All About Japan

5 Things You Didn't Know About 'Natto'

Food & Drink Japanese Food Vegetarian Vegan Healthy Japanese Food Autumn Cuisine Taste of Japan

Natto, they say, is an acquired taste. But if you're one of those people intimidated to even try in order to get used to its unique flavor, you may just need a little mental conditioning, and a load of reasons to say that this sticky and smelly health food is worth a try.

5. 'Natto' Beans for Breakfast

5. 'Natto' Beans for Breakfast

Japan, known for its aging population, should also be known as the country in 2015 with the highest life expectancy—perhaps thanks to natto. Statistics would show that the Japanese diet a decade ago always put natto as part of the most important meal of the day. At that time, there were not as many cases of diabetes or heart problems. Ten years later, as more people are embracing an increasingly Western diet, these statistics have been changing.

But the people who keep this superfood in their diet benefit from reduced bone loss and enhanced liver function. They also get a good dose of protein, sans fat.

4. 'Natto' in New York City

4. 'Natto' in New York City

It seems that the humans of New York have picked up the Holy Grail of healthy super foods, adding natto on top of America's fascination for everything organic. Perhaps New Yorkers have realized that their usual Acai Bowls for breakfast need an equally healthy alternative: a health fad that's tried and tested in Japan. Labeled as a superfood by a New York-based natto producer, the urbanites of New York are starting to develop the acquired taste needed in order to enjoy this sticky, stinky soybean mash.

3. 'Natto' & Pasta

If bacon and butter sounds appetizing to you, good news: natto could be mixed with these in a flavorful pasta! Natto has a weird bitter and salty taste, something like bland soybean boiled in brie.

Natto may be strong in odor, but it actually has a neutral taste suited to the strong flavors of earthy mushrooms, salty butter, toasty garlic and smokey bacon—basic ingredients of a tasty pasta. Its versatility even makes it delicious when mixed with vegetable stir-fries and fried rice.

2. Natto Is Good for Your Skin

2. Natto Is Good for Your Skin

Posh spa Shizuka NY takes this in a literal sense! In fact, their homegrown moisturizer contains soy collagen and natto bean extract to improve elasticity and firmness of the skin. But lathering the skin with stinky natto may may not be the best way to enjoy this healthy product. A daily dose of natto in your diet already guarantees that you get vitamin-like compound PQQ, which promotes skin tissue production.

1. 'Natto' for Dessert? The Iron Chef Says So!

What would you do if this stinky, sticky natto is offered as the "secret ingredient" to incorporate in the dishes to be served? Well, one master chef let natto find its way to the eater's heart, from appetizer to dessert.

One Iron Chef has demonstrated his creativity with the use of natto, by letting it replace adzuki or red beans boasting a certain sweetness. He mixed this with the subtle flavor of coconut milk, making it a yin-and-yang version of what could pass as a panna cotta. Maybe desserts would bring more boon than bane to health, if sweet natto could be added to recipes.