Itsu Miso – Itsu Yummy: But Is It Healthy?

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The other day, the nice people at Itsu (a Japanese takeaway chain here in the UK) sent me a parcel – a parcel of individual miso soup sachets.

I’m drinking one right now as I type and very yummy it is too. It’s got little bits of seaweed in it and that cloudy miso ‘dust’ that you don’t get with the normal miso paste I buy and as such I feel just like I’m in Japan drinking something that looks like the bowl below.

Bowl of miso soup with chopsticks by the side

Well apart from the fact that I’m drinking it from a cup with a picture of the Loch Ness Monster and the words I’m a Believer on the front rather than a little brown bowl. Does that make it Niso? Not sure, but anyway….

I love miso, but as we like to ask on this blog…

Is Itsu Miso Healthy?

Before we can answer that properly, it’s probably good to know what miso actually is.

Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans. You add hot water to turn it into a soup – or you can also use the paste in marinades and other recipes.

It’s been drunk in Japan for years and each different region of Japan produces their own miso and Itsu’s comes from the Nagano region close to Tokyo.

In Japan you can find entire stores devoted to miso paste and it’s sold from huge barrels with piles of paste in them.

Each type of miso has it’s own characteristics and, in a proper miso store these will actually be described n a similar way to wine. Miso’s rich savoury taste is known as umami and the different beans used and the time it’s left to ferment for determines exactly how a paste tastes.

miso paste made into pyramids

Because of its main ingredient – soybeans. And the way it’s produced – fermentation, miso has a number of health benefits.

Soy beans contains substances called isoflavones which have a weak oestrogen like effect in the body and can, potentially, help balance hormone levels in, erm, ladies of a certain age. Although, if you’re hoping to do that you should also be eating other sources of soy as well as miso. 1-3 servings a day are recommended (although speak to your doctor before increasing your soy intake if you have had breast cancer or have a strong family history of it).

Miso contains some vitamins and minerals including bone-building vitamin K, B vitamins,  calcium, iron, copper, manganese and zinc. Again, as with soy, amounts will be limited as you don’t eat a lot of miso in one go – but every little helps.

Fementation is a process where bacteria is used to preserve foods and improve their flavour. Fermentation uses bacteria as part of the process and as such, foods produced through fermentation contain natural bacteria that our body needs for good health.

The Unhealthy Side of Miso

It’s only tiny downside is that it can be high in sodium so, it might not be for you if you’ve got high blood pressure (a sachet of the Itsu soup contains the equivalent of 1.77g of salt – and as a general rule you should aim for less than 6g of salt a day).

How Many Calories are in Itsu Miso?

As I said, one of the nice things about the Itsu Miso is that it comes in individually portioned packets which means you can tell exactly how many calories are in them.

The original Itsu Easy Traditional Sachets contain 21 calories each. They also now sell a Chilli Miso which has 31 calories.

Both of these contain slightly fewer calories than if you have the miso that the serve in their takeaway shops which is just 36 calories a portion.

Is Itsu Miso Vegan?

Both of the sachets are vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

Istu Miso is also gluten-free and dairy free. Obviously, it does contain soya.

Does Miso Soup Have Carbs?

It has a few – 2g per sachet for the traditional and 3g for the chilli version. I admit, I wasn’t quite sure why this would be but a quick search of the ingredients reveals that there is a little bit of a sugar in the mix.

Is Miso Soup Low Fat?

Yes. The Traditional sachets from Itsu have just 0.7g of fat, 0.1g of it saturated). A portion of the chilli has 1.4g of fat – but only 0.2g of it is saturated.

3 Things to do With Miso

In Japan miso soup is often served as a breakfast food. but drinking it on it’s own as a soup is not the only way to use it. Here’s a few other things miso is good for…

Cooking lentils. I could never work out why lentils in restaurants are one of my favourite dishes, and why lentils at home are boring dry food. And then I realised – they cook them in stock and they do it very slowly and leave just a little bit of liquid in the bottom. The other day I’d run out of stock and so I tried miso paste and wow, it was amazing. So, there you have it – snack and lentil transforming item.

Add it to cucumber: I tried this is Japan and have craved it ever since. You mix up a salad dressing with miso, rice vinegar and sesame and it’s delicious. Find a recipe for it here. 

Use it as a marinade: It can liven up the taste of fish, chicken and vegetables – grilled aubergine with miso is super yummy.

You can also use it as a base for noodle based soups like the one above (check the diet food post below for the recipe for that – trust me you’ll be shocked by how few calories that meal has).

If you want to try the Itsu sachets you’ll find them in Sainsbury’s priced £1.59 for three sachets.

If you like this post you might also like…

The Japanese Diet Food You Need To Try

And my lessons on making sushi!

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