The Great Natto Diet Rush: The sticky road to weight loss (maybe) (OJFTMHYLW extra)

I was not going to talk about natto as part of my Odd Japanese food that may help you lose weight(OJFTMHYLW) series this week. But coincidentally, natto as a diet aid has been in the news big time in Japan, with claims that a 'magical' substance in this sticky food helps people to effortlessly lose weight.

Natto is one of those legendary really odd traditional foods that you probably have had to grow up with to appreciate, in the same league as Scottish haggis or Norwegian lutefisk. Natto are cooked soy beans that are fermented with a natural bacillus that is found on rice straw. The fermentation process makes them very sticky (think of the insides of okra, but much stickier) and very smelly. They are an excellent source of protein, and easily digestible, so if you can stand the smell and texture they are probably great additions to your food plan. But...from experience I have to say that the number of people who didn't grow up with natto who like it is pretty low. As I reported back in my original post about natto, most people back away with a look of fear and disgust.

Earlier this month, a Japanese "health" TV program called Aru Aru Daijiten broadcast a show about the amazing natto diet. Aru Aru is very popular in Japan, but it has more in common with programs like Ito-ke on shokutaku, pseudo-science presented in an entertaining and comical way, than serious science. Citing some scientific studies (none, oddly enough, conducted in Japan, where you'd think scientists would be most likely to study the health benefits of natto in depth) they claimed that eating 2 packs of natto, one in the morning and one in the evening, would help people lose weight without any further effort or change in diet. This was, they said, due to the isoflavones in the natto (and some other substance) which caused the secretion of DHEA.

[Update: now the president of the network that shows the program has publicly apologized for "broadcasting a programme containing content that was not based on facts". So maybe it's not such a sensational discovery after all :) ]

They then conducted their own 'scientific' test, consisting of 2 groups of 4 people each, who ate the prescribed natto for 2 weeks. The results were quite impressive: up to weight 3.4 kg (7.5 pounds) was lost by the subjects in those two weeks. They also claimed that various health barometers like cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, etc. went down dramatically too. They recommended that the natto be mixed at least 50 times to really develope those sticky strings, as well as leaving it for at least 15 minutes before eating, for maximum effect. I guess this means that the beneficial ingredients are in the sticky parts. Here's how natto looks after this treatment.

natto-spoonful.jpgYes this natto was eaten after the shot.

Interestingly, today (January 20th) there is a statement (Japanese) on their web site retracting many of those claims, such as the fact that that two of the subjects' announced results were erroneous; that the statements that were supposed to be made by an American scientist were wrong or nonexistent, and that they didn't even conduct some of the tests that were shown during the program. They even admitted to showing different people in the 'before' and 'after' shots! Whether connected to this or not, they've cancelled the showing of their regular program this Sunday the 21st. (The program has now been suspended indefinitely. Also see retraction by network president above. Incidentally, apologizing to the public is a popular thing to do by company officials and politicians in Japan when things go wrong.)

It may be too late though, because the original program caused a mass rush on natto in Japan, causing sellouts at supermarkets.

The one thing that I think is valid is that natto is soy beans, which are quite filling, so that may decrease food consumption anyway. About those other claims...well I just don't know. It just goes to show how fad-crazy Japan is, and how diet fads are prevalent all over the world.

Now I did grow up with natto, and I love it. But two packs a day, every day? I don't think even I could stand that. Besides the fact that natto in Switzerland is not cheap, and making my own natto is territory I have yet to explore. (My grandmother used to make it sometimes, and all I remember is that it takes on the odor of an uncleaned toilet at one stage, before it 'settles' at the end to edible levels.) There's also the issue of natto-hating co-habitants, friends and other acquaintances who may not appreciate Perpetual Natto Breath.

If you're brave enough though and want to test those claims... If you do, let me know how it went. :) Remember, that's 2 packs of natto a day, morning and evening, every day, with your regular meals. You may have to adjust your breakfast and dinner menus though...cornflakes with natto may not fit well.

Bonus recipe: natto with raw egg

  • 1 pack natto
  • 1 raw fresh egg
  • soy sauce to taste
  • 1 cup hot rice

Mix the natto well until it's very sticky. Break in the egg and whip rapidly with chopsticks until all creamy. Add soy sauce to taste, and optionally mustard (the English kind, not the French kind), finely chopped green onions, bonito flakes, etc.

Mound the rice in a bowl and make a hole in the middle. Pour in the natto-egg mixture. Mix well. Slurp immediately.

Filed under:  japanese lighter weightloss diet ingredients natto legumes

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Oh Maki,
I would guess that eating two packs of natto a day would make someone so sick to their stomach that they wouldn't be able to eat much of anything else. In which case, it would be a great diet food. I get queasy just thinking about eating a spoonful of that stuff.

