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Soy, Tamari & Aminos

There are hundreds of Soy Sauce varieties in Asia, which differ depending on the ingredients, method of production, and regions. In the United States, there are a few main varieties found in grocery stores: light, dark, and low sodium.

Light soy is a thin, brown liquid that most Americans refer to as regular soy sauce, and is an excellent all-purpose seasoning.

Dark soy sauce has molasses or caramel added after the brewing process, which thickens the sauce slightly and produces a sweeter, more complex flavor.

The flavor of soy sauce comes from fermented soybeans, which is first soaked in water over an extended period, and then steamed at high temperatures. Carbohydrates contained in wheat are the components that give soy sauce its aroma and adds sweetness. Wheat is roasted at high temperatures, and then salt brine is used to control the propagation of bacteria during the fermentation process and act as a preservative. Soy sauce is known for containing high amounts of sodium. It is also rich in antioxidants, isoflavones, protein, and even a small amount of fiber. 

For people watching their salt intake, a low-sodium soy sauce is available. Salt is essential in the production of soy sauce because it acts as an antimicrobial agent. Most low-sodium soy sauces are made with acid-hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, which do not need bacterial-fungal cultures and therefore require less salt.

One tablespoon of soy sauce contains roughly 11 calories, 2 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 1006 mg of sodium. Unopened soy sauce is shelf-stable and can be kept in a cool, dark place. Once opened, soy sauce should be kept in the refrigerator to preserve its optimal flavor.

So now that you know what soy sauce is let's chat about Tamari. In the most basic sense, Tamari is soy sauce made without the roasted grains (wheat). Unfortunately, nothing is ever quite that easy and although most tamari products are 100% gluten-free, you do need to watch labels as some tamari sauce brands could use just "less wheat" which would be problematic if you are challenged with celiac disease. Also, many soy sauces have food additives but most tamari brands contain only the bare minimum of ingredients: water, soybeans, and salt. Tamari also contains more proteins and manganese than regular soy sauce, which acts as an antioxidant in the body.  

An alternative to Soy Sauce and Tamari is Coconut Aminos, which is soy-gluten free and made from coconut tree sap and salt. These are popular in the paleo community and for those who are avoiding soy for health reasons. Coconut Aminos are still dark in color and have a similar taste though contain far less sodium and have a milder, slightly sweeter. It's best to store an open bottle of coconut Aminos in the refrigerator and use it within a year. 

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