If you're looking for fermented soy foods - those found to provide the health benefits cited by research studies - the best place to look would be the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Here you'll find the following:
- Tempeh is a type of fermented soybean found in solid, cake-like sheets that can be cut into any size you'd like. It can be easily added to a pasta sauce. Baked or grilled it can be combined with melted cheese on whole grain breads to make a delicious sandwich. Tempeh with vegetables is great in healthy stir-fries.
- Natto is another type of fermented soybean that shaped in smaller, bite-sized chunks. Natto makes a great addition to soups and broths and makes an easy topping for rice dishes. It's a little stickier than tempeh, and also a little sweeter.
- Miso is a thick, fermented paste that can be made from soy beans (but read the label carefully as it is sometimes made from barley or rice). You'll usually find miso pre-packaged in a plastic tub. Miso makes a great base for soup stock, and its rich broth works well with vegetables, noodles, and other soy foods including tofu and natto.
- Pickled tofu, which is also sometimes called tofu cheese. You may be less likely to find this fermented soy product in grocery stores but look for it at Asian foods market or a large-scale natural foods groceries. Most of the tofu available in supermarkets has been coagulated into its thickened, moist, cake-like form, but it has not been fermented. Pickled tofu is an exception, and it's been fermented and aged like an aged cheese. Like other fermented soy products, it makes a great addition to soups.
In the Asian foods section of the grocery, you can find yet another fermented soy product, tamari (shoyu), a traditional, fermented version of soy sauce. Most soy sauce you will find in the supermarket has not been traditionally fermented, and you should look specifically for tamari if you want the full benefits of a fermented soy product. Of course, you will not be consuming this fermented product in the same amount as tempeh, natto, miso, or pickled tofu since you will be using it more as a flavoring and condiment. Even so, you will be getting some important benefits from this fermented soy food.
As you can see, soy milk is not on this list. This popular soy-containing beverage is not usually made from fermented soybeans.
With all of the above fermented soy products, you will be getting a highly digestible form of soybean that includes some unique nutritional benefits not found in non-fermented soy foods. For more details, read our write-ups on tempeh, miso, and soy sauce.
While there appear to be special health benefits from the consumption of traditionally fermented soy foods, non-fermented soy foods can still make a very nourishing contribution to your diet. We definitely like some of the unique health-supporting aspects of fermented soy foods (and other fermented foods as well), but we encourage you to consider all types of whole soy products and their great potential for improving health and nourishment. (Please note that we prefer organic soybeans and foods made from them since they are not grown from genetically modified seeds.)