Miso soup boasts a combination of flavors that merge to give you a taste of umami. This savory, meaty flavor can be obtained by mixing sweet, bitter, sour and salty flavorings. But you can also get this distinctive aroma by combining vegetables — that's the case with miso soup.
The number of calories in a bowl of miso soup depends on what you add to it and how big your portion size is, but if you're only eating the broth, it's generally low in calories. A ready-made packet has 35 calories.
Read more: Why Miso Soup Is So Good for You
Nutrients in Miso Soup
You can buy packets that contain all the ingredients required for a bowl of miso soup. All you need to do is to heat water and stir in the packet, which has only 35 calories, according to the USDA. The powder supplies 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, 4 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of sugar. It also contains 800 milligrams of sodium. The calories in miso paste are negligible too.
The bulk of the miso powder comes from non-genetically modified soybeans, rice and salt. It also contains tofu, which is made from soybeans, and other ingredients like maltose and potato starch.
Soy constitutes the bulk of tofu, which is sometimes added in chunks to miso soup. Tofu is particularly useful for vegans and vegetarians as it makes it easier to meet their protein requirements. As reported by the USDA, there are 8 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates in a 3-ounce serving of tofu. The protein comes from soy.
Soy and Seaweed Health Benefits
Soy protein has numerous health benefits. An April 2019 review published in the_ Journal of Nutrition_ found that adults who ate 25 grams of soy protein daily saw a 3 to 4 percent decrease in their LDL (the "bad") cholesterol levels.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, if you have too much LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream, plaque can build up in your arteries. This substance can eventually clog the arteries and cause a heart attack or stroke. While it might be tempting to consume miso soup with tofu to lower LDL cholesterol, keep in mind your miso soup likely doesn't contain cholesterol in the first place.
Read more: Is Tofu Good to Eat for Weight Loss?
Seaweed is another ingredient that you might see floating around your bowl of miso soup. A December 2017 review published in the Journal of Food Science examined the benefits of protein-derived peptides found in seaweed. As the researchers note, there's promising evidence that seaweed peptides may help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
While seaweed has some nutrients, it's not a major source of calories. One cup of dried seaweed provides around 45 calories. You'll also get about 5 grams of protein and 8 grams of carbohydrates, as well as various vitamins and minerals.
To add to the variety of savory and meaty flavors, miso soup can also contain shiitake mushrooms and green onions. The amount of each ingredient added to your bowl of miso soup will change the total calorie and macronutrient amount.
Reducing Sodium in Miso Soup
While most of the ingredients of miso soup are relatively healthy, the excess sodium may cause problems for those who are at risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer or kidney disease — too much sodium increases your chances for these.
One packet of miso soup can contain 800 milligrams of sodium. The recommended daily intake for sodium is 2,300 milligrams, according to the American Heart Association. Ideally, you should have no more than 1,500. Look for reduced-sodium options for your miso soup, whether you want to make it healthier or you're watching your sodium intake.
There is a strong link between sodium consumption and high blood pressure, says the American Heart Association, so it's important to keep an eye on your salt intake. This is especially important for those with hypertension. Your arteries can harden if you have elevated blood pressure, which may lead to decreased blood flow.
If you want to have more control over the ingredients in your miso soup, make it at home from scratch. For instance, you could add more tofu for extra protein. You can also control how much salt is added so you can better manage your sodium intake. By adding in all of the basic flavors of miso soup, you can recreate the umami flavor that you typically experience in a restaurant.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Seaweed, Dried"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Tofu"
- Medline Plus: "LDL: The "Bad" Cholesterol"
- The Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "A Meta-Analysis of 46 Studies Identified by the FDA Demonstrates that Soy Protein Decreases Circulating LDL and Total Cholesterol Concentrations in Adults"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Miso Soup"
- American Heart Association: "Common High Blood Pressure Myths"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Miso Paste"
- The Journal of Food Science: "Bioactive Peptides Derived from Seaweed Protein and Their Health Benefits: Antihypertensive, Antioxidant, and Antidiabetic Properties"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Effects of High Blood Pressure"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat per Day?"