It’s supposed to be a rather acquired taste, but if that and the texture can be overcome, then natto actually proffers itself as a little bit of a – whisper it – superfood. Now, while the term ‘superfood’ is more easily understood to be similar to the likes of spirulina and goji berries, the fermented beast that is natto becomes a godsend to those looking to manage their vitamin K levels.
In general, probiotic-rich foods contain between 5 billion and 10 billion CFUs (Colony-Forming Units) per serving: natto has between one million and one billion in a single gram. Vital for the absorption of calcium and a preventative against calcium build up in the arteries, the K2 in natto (100 times more than is found in cheese) aids in maintaining bone density through calcium-delivering protein activation, while the additional K1 aids blood-clotting and vitamin B6 is immune-beneficial too. Thus minimising age-related bone-density loss, good K2 levels have been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of fractures by up to 81%, while another study reported a 57% lower risk of death from heart disease.
Used in salads and mixed into rice dishes, natto becomes more palatable the more one has it. For instance, brown rice can be topped with both avocado and a little natto and served with chopped spring onions, sliced cherry tomatoes, and shredded nori and a dressing of soy sauce, olive oil and French mustard for a healthy lunch.
Established wisdom for natto newbies is: think small, mask with condiments, and gradually progress to full natto niceness!