I would definitely agree with you, Elise.

it's actually quite tasty though, if you can forget about the smell...

i think a lot of people would agree with you Elise! :)

I'm one of the few people who did not grow up with Natto but love it. I really, really love it. I just had two packs with rice and could easily eat another. I don't know why I like it so much. Maybe because it's such an easy to digest protein. Being a vegetarian with a sensitive stomach I can't imagine not having natto in my life! Just thought I'd share.

I've lived in Japan for almost 10 years and until about 6 months ago, had eaten natto just 3 times. I despised all things about it and refused to believe that anyone could like it, unless they had been force-fed at birth and brought up on the stuff. Then recently, I decided to try it one more time for its health benefits. All of sudden I'm eating 5 packs a day. I would crave it and could hardly wait to get it out of it's wrapping and mixed. I never mixed it with anything but the sauce and mustard that comes in the pack and absolutely loved it. What the hell? Needless to say, I just eat it occasionally now - Think I may have over done it.. slightly. Still like it though. Weird.

I really think natto is an acquired taste, like stinky cheeses. At first it's disgusting, then you get used to it, and then...wham! Well maybe not for everyone... hehe. (I don't eat natto that much but get cravings for it occasionally!)

Hello! I agree with you! In the start, I found it not good, but when I get used to it, I found it so gooood :p XxXxX

When I was in Japan, my colleagues loved to take me out or invite me to their homes and present me with as many strange "exotic" foods as possible. It became a game to see where I'd draw the line.

Sushi was the first test, and completely not a problem. Then came chirimenjako, devil's tongue, a whole fish with head attached, and so on.

Natto was the last thing they brought out after I had been at my job for a few months. I confess, I found it disgusting at first, but my pride wouldn't let me refuse it.

I was working in Nara, and very few of my colleagues were willing to eat natto themselves, so they were shocked that here I was, a gaijin, eating a whole bowl of rice and natto. It turned into this huge joke, about once a week in the company shokudo my boss (a Tokyo native) would joke about how I was "more Japanese" than the rest of the group and I'd be obliged to eat another serving. After a year and a half of this, I actually developed quite a taste for the stuff, and buy it for myself now that I'm back in the US.

Indeed, generally speaking people who live in 'western Japan' (meaning the Kansai region and further south) don't like natto much, while people in 'eastern Japan' do. (or at least, they grow up eating it!)

Hi there! I love your blog, it's taught me so many new wonderful recipes. I thought I'd give natto a try so I bought some packs of frozen natto - how do I eat it from frozen? Do I just let the packs defrost then use as normal or do I need to heat it up?

You need to defrost the natto, either at room temperature or on the 'defrost' setting in the microwave for about a minute. If it came with a sauce and condiments, add those in. If it didn't come with condiments, add a little bit of soy sauce. (Don't forget to take out the condiment packets before nuking, or the packets will burst.) Then you mix it up well until very slimy and sticky. Er...good luck! ^__^

Well, in my quest to try something new, I had natto with hot rice this morning. The smell wasn't really a factor, or the fact that it looked slightly...wrong! What I couldnt handle was the consistency once in the mouth, waaaay too slimy for my liking. I managed to eat half a bowl then had to stop.

Oh well, at least I can say I've tried it. Definitely an acquired taste! :)

Wow, kudos for being so brave! :)

This stuff is digusting....i generally like japanese food but not THIS NUTTO THING....

Ah, the American food paradox! Things like sushi and natto are "disgusting", but feasting on cooked animal flesh (steak, ribs, etc.) isn't gross, of course. I love it.

Because nobody who didn't eat the typical American diet would ever say American food was gross! Oh ... errrr ...

I think you may have shot yourself in the foot there.

Hi i have just bought some and want to know how do i store it? In the fridge at room temperature (which is what?)

For short term (to use within a week) the refrigerator; for long term the freezer.

I tried it on a dare from a Japanese friend. The look on her face was comical as I tried it because I loved it. (I'm guessing she didn't). I buy it in the store and have it almost every morning for breakfast. I didn't grow up on it but still love it.

Hi Everyone ... ( Just so u know I love food n like trying interesting n exotic foods )

The first time I bought a pack of natto from the supermarket I didn't know how to cook it or eat it but I opened the pack n decides to heat it up in the microwave ... then a strong bad aroma started to spread over the house ... then I was like OMG ... how come the store sell bad stuff ... so I threw everything away ... n then one day (maybe around 3 months after dat) I came across a website with recipes n stuff ... n somehow came across Natto ... n started to research on this stuff ... n realized dat I have wasted my Natto ... so I bought another pack to try n heated in microwave n burnt it ... oh well so I tried it ... it didn't taste as bad as it smells ... then I figured I should maybe heat it up in a pan so I did ... it tastes much better then being microwaved ... ever since then I loved Natto ... n became one of my favorite daily food ... I do crave for it sometimes more then 1 pack a day ...

