Why You May Want To Add More Natto To Your Diet

If slimy, smelly beans don't sound like something you'd want on your plate, you may want to reconsider. Natto is a Japanese superfood made of fermented soybeans, usually mixed with soy sauce and mustard and served on a bowl of rice. Tsunagu Japan notes that the dish is often enjoyed at breakfast time, though it can also make for a quick and nutritious snack.

Natto newbies may initially be taken aback by the food's stringy and sticky texture, pungent smell, and distinct bitter flavor. Behind these characteristics is a special enzyme called nattokinase, WebMD explains. Nattokinase is activated when natto soybeans are fermented using a bacterium called Bacillus subtilis — and natto is the only food in the world that naturally produces this enzyme.

Studies show that nattokinase reduces blood clots and lowers blood pressure, making it a powerful supplement for heart health. It may also improve sinus symptoms for people with conditions like chronic sinusitis and bronchitis.

The benefits of natto aren't limited to nattokinase, however. There are several other health-related reasons to munch on these Japanese beans.

The impressive health benefits of natto

Natto is a nutritious food that's low in calories and high in protein, fiber, manganese, iron, and several other essential vitamins and minerals (per NutritionData). Given their strong nutrient profile, it's no surprise that these super beans offer several health benefits. Like other fermented foods, natto contains gut-boosting probiotics, according to Healthline. Probiotics are known to improve digestion and strengthen immunity.

Besides keeping the body running smoothly from day to day, natto may also reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute explains that foods that naturally contain soy, like natto, may prevent breast, prostate, and gastric cancers.

Additionally, a 2020 study published in The BMJ found an association between consuming fermented soy products and a lower risk of mortality. In particular, researchers discovered that natto significantly reduced the risk of death caused by heart disease. For a long, healthy life, it might be time to give these slimy beans a try.