known benefits for bones. A major way it helps the heart is by preventing calcification in the arteries and other soft tissues. Calcification, where calcium builds up in the arteries, is a major risk factor for arteriosclerosis, a condition that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin K2 activates certain proteins that bind calcium to bones, preventing it from accumulating in the arteries and helping keep them flexible and healthy.

Research has shown that eating more Vitamin K2 can lower the risk of coronary heart disease, probably because it helps prevent the hardening of arteries. This happens through its effect on a protein called matrix GLA protein (MGP), which is very good at stopping arterial calcification. Without Vitamin K2, MGP doesn't work, so it's important to get enough of this vitamin to protect the heart.

Synergistic effects for heart health

The combined effects of nattokinase and Vitamin K2 in natto work together to help keep the heart healthy. Nattokinase helps reduce the formation of blood clots, and Vitamin K2 prevents the arteries from hardening. This makes natto a powerful food for protecting against common heart diseases. Including natto in your diet is a smart way to not only improve gut health but also boost heart health, supporting a healthier life.

Incorporating natto into your diet

Despite its numerous health benefits, natto's unique texture and flavour might not be for everyone. However, with a bit of creativity, it can be integrated into meals in ways that can make it not only palatable but also delicious:

Traditional Japanese Style: One of the simplest ways to enjoy natto is in the traditional Japanese manner. Typically, it's served over a bed of warm rice, which helps mellow out its strong flavour. You can enhance the dish with a dash of soy sauce for a salty touch, a bit of mustard for some heat, or a sprinkle of spring onions for a fresh, sharp taste. This combination balances the flavours and makes natto a satisfying meal.

Western Adaptations: If you're looking to incorporate natto into a more familiar Western diet, there are plenty of options. You can add natto to sandwiches for a nutritious boost; its texture adds an interesting contrast to the usual sandwich fillings. Wrapping natto in tortillas along with lettuce, tomatoes, and a creamy dressing can also mask its pungency while providing a fibre-rich meal. Additionally, tossing natto into a salad can introduce a new layer of texture and flavour, enhancing the overall dish without overwhelming it.

Smoothies and Soups: For those who might find natto's texture challenging, blending it into smoothies is an excellent way to enjoy its health benefits without the stringiness. When mixed with fruits like bananas or berries, vegetables like spinach, and some yoghurt or almond milk, natto becomes part of a nutritious smoothie where its flavour is subtle yet beneficial. Similarly, stirring natto into soups can work wonders. Whether it's a robust tomato soup or a delicate miso broth, natto can contribute depth and nutrition without standing out too much in flavour.

natto at home with our fermentation kits

Make your own natto at home

Making your own natto at home with our fermentation kits is a simple and rewarding way to enjoy its health benefits. Natto is great for your gut health and more. By preparing it yourself, you can help improve your digestion, boost your immune system, and support your heart health. Our kits make it easy to get started, whether you're looking to try new flavours or add something healthy to your diet. Get hands-on with our natto fermentation kits and experience the many benefits of this powerful food for your overall well-being.

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