Tuesday 25 October 2016

Hot flush? Try miso, the miracle food

The Japanese seasoning has been linked with reducing those unpopular but very common heat rushes during menopause. It also happens to be delicious.

Valerie O'Connor

Published 10/11/2015 | 02:30

Miso soup
Miso soup
Tahini dip

Miso is a delicious fermented food made from soya beans and a special rice called koji. I attended a miso workshop held by Junko Hamilton, a Japanese woman married to an Irishman (hence the name), which was held at the Eco Village in Cloughjordan almost a year ago.

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Miso is something met with reverence in Japan. It is noted that Japanese women don't suffer the symptoms of menopause like we do in the west. Perhaps the amount of soy in the diet has something to do with this. Put simply, fermented soya beans produce oestrogen in the body, one of the principle hormones which declines in women in menopause.

Miso soup has been the subject of many studies, and has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, and radiation poisoning. While no single dietary factor can be responsible for your health, it's hard to refute that miso soup has been a large contributing factor to Japanese health. The main difference between miso soup and other soy foods consumed by the Japanese is the fermentation process which turns soy into a powerful antioxidant.

Miso is said to be particularly effective in reducing hot flushes. It is also good for bone density and as a treatment for osteoporosis.

For a new food to become effective it needs to be eaten regularly; one heaped tablespoon a day of miso will make you one nice bowl of soup, or you can have it with rice, or in a dip or spread. The best news here is that miso is totally delicious so even if you're not menopausal, you should think about making it if fermenting appeals to you.

The hardest part about this process is the waiting. Miso takes at least six months to mature and ideally would be left for a year before you open it. The good news is that if you make enough you will only need to make it once a year and let some of it age over several years. Other good news is that, if you are inspired by this article, you can pop out and purchase a good, organic brand of miso paste from a health food shop.

Do not be tempted by the powdered, packet version. While tasty, this is not what you're looking for. In winter, stirred into some home-made chicken stock, miso is such a comforting food. It has an earthiness and saltiness and a unique flavour that tastes like nothing else. It is delicious and highly addictive.

You will need to procure a special ingredient for this, koji rice which has been innoculated with the bacteria which ferments the miso. This can be bought online or from Asian food stores. Cleanliness and hygiene are imperative here, but please don't wear rubber gloves as the flavour will go into the miso.

In the miso-making workshop we worked together around the table, mashing soy beans and throwing balls of miso into jars, it was a fun and communal experience, ending with a delicious lunch of light and tasty Japanese food.

Miso soup

Serves 1

Many of us will have tasted miso soup in Japanese restaurants as an accompaniment to sushi, so this might be very familiar to you. It is not a thick soup, more of a broth. The easiest way to make miso soup is to simply stir a tablespoon of the paste into a mug of hot water, but never boiling as the boiling will kill the miso. There is no quicker convenience soup than this, forgetting about the year you had to wait to try it of course!


1 tblsp miso

250ml hot liquid, either water, dashi or stock


1. Traditionally miso soup is made with a stock called dashi which is made very simply by soaking some kombu seaweed in cold water, bring it to a gentle boil, reduce the heat and cook it for about 10 minutes.

2. Then strain it, and stir your miso paste into this. This makes the most authentic miso and just happens to be vegan too. If you want to make something heartier, a little shredded cabbage or kale and some sliced mushrooms can be added to the stock to cook it before you stir in the miso. As I often make chicken stock from bones I usually stir miso into a mug of this, nothing beats it for an instant nutritious winter warmer.

Miso and tahini dip

The master of fermentation, Sandor Katz printed this recipe in his amazing book Wild Fermentation, something you should treat yourself to if you want to get further into fermenting. If you want to take some miso to work with you or just have it in a different way, try out this dip which can be used for dipping in sticks of carrot or cauliflower, fermented of course! I love the earthy, nutty flavour of tahini, you can get it in many good Asian and Middle Eastern food shops.


2 tblsp miso

4 tblsp tahini

Juice of a lemon

1 clove garlic, finely chopped


1. Mix everything together to make a smooth paste, spread this on some nice sourdough bread for a quick, nutritious lunch.

2. Alternatively whisk in some cold water until you have a smooth and runny paste that you can drizzle over salads.

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