More Chinese try natto products as panacea for illnesses


While Japan imported soy sauce and tofu (soy bean curd) from China, the native Japanese dish known as natto (fermented soy beans) is at long last beginning to receive reciprocal treatment by China.

Sprinkling of the natto bacteria (naturally present in straw) on warm, boiled beans results in their fermentation, boosting the beans' nutritional value and making them a healthy and inexpensive meat substitute.

Unfortunately, their slimy texture and pungent odor tend to alienate fastidious eaters, which is a pity as natto, in addition to being cholesterol free, is an inexpensive source of iron, calcium, magnesium, protein, potassium, Vitamins B6, B2, E, K2 and others.

In addition to being sprinkled over boiled rice and wrapped in seaweed ("natto-maki"), natto can be used as a garnish on spaghetti, a topping for pizzas, and mixes well with various other foods.

More important, natto is considered a health food in Japan, believed to reduce incidence of stroke and other problems linked to modern lifestyles. In addition to the usually sticky state, natto is also dried and processed and sold in the form of snacks, dietary supplements and even in health tonics.

J-Cast News (June 8) reports that in China, demand for natto has been growing rapidly, with the beans and various supplements that use natto as their main ingredient being touted as a "divine medication."

An item posted on June 4 on Record China, "Japan's largest China-related internet site" ( reads, "Natto is the secret of Japanese longevity." It also made the claim that "Natto is a savior for cardiac or stroke patients."

A search of the Internet in Chinese led to a site that claims the product is "100% imported from Japan" and "the sole designated agent." The seller markets 10 boxes of natto peptide supplements for 3,200 Chinese yuan -- about 52,000 Japanese yen. The products are boasted to be a "savior" for the circulatory system, promising relief from high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries; relief from fatigue; prevention of aging; cancer prevention; beauty enhancement.

Those who inquire about the products at the health food counters of department stores or drug stores in China will receive a similar sales pitch.

On the other hand, the media have reported the case of one woman who purchased "natto capsules" and suffered a subsequent physical collapse, leading a dietary specialist to issue the disclaimer that "Natto is a food item, and not medicine. It is unacceptable to make claims that health foods can be effective in curing diseases."

It is known that because of its high levels of protein, overconsumption of natto can increase the burden on the kidneys, possibly leading to episodes of gout.

A spokesperson for Japan's Federation of Natto Associations told J-Cast News, "More natto has been appearing in the Chinese market, but some are produced locally. The Japanese variety is superior, quality-wise."

"Natto is certainly high in protein. But any food, no matter how healthy, can be bad for you if overconsumed," he continued, adding, with obvious pride: "Still, there has never been a reported case of damage to health through consumption of natto."

An unnamed natto producer informed J-Cast News, "Recently I've heard that sales of natto have been increasing in China, but since nearly all of Japan's producers are relatively small scale operators, I've never heard any of them say that they were confident about entering the Chinese market.

"What's more, to promote natto supplements as a remedy for all kinds of sicknesses sounds to me like the kind of outrageous claims that could only happen in China," he remarked.

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"And so my fellow Japanese, I say to you: Ask natto what your country can do for you..."

3 ( +6 / -3 )

If the Chinese are taking to natto then surely war between China and Japan is impossible. A bit like Krugmann's discredited theory of no 2 countries with the Golden Arches ever going to war.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just hope China doesn't send any more frozen gyoza filled with chopped cardboard instead of meat..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They could just take nattokinase. It's an extract of natto and it really does have health benefits:

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Golden Arches Theory is usually credited to Thomas Friedman. You may want to read his The Lexus and the Olive Tree if curious.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sorry, worst food in the world. Don't care how healthy it is. Totally repugnant. If you like it though, knock yourself out.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Great to hear that the Chinese are on to natto as a panacea. Fewer tigers and rhinos will lose their lives now ...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Works great for me: just a bit of that sliminess in my mouth completely empties my stomach.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I absolutely love natto!! I love cooking with it too: salads, omelettes, burritos, spaghetti, pizza, toast, sandwiches!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My wife eats it everyday but its one of the few foods I can't eat?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

natto can be used as a garnish on spaghetti


No, it cannot. At least not at a table where people are actually going to eat the spaghetti.

Natto is slimy, smelly and repulsive. It is not 'fermented', it is 'gone off'. A waste of perfectly good beans.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


Really? I'm surprised. Thought you'd be open to the weirder Japanese tastes.... ; )

I love natto... though I tend to add it directly to miso soup, and then eat it with a spoon... doesn't impress the wife or daughter.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

lucabrasi - definitely not! In addition to natto, tororoimo, mozuku, assorted sunomono and shiokara are all banned from the cleo dinner table. Don't even like green tea, though I don't mind others partaking. Not to mention all the dead sea creatures... according to the article, it seems I am a Fastidious Eater.

I'm not surprised your womenfolk are not impressed at you tackling your misoshiru (natto-contaminated or no) with a spoon.....

0 ( +0 / -0 )


It's just quicker with a spoon. Got to catch that 7.30 train!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Real natto are harder even for japanese to tolerate. 90% smell reduction by freezing etc. is sold in stores. Tempeh from Indonesia is somewhat between natto and tofu with less smell. If you are going to cook, minds well use miso. Those that don't like natto smell, it is stronger smell version of soy sauce. I would say try tuna natto roll first.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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