I would highly recommend learning to like it not cooked. While it's cooking, the enzymes that make it so good for your heart (eats the plaque out of your arteries) get destroyed. So you're not getting nearly as much benefit out of it by cooking it first (especially in the microwave, which changes the molecular structure of food).

That being said, it doesn't have to be eaten cold. You can mix it with hot food, such as rice, and as long as it's not cooked with the food, the enzymes will remain in tact.

I tried natto for the first time when I did a high school homestay exchange program in Japan. I had heard all sorts of horror stories about it from my Japanese classes in high school in the U.S. (the teacher there was fond of feeding it to first-year students and photographing their reactions) and so was naturally curious. Since I ended up staying in Mito, I figured I had to try some of their famous natto, and asked my host family about it, prompting my host mother to enthusiastically go out and buy five different containers of local natto for me to try and set them out at breakfast the next morning.

I first tried it neat, and was instantly hooked; I proceeded to have it with rice, the seasoning packets, and other various things my host mother suggested I mix in with it for breakfast several times a week. I hadn't had any Japanese food I disliked, and figured that natto might be the food that broke the streak, but it ended up being an instant favorite of mine (I still haven't had any Japanese food I don't find completely delicious; I loved everything there from the mountain vegetables to the sea snail).

I still buy natto when I can, though it's hard to find out in the middle of nowhere in MA. I did luck out and run into an old Japanese woman living in the area who sold me a lot of organic natto in bulk a while ago, but I haven't had as easy a time as that for a while. I don't know about weight loss, though; I'm too skinny as it is!

I recenty tried it... as il tey anything once, even tho pictures i had seen had realy grossed me out. I tried it strait off with nothing added... and it was ok, then with some mustard and soy sauce... again ok.. bit ncer tho lol, but the ended up with it on fresh hot rice and it was quite nice :)

The only thing that took getting used to was the stringyness as i was getting covered in it trying to eat it... would deffinately eat it again... not as bad as the pictures look!!!

I'm on the thumbs up side of eating natto. Haven't found the store bought natto smelly at all and it is my favorite breakfast food. It is filling and takes care of food cravings the rest of the day. I have made my own and it did smell somewhat but ate it anyway. Now trying to find a source of extra small soybeans as the typical soybean seems more chunky than the delicate commercial natto beans. I'm lucky to be surrounded by Asian markets in the Seattle area so he hunt is on for good natto making beans. Wonder if other bean types can be used? Love this website!

Yes it can .. I've made Homemade Natto many times...Love it!

As a male, I was getting concerned about eating so much of it ..because I've heard that too much Soy in a males diet creates Estrogen build up. Needless to say ... that's not good for Males. So tried to make it with Garbanzo Beans. But I prefer the traditional Natto way with Soybeans.

I absolutely love Natto! .. I stumbled upon this site after searching Google for "Natto+Weight Loss" .. my reasoning stemmed from noticing that I was losing weight although indulging in a rather unhealthy diet - (cookies, cakes ,sweets , etc.) ... yet my weight was dropping... so I thought perhaps it could be from me eating Natto Daily for the last several weeks. I came across Natto accidentally during a business trip in Japan (Tokyo). One morning I was staying at a hotel were they provided a breakfast buffet...and notice a pot full of of substance that looked like a pot of miniature "Baked Beans" ... boy was I wrong :-) ..but for some strange reason I liked it .. I mixed it with a boil egg and rice at the time. I later returned back to the States desperately searching to find it... did some research on the Net..and found studies in Japan that claimed that it cleared "Plaque" from ones arteries and prevented Coronary Heart Disease. That's all I needed to know... I've been Hooked ever seen. I even managed to find a Japanese supplier of the Natto "Spores" in California that is used to created the fermentation process to make homemade Natto!

My recipe in the morning is:

- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of Natto
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of Steamed Sukoyaka Genmai Whole Grain Brown Rice
- Diced Tomato
- Diced Onion
- 1 Soft Boiled Egg
- Soy Sauce and Spicy Mustard (that usually comes in the Pack of Natto bought commerically)

Wha-La! Love it!

As for the Health Claims... not sure.. but I figure it's better for me that scarfing down Jimmy Dean Sausages every morning - Quote~UnQuote "American Style".

Yes it's an acquired taste... but most great things in life are... so enjoy :-)

My second attempt at making Natto was a success. The first try failed because I kept the oven at the "warm" setting for 24 hours and the heat was too much for the poor bacteria. For the second try, I only used the warm setting initially to warm up the oven and pans of water and then just used the oven light as the heat source. I used a glass casserol dish and covered it with aluminum foil with pin pricks about an inch apart in a staggered grid pattern. Besides Natto, I also enjoy eating Durian, and the "smelly" tofu. You probably enjoy them too if you eat Natto. I'm still hoping that someone will make fat free Swiss cheese. Looking back I actually had a harder time acquiring a taste for the gooey yogurt.

