According to Japanese folklore, natto was introduced to Japan by Samurai warriors. Ancient Samurai ate natto on a daily basis and even fed it to their horses to increase their speed and strength. In 1980, a researcher at the University of Chicago discovered nattokinase, the proteolytic enzyme in natto that provides fibrinolytic activity to break up blood clots before they have a chance to become dangerous. This action promotes heart and vascular health by reducing thrombosis that can lead to heart attacks, pulmonary embolisms, and stroke.
Natto is a daily breakfast for many Japanese
Natto was originally made by placing soybeans in a rice straw pouch that naturally contained a fermenting bacillus. Now natto is made from steamed soybeans fermented by a culture of bacillus subtilis natto. After being fermented for 24 hours, the soybeans develop a brown color, a sticky gooeyness, and a distinctly fermented aroma that resembles cheeses such as blue or roquefort. After smelling natto, people tasting it for the first time are surprised by its nutty, savory flavor.
A popular breakfast in Japan is created by:
1. Placing natto in a small bowl
2. Stirring it
3. Adding real fermented soy sauce (not the kind sold at traditional grocery stores) and stirring again
4. Adding chopped green onion and karashi mustard if desired
5. Placing the mixture on streamed rice and eating
Other ingredients can be added if desired, such as broth and grated vegetables. In some parts of Japan natto is dusted with sugar. Natto is also used in the making of other foods, such as sushi, toast, salad or noodles. Natto can be added to miso soup to make a nutritional powerhouse. There is also a dried from of natto without the gooeyness that is eaten as a nutritious snack. Some producers make a low or no odor natto. About 236,000 tons of natto are consumed in Japan every year.
Natto is mass produced and sold at markets in small containers or paper wrappings that contain between two and four individual servings along with some condiments. Sometimes it is sold frozen. When the individual packet is opened, the natto is ready to be stirred, mixed as desired, and eaten. Ready-to-eat natto provides a quick and highly nutritious breakfast or lunch.
Natto is loaded with nutrition
Natto contains a full spectrum of amino acids and is an excellent complete vegetarian protein. Natto is a good source of lecithin, which prevents arteriosclerosis, improves memory retention, and increases concentration ability. It contains saponins, which are said to suppress carcinogens, relieve constipation and slow the aging process. Natto contains approximately 870 micrograms of Vitamin K2 per 100 grams. Vitamin K2 is involved in the formation of calcium binding groups of proteins that assist the formation of bone and prevent osteoporosis, as well as promoting cardiovascular health. In addition, natto is an excellent source of selenium, the mineral that binds mercury and helps keep breast cancer away.
Natto contains high amounts of the newly discovered Vitamin PQQ, a critical nutrient for skin health. Mice deprived of PQQ showed poor overall development and low skin integrity. PQQ is essential to the mammalian diet, meaning it can only be obtained from food sources.
Polyamines are potent anti-inflammatory agents that also have an immune system normalizing effect. Natto has a higher content of polyamines than any other food.
Natural chemicals shown to prevent cancer are contained in natto, although their effects are controversial. These act as phytoestrogens in women and men, locking into estrogen receptors and displacing the estrogen produced by the body to help restore hormonal balance. The most well known of these are genistein and daidzein.
Natto has been shown to have a cholesterol lowering effect in studies. It has an antibiotic effect and was used as medicine against dysentery during World War II.
Natto encourages weight loss by its high nutritional density and low calorie content. There are approximately 90 calories and 8 grams of protein in a serving.
Nattokinase promotes cardiovascular health without side-effects
As the benefits of the nattokinase enzyme found in natto become apparent, people find they have an alternative to toxic drugs in their efforts to maintain cardiovascular health. Natto helps raise body energy levels by delivering oxygen rich blood to organs and tissues. The ability of nattokinase to increase circulation helps prevent cancer, since cancer can only thrive in cells where oxygen levels are reduced. Healthy circulation means more nutrients from food and supplements are carried throughout the body and made available for use. This helps joints stay cleaner and free of pain. It also promotes a high level of oxygen to the brain for quickened mental processing.
The body naturally produces its own fibrinolytic enzyme, called plasmin. Production of plasmin decreases during the aging process. This is one reason why the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke increases so much as people get older. Eating natto is the natural way to continue fibrinolytic action in the body. For anyone not wanting to eat natto, nattokinase is available as an individual supplement, and also as part of several proteolytic enzyme combination formulas.
Natto found to reduce amyloids that lead to Alzheimer’s disease and reduce hypertension
We are in a period of renewed interest in enzyme activity in the body and respect for the importance of enzymes in all bodily processes. New research into the roles of enzymes in achieving and maintaining good health regularly highlights their critical nature. Two new studies on nattokinase have extended the knowledge base to include insight into their function in the brain and in blood pressure regulation.
A recently released study has noted that more than 20 unrelated proteins can form amyloid fibrils related to various diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and systematic amyloidosis, which is excessive deposition of amyloids in the tissues of the body. Enhancing amyloid clearance is one of the targets of therapy for amyloid-related diseases. Researchers studied the amyloid-degrading ability of nattokinase and found it capable of amyloid hydrolysis, the dissociation of amyloids in water.
Another study examined the effects of a nattokinase supplement on blood pressure in subjects with pre-hypertension or stage one hypertension. In their randomized, double-blind, controlled trial, 86 participants ranging from 20 to 80 years of age received nattokinase or a placebo capsule for an eight week period. Compared with the control group, the net changes in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure were -5.55 mmHg and -2.84 mmHg respectively, after the eight week intervention. A proteinase released by the kidney that normally acts to raise blood pressure by activating angiotensin was also reduced.
How to make natto
To create your own organic soybeans fermented with the natto baccilus, start with:
Small organic soybeans, sometimes sold as natto soybeans
Natto bacillus starter (available online or in health food stores)
1. Wash the soybeans and soak them in water for 12 to 20 hours. Soybeans will swell.
2. Steam the soybeans for 6 hours or use a pressure cooker.
3. Mix the beans with the starter bacterium bacillus subtilis natto. Take care to keep ingredients away from impurities and other bacteria.
4. Allow the mixture to ferment for 24 hours at a temperature of about 105 degrees.
5. Refrigerate the mixture for one week to allow for the breakdown of the soy protein into easily digested amino acids. This process creates the stringy, gooey sauce of natto.
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