Do the Health Benefits of Miso Soup Outweigh the Sodium Intake?

The Japanese have consumed miso soup for thousands of years and consider it a comfort food, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. Although the amount of sodium in the soup varies depending on the chef and type of miso used, it can have as much as 1,100 milligrams of sodium per 2-cup serving. Despite its high sodium content, miso soup offers a number of health benefits -- and there is some research indicating that its sodium content is not necessarily bad for you.

Cardiovascular Health

Getting too much sodium in your diet can contribute to high blood pressure and your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams each day to reduce your risk of heart disease. One serving of miso soup can almost meet this recommended daily intake. However, the sodium in miso soup may not affect your blood pressure like sodium in other foods, according to a study published in the September 2006 issue of the journal, "Hypertension Research." This animal-based study indicates that miso soup did not increase blood pressure, while a normal, high-sodium diet did. While this study sheds a positive light on the sodium in miso soup, human studies are necessary before anyone can claim that the health benefits of miso soup outweigh its sodium content.

Breast Cancer

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Miso soup is made from a fermented soybean paste. As a soy product, miso is rich in isoflavones. Soy isoflavones have anti-cancer properties. They also affect estrogen receptors in the body. A research article published in the June 2003 issue of the "Journal of the National Cancer Institute" indicates that Japanese women who consume high amounts of miso soup have lower rates of breast cancer. However, it is important to note that Japanese women on average consume 700 times more soy isoflavones than Caucasians in the United States, which means that you might need to consume a lot of miso soup to reap this benefit.

Digestive Health

Your gut is full of good bacteria that help you digest food and make vitamins and essential fats. Probiotics are microbes found in food that help keep the friendly bacteria in your gut healthy. Miso soup, as a fermented soybean product, is a source of probiotics. Although research is still underway, notes the Nutrition411 website, getting more probiotics in your diet from foods like miso soup may help boost your immune system, decrease abdominal distress caused by antibiotics and minimize allergy symptoms.

Tips to Reduce Sodium

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Even though miso soup offers a number of health benefits, you might still worry about its sodium content. If that's the case, there are things you can do to help reduce the sodium in the soup if you are making your own soup. In general, the darker the soybean paste, the higher the sodium content -- so use a white miso. You can also adjust the ingredients in your soup, adding more vegetables and tofu for flavor and less miso.