Great that your natto was a success! I still haven't gotten mine right so far. As far as cheese personal philosophy is that I'd rather have a small bite of a great, full flavored (and yes, full fat) cheese than any rubbery fat-free imitation....but that's just me I guess ^_^

I remember hating natto as a little kid hahaha but, eventually I began to like it. I don't think ever one of my favorite things, but it's okay. Whenever I see it I always think of beans mixed with marshmallows... Then I get a craving for rice crispy treats. :s

Hmm now I have natto with marshmallows on my mind...the mind boggles...

I love natto. My kid loves it too.

I remember eating it with raw egg as a kid. Then came the salmonella scare and I wasn't allowed to eat it like that anymore =(
That was probably my favorite thing to eat growing up.

Hi..i just tried natto this week and i like it... especially all the health qualities to it... i sure hope i can find a good and constant source.. does it go bad? since it is fermented... if so what does it look like when it is bad? I only found it in a little oreintal store and they dont always have it... is there a recipe to making this? thanks for all the info! Go natto!

Today is Monday, April 16, 2012.. I have recently started eating Natto because I found it is possibly a natural way to combat uterine fibroids.. But I would like to give the x2 pk a day diet a try & let you all know how it works out.. So I guess I'll be updating again in 2wks..

I think that eating natto as a diet food is silly, I came across this while looking for recipe ideas. I love natto, just had some, I eat it plain or with spicy stuff usually. To everyone who has such terrible things to say about it based on appearance or smell, do you like blue cheese? Do you like beer? Kraut? Kimchi? Seaweed? They are all distinct flavors, smells and looks that might not be for everyone, but no need to nay say.

Also, my favorite way to eat it is with the flavor packs and a little red pepper (I eat almost everything spicy!). I think it is also very good plain, or with a tiny bit of pressed garlic! Yum!

I just read a Mercola article about vitamin K benefits especially in natto. I am ready to take the plunge ....but where do I find it? Is it frozen or freeze dried? I heard organic non GMO is only way to go! (Like most things if available)

I tried natto somewhat accidentally on my first visit to Tokyo. The proprietor of a small bar asked if I would like to try it as a "CHALLENGE!"

I know nothing about whether it was supposed to taste good or bad, and the mutual friend who was interpreting had never tried it themself. All I knew was that it was notorious like grits or Marmite. But I like Marmite, and I'll try most anything once, so I agreed to give it a go.

It was only a porcelain soup spoon full, and since the bar was very dark, I didn't get put off on sight. And as it turned out, I didn't mind it. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat it, but it wasn't *bad*.

The bar owner seemed most pleased that I liked it, since he apparently makes his own. But he did caution me that maybe I wouldn't like the pre-packaged stuff that's not so good. So I told him that if I ever wanted to eat natto again I'd only do it in his bar, and we shook hands on that :) He's a great cook, so I intend to stick to that pact!

I only tried natto when I was 25 years old and liked it a lot. Since then I learned how to make it and can enjoy it almost anytime I want.

Stinky idea: take natto, add some soy sauce and add blue cheese :D stir and heat in the microwave until the cheese melts. Sooo stinky! But good.

I remember when i first tried natto, I could barely swallow it. Now, I love it. I usually eat it for breakfast with cheese, or stuff pita bread with natto and cheese and some veggies and bake it till cheese melts... it is very healthy. I would definitely agree with some comments here that it is rather an acquired taste.

I heard about Natto from a Japanese friend and found it in a Korean Market in Los Angeles. I was ready for something disgusting but it wasn't so bad. I would cook a poached egg and stir the natto until it was nice and sticky, then put the natto and the egg on half of a toasted english muffin with a little blue cheese spread on. The blue chess mixed very well with the natto. Of course I used the packets of mustard and soy sauce that come with the Natto. Delicious. I'm trying to have Natto every day now. I'm feeling more energy and strength.

Guess that I needed the good bacteria that is in it. I bought it for the health benefits and told the woman in the Japanese store, who looked at me funny when I asked for natto and asked me if I had ever had it before, that I know it is slimy and sticky but I will learn to like it for it will be medicine for me and I have had some awful medicine, Lol! She told me to stir it as fast as I can for at least a minute and that she eats hers with a raw egg. To my surprise, I liked it at first bite! I lost a pound in 2 days eating one packet each day but am not surprised...when I started taking a probiotic pill several years ago I lost 5 pounds. That stopped after the 5 pound loss and I am still taking the probiotic. These are different bacteria and I intend to continue eating a packet of natto every day for my health. Will update you on any weight changes, but I feel better and could even feel a difference about 5 hours after eating the first packet yesterday. I ate with brown rice and low sodium soy sauce. YUM!
Thanks for the recipes, I will try some of them eventually.