Photo: iStock: kuppa_rock

Natto: You either love it or hate it


Natto is fermented soybeans, specifically fermented with Bacillus subtilis, which forms the stringy, strong smelling and interesting-tasting Japanese staple food. It is often eaten as part of the Japanese breakfast and is sold in little individual styrofoam or cardboard packs in every supermarket, generally in the cool section near the tofu.

Health benefits

Photo: iStock: yasuhiroamano

Nutritionally, natto is high in protein, with one little 40-gram pack having around seven grams of protein and only 85 calories. It is also naturally gluten-free. When mixed with a raw egg on a bowl of rice, the Japanese believe this is a perfectly nutritious, balanced meal.

We covered in a fair amount of detail on the wonderful health benefits of fermented foods in our miso article, so I’ll try to limit that here. However, go and check it out again, as natto and miso go toe-to-toe as the top fermented foods in Japan. For natto, the fermentation process breaks down the soybeans, which makes them easier to digest and increases the body’s ability to absorb the goodness of the nutrients.

In addition, natto also has these special nourishing elements:

  • Vitamin K2 is the relatively unheard-of K vitamin compared to its buddy K1. K1 is abundant in green leafy veggies and accounts for 90 percent of Vitamin K intake. However, evidence suggests that Vitamin K2 specifically can protect from heart disease, lower the risk of some cancers, promote brain function and ensure healthy skin and bones (reducing the risk of osteoporosis). It has been recorded that natto has the highest concentration of Vitamin K2 of any food source!
  • PQQ is a micronutrient—similar to a vitamin—supports the mitochondria in the body. This is especially important for brain and heart health. Our bodies can’t synthesize PQQ, so it can only be obtained through the diet, and natto is again one of the highest sources available.
  • Nattokinase is an enzyme produced specifically in natto, and is believed to thin the blood and reduce the chances of blood clots, which can be beneficial for those with cardiovascular disease. Nattokinase has even been made into a supplement capsule form for its health benefits.

How to eat it

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

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Natto: You either love it or hate it

Hated it the first 2 times.

Third time was the charm


6 ( +7 / -1 )

Hate it. Loathe the smell and dislike being anywhere near it.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

The most disgusting substance to be disguised as food, ever.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Wasn't a big fan years ago, but have eaten it every morning for the past 3+ years. Love it. The smell isn't that bad. Being fermented, it sort of starts to taste a bit like Vegemite.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It stinks quite a bit however the health benefits outweigh that demerit.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

It's not just that it smells like feet. It's also the slimy texture I hate. Same for those sticky potatoes, okra, and raw shellfish. I'm just not a food-that-feels-like-mucus fan.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

My family and area (Okayama) did not have a custom of eating Natto. I grew up without Natto. When I ate it first time in Osaka, I was very very hugry. And you know, if you are really hungry, everything tastes good. So it was easy for me to become a lover of Natto.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The most disgusting substance to be disguised as food, ever.

You’ve obviously never had Surstrumming, Lutefisk, or Hakarl.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Dunno… I was lucky enough to eat it before hearing anything about it, so I had no expectations either way.

Thought it was okay… Nothing to write home about, nothing to cross the street to avoid. Still feel the same, thirty-odd years later.

My dullness is even boring myself : )

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Slippery natto,

Whale's graceful dance in the sea,

Both not for my taste.

I never shall eat.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I make my own natto.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Yucky wucky, it’s sooo vile it defies belief. My partner eats sometimes and just the smell of it wafting over makes me come over all queer. I dunno how anyone can eat that awful stuff

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Love it.

A great start to the day.

Like others have said being fermented It tastes a bit like Vegemite/Marmite.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I got addicted when having it every day for breakfast over three weeks at a company canteen in Chiba. When I moved to Osaka, I persuaded my wife and her family to eat it. We now eat it here in Scotland, and my wife and I still argue over what to mix it with.

4 ( +4 / -0 )


OMG, you even eat it in Scotland. Well, if you like it that’s great. I guess it’s what people call and acquired taste isn’t it. Well, I can’t ever eat it for sure, lol.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

43 year old Japanese, I still can't stand it.

5 ( +5 / -0 )


I make my own natto.

Is that a euphemism?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When I first arrived in Japan back in the Heisei period, I had the unfortunate experience of ordering natto okononmiyaki in Shimokitazawa. I really was disturbed by the whole event


I make my own natto.

Is that a euphemism?

Lol! Indeed.

Natto? It's a hard "no" from me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I dunno how anyone can eat that awful stuff

While in Rome etc. Next time in town, drop by Matsuya. You can get it there for breakfast. Beats eggs and bacon any day.

3 ( +4 / -1 )


i don’t eat out for breakfast and I don’t eat bacon and eggs either, soft boiled eggs with soldiers for me like my mum used to make, what am I like.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Not as bad as Kusaya but the fragrance of smelly socks can be a bit hard to swallow…..

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

They everywhere complain my cigarette smoking and ban us smokers into the farthest corners, but then they open Natto packages and eat it right beside me and other Natto haters with a smile on face. That’s the moment when I understand the meaning of discrimination. lol

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

My spouse loves NATTO and eats a small package every day but she waits until I leave the dining room first.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hate it. The smell is one thing but it's the texture that really gets to me. Just thinking about it squicks me out.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Not true. I don't hate nor love it.

I do hate the smell, but it can be somewhat hidden with some kind of topping like grated carrots or 'daikon' (radish) - though this one is also smelly anyway...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I do like it, but I can't live without my beans on toast in the mornings !

1 ( +1 / -0 )


Beans on toast are wonderful, double plus actually. I enjoy topped with sea salt and Henderson Relish ( similar to Worcester sauce) and possibly some HP sauce on the side. Oh yes, a marvelous little meal and high in protein and fiber too don’t you know.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I disagree.

Like vallum above, it’s fine, and I sometimes buy it, but I’m not too bothered either way.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Beans on toast are wonderful

A truly British meal. Beans builds Brits. Where can you buy HP sauce in Japan I wonder?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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