Natto is a fermented cheese-like food that has been used in Asia for over 1000 years. These native cultures used this dish as a breakfast food, and it was known as a remedy for heart and vascular diseases. Research has found both vitamin K2 and a powerful enzyme nattokinase within this food. Nattokinase and vitamin K2 have extraordinary cardiovascular protective qualities.
The unfermented soybean is a very challenging food to digest properly due to the high amount of phytic acids. These phytates bind to major minerals such as zinc, calcium, & magnesium and pull them out of our body. Unfermented soy also has enzyme inhibitors and goitrogens that challenge the body’s enzymatic and thyroid hormone systems.
Soy can be deeply fermented with various microorganisms to remove the phytates, enzyme inhibitors, and goitrogens. This fermentation process makes it more bioavailable and loaded with live enzymes and healthy microorganisms. Tempeh, miso, & natto are prime examples of fermented soy.
Natto is made from small soybeans as this speeds up the fermentation process. The beans are soaked in water for 12-20 hours to remove phytic acids. The beans are steamed or pressure cooked. The beans are then mixed with the Bacillus natto (natto-kin in Japanese) bacterium. The mixture is fermented at 40 degrees for up to 24 hours. Natto is then cooled and aged in the refrigerator for up to a week to allow optimal development. The aging period allows the bacilli to develop spores and the nattokinase enzyme to break down the protein into a more bioavailable form.
Natto is the only form of fermented soy that utilizes the bacillus natto species. The byproduct of this fermentation is the powerful proteolytic enzyme, nattokinase. This enzyme is known to be a very strong fibrinolytic (anti-clotting), anti-inflammatory and blood thinner. It is comparative to aspirin without the dangerous side effects. Additionally, nattokinase has been shown effective in destroying the toxic amyloid fibrils associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Japanese researcher Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi tested many traditional Japanese foods looking for a natural thrombolytic agent that could break down blood clots and arterial plaque. After testing more than 173 natural foods, Sumi found what he was looking for in 1980 with nattokinase. He dropped natto into an artificial thrombus in a petri dish and allowed it to sit at body temperature. Over the next 18 hours, the plaque completely dissolved. Dr. Sumi isolated the active enzyme and named it nattokinase. Researchers have acknowledged that nattokinase has a potency matched by no other enzyme.
Nattokinase works so effectively because it dissolves existing blood clots & fibrin while enhancing the body’s production of plasmin and other fibrinolytic agents like urokinase. Researchers agree that nattokinase is 4 times as potent as plasmin and is significantly better than any prescription medication. It works for longer periods of time without any of the dangerous side effects associated with pharmaceuticals.
Natto is also one of the best forms of vitamin K2, which is very important for binding calcium in proteins. K2 is especially important for both bone and cardiovascular health. Vitamin K1 is easier to come by as it can be found in seaweed & dark green leafy veggies. Vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods such as raw cheese, miso, & Natto.
Vitamin K2 activates a key hormone called osteocalcin that is produced by osteoblasts. This hormone is needed to bind calcium into the bone matrix. Osteocalcin also prevents calcium from being deposited into the arteries. Without adequate vitamin K2, an individual cannot effectively get calcium into the bone matrix and will instead deposit it into arterial endothelium creating plaque deposits.
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