Are you looking for the healthiest soy sauce? You can pick low-salt store-bought varieties art your local supermarket. This is probably the unhealthiest ingredient of commercial brands since you can find many “low sodium” varieties on the market. This is usually the most unhealthy stuff found in soy sauce. About 99% of the world’s population consumes too much salt, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The body needs a certain amount of sodium but many pre-packaged foods are loaded with white granules. If you want to save money you can make homemade soy sauce that’s healthier than most commercial varieties.
The good news is there are several alternatives you can buy in the store or make at home. The main benefit of buying healthy soy sauce you can avoid stuff like high-salt content and artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Soy sauce is basically fermented soybean. There’s some other stuff that’s added but too many additives can make it unhealthy. You can make some do-it-yourself (DIY) versions that can produce a similar taste and texture as the original soybean product. The key is still to follow a limited ingredient recipe to make it as healthy as possible and avoid possible health issues.
Is Store-bought Soy Sauce Unhealthy?
This is a key question because it can help you figure out if you even need to buy or make alternatives. Basic soy sauce is made from some fermented soybean/wheat. Fun Fact: Soy sauce was first made in China and is based on “Chiang” first made 3,000+ years ago. Today it’s a popular seasoning used throughout the world.
As always, this food can be healthy. It depends on the number and types of products. For example, soybeans are a “complete protein” with all 9 essential amino acids (EAAs), whole wheat is a healthy whole grain that’s one of the most consumed grains in the world.
Similar soy sauce varieties were developed in areas like Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. It’s interesting that the term “soy” is actually based on the Japanese word “shoyu” which means “soy sauce.” It’s interesting that the soy sauce named the soybean instead of the other way around.
Basic soy sauce only includes four ingredients:
- Mold/Yeast (for fermenting)
These can all be healthy ingredients. For example, soybeans and wheat are high sources of vitamins/minerals. Yeast and mold can provide “good” bacteria. The human body also needs a small amount of sodium.
The traditional method of making soy sauce involves soaking/roasting the beans and crushing wheat grains. They’re then mixed with a yeast/mold and sit for up to three days. After adding salt/water the mixture ferments for up to 8 months.
Fermenting is an important process. The wheat/soy proteins are broken down to form amino acids. Meanwhile, the starches of beans and grains are turned into alcohol and acid.
There are a few key steps that make store-bought soy sauces less healthy and tasty. A chemical fermenting process takes days instead of months but doesn’t produce the same results. This causes manufacturers to add more color, salt, and flavor. These can affect the nutritional value of the final product.
Healthiest Soy Sauces to Make at Home
Studies show that bone broth is very healthy. That’s due to substances like collagen that are tough to find in other foods. Homemade broth is the best and can be made from options like beef bones, for example. This takes about 24 hours.
2. Dried Mushrooms/Shrimp
Make sure to go with the dried varieties. One of the main benefits of the dried varieties is you’ll get a stronger/saltier flavor and especially from the dried shrimp. Mushrooms are high in antioxidants and shrimps are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
They include options like:
- Spring onions
- Fenugreek seeds
These options are inexpensive yet provide some extra pizzazz to your recipes like soybean sauce. They’re also loaded with nutrients.
Rice, apple cider vinegar (ACV), wine, and balsamic are some of the options you can pick. Vinegar provides a sour taste to food but it’s also loaded with antioxidants. It’s also a fermented product that you should consider adding to your diet.
ACV has been trending in recent years due to the many cooking and cleaning applications it provides. It’s also less sweet than other vinegar so it’s good if you’re not a fan of sour flavor.
Fun Fact: Brown sugar is just white sugar with some added molasses. There are various kinds to use including organic molasses. This provides a sweet flavor and thick texture to jazz up your recipes. Other varieties you could use include traditional, dark, and blackstrap varieties. Organic is always the best type.
Make sure to go with the vegetable variety since it will be generally healthier than beef and chicken varieties. As always check the ingredients list to see what it’s made of. When possible go with limited ingredient varieties to get the best results. You’ll just need one or two bouillons based on your recipe.
Healthy Soy Sauce Alternatives
1. Maggi sauce
This seasoning sauce originated from Europe and it’s popular in many countries there. In fact, you can find different versions in different EU countries. Maggi contains wheat and sometimes has soybean. If you have a soybean allergy you can find versions that lack the superfood.
Maggi seasoning sauce is quite similar to soy sauce since it contains wheat and possibly soy. However, it still offers an alternative to basic soy sauce.
2. Fish sauce
Look for the “Red Boat” variety that’s made from Thailand-sourced anchovies. This one is soy/gluten-free so it won’t trigger such allergies. You’ll get a similar flavor as soy sauce, which is one of the main benefits.
One of the main issues though is each serving contains almost 1500mg of sodium. So, if you have conditions like high blood pressure or are on a low-salt diet you should look for another option.
3. Worcestershire sauce
The most famous one is Lea & Perrins, which has been around 180+ years since 1837. It’s a good option if you have a food allergy triggered by gluten (i.e. wheat) or soybeans. You can also find a version that’s reduced-sodium if you want less salt.
4. Liquid Aminos
You have various options. There are Bragg liquid aminos, which is a soy sauce made from unfermented soybeans. This is from the same company that’s famous for its ACV. You get lots of amino acids in this product so it’s a healthy source of protein-building aminos. Bragg has also been around a while so there won’t be issues in terms of quality.
Another option is coconut aminos, which also contain lots of amino acids. this type of product is relatively new but is another good option if you want a similar flavor as a soybean-sourced sauce. It also might be tougher to find versus other options like the healthiest soy sauce.