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Eating natto has many benefits; make it yourself

Chiu-Nan Lai, PhD

In the May 2015 Founder’s Wordsseries, the article “From the prevention and treatment of tooth decay” mentioned the importance of vitamin K2 for health. It has a preventive and restorative effect on the following health conditions: 1. aging; 2. heart disease; 3. osteoporosis; 4. Alzheimer’s disease; 5. wrinkles; 6. varicose veins; 7. diabetes; 8. arthritis. 9. brain and nerve issues; 10. cancer; 11. kidney disease; 12. fertility issues; 13. fetus and child health; and 14. dental issues.

The best source of vitamin K2 is natto. Vitamin K2 supplements in the market are mostly derived from natto.  Its vitamin K2 content greatly exceeds that of other food sources, and is also a plant-based fermented food. Other sources are entirely derived from animal sources, and are rarely eaten by Chinese. The exception is egg yolk, but it contains much less vitamin K2, comprising only 1/70 proportion of the vitamin K2 found in natto. A tablespoon of natto contains enough K2 for a day, and natto does not need to be eaten every day. Of course, the more it is eaten, the better because modern people generally lack vitamin K2.  Animals eat grass and green leaves to ingest vitamin K1 that is then converted to vitamin K2. People who eat a lot of vegetables can also have their vitamin K1 converted to vitamin K2.

Traditionally, natto is a breakfast eaten by Japanese. Natto is added to soy sauce, onions, and raw eggs, and mixed with rice. Natto is traditionally made from soybeans, but unfortunately, soybeans are no longer of our ancestral variety, and therefore not suitable for eating. However, we can use other beans to make natto. In recent years, when the winter heating begins, I will use the warm air to make natto, but because the temperature cannot be controlled well, the stickiness of the natto is not ideal. The ideal temperatures are between 100 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit (38 to 40 degrees Celsius).

Two months ago, I saw an inspiring post on a website selling natto.  The person used a pressure cooker to steam the beans, added natto starter culture, and then put them in an oven that has a small bulb to keep warm for 24 hours. This method was always successful.

I use an electric cooker instead of an oven and put in a small light bulb. The resulting natto turns out very well. I make natto at least weekly these two months. I take it with porridge for breakfast, or add it to a dish that can be quickly made.

My body reacted very well to the natto when I started eating it. After that, I didn’t have to wait till winter to make it. In summer, there are many places where the temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and putting it at room temperature is sufficient.

Below, I describe my experience with making natto.

Beans that are not contaminated will suffice. Organic beans are preferred if this is available. This is because natto culture (spores) grows better with clean beans. It is fastest to cook the beans using a pressure cooker. Doing so is best as there is no worry about the beans being too soggy or moist, etc. Keep warm at a temperature between 100 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit; it is fine if it is a bit higher. You can use an oven with the light turned on, a rice cooker, or other containers that keep food warm. Use a small light bulb—an ordinary night light bulb is most appropriate. A kitchen thermometer to monitor and manage the temperature is needed. Prepare clean gauze and two or three one- or two-inch-high plates (such as those for baking, steaming or the inner pot of a rice cooker, etc.). Cover the top with a lid or plate. The small bottle containing the natto starter culture can hold two teaspoons or 5 cc of water. The bottle can be a little larger. All containers should be clean and preferably sterilized by boiling water.

The first step is to soak three cups of beans for 24 hours or more. Change the water once or twice in between.  The beans can be red beans, green beans, white beans, Egyptian beans, black beans and other local beans that have a long history. In Colorado, USA, we can buy Bolita and Anasazi beans that have 700-hundred to 1000-year histories. They can be used alone or combined with different beans. Test the energy field to ensure that the combination is appropriate.

Thereafter, use a pressure cooker to steam the beans. In general, once the pressure builds up, cook for 20 to 25 minutes. The beans must be cooked and feel soft when pinched. Let the beans simmer for an hour after turning off the cooker. Wait till the pressure has completely come off before opening the pressure cooker. Generally, let the beans cool to about 120 Fahrenheit before adding the natto starter culture.

If you do not use a pressure cooker, you can also use a normal cooker to cook the beans till they are soft. The beans must still retain their shape. The procedure for adding the natto starter culture is as described in the instructions accompanying the natto starter culture. Add half a small teaspoon of natto starter culture to 5 cc of warm and clean water. Mix well and then add to the natto that is turning cool. Place the beans to two or three layers. Each layer should not be too thick, and no more than an inch (2.5 cm).  Before putting into the container, check the temperature, whether it is a rice cooker or oven. The pot may need to be covered with towels.

For those living a warm climate, it may not be necessary to add a small light bulb; wrapping a towel round the container may be sufficient. Insert the thermometer into the beans, and cover the top with a clean, dry gauze. Then cover with a lid.

Put for 20 to 24 hours in winter, and 18 to 20 hours in summer. After that, remove the lid, leaving only  the gauze on top, and place in a fridge overnight before eating. Keep the natto in a glass or ceramic pot; it can be kept for 1 to 2 weeks. I make fresh ones every week.

The natto starter culture I use comes from Japan. In the USA, they can be purchased from www.culturesforhealth.com in the United States. A 0.1 oz. natto starter can be used with 30 kg of beans. The Japanese contact is www nattomoto.net Tel: (023) 672-7010; fax: (023) 672-7060

Wishing everyone healthy and joyful eating.