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Would You Like a Side of Natto with That?

Tired of your usual probiotic fix of yogurt or sauerkraut? Give natto a try. According to an article in the New York Times, natto, a condiment made from fermented soybeans, has long been a staple in Japanese kitchens and is commonly eaten for breakfast with rice, or with chives and raw eggs. Its strong, earthy flavor (described in the article as a cross between chopped liver and cottage cheese) may turn off newcomers. Nevertheless, it could be worth getting used to, as it may be a potent source of healthful bacteria, asserts microbiologist Dr. Ann Yonetani. A self-described “microbe farmer,” Dr. Yonetani ferments her own natto and claims that each tablespoon of her finished product contains a billion of the Bacillus subtilis soil bacteria—much more than is found in the typical probiotic food.

While the research on natto is still in its infancy, Dr. Yonetani speculates that, from what she’s observed under the microscope, the healthful bacteria in natto could survive the highly-acidic stomach environment. This could allow the bacteria to colonize the intestine, similar to other probiotics. While this remains to be seen, it’s known that natto is a good source of vitamin K2 (a form of vitamin K)—a vitamin needed in the body for proper bone formation. If you want to boost your K2 intake or you just want to give these gooey beans a try, you could start with Dr. Yonetani’s tasty-sounding recipe: spaghetti with Parmesan, black pepper, and natto, garnished with broccoli rabe greens and flowers.

Source: New York Times

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