Benefits of Fermented Foods
There is evidence that people have been fermenting foods for over 5,000 years and if you follow food news at all, you’ve probably heard at least a little bit about fermented foods. If not, you’re probably wondering what a fermented food is and why we should be talking about (and eating) them. Fermented foods might just be the answer to your digestive woes, but how?
Fermented foods go through a process called lacto-fermentation. What this means is that the foods become preserved when the natural bacteria feed on the sugars and starches in the food. Fermenting causes the food to become a superfood, with b-vitamins, probiotics, omega-3s and other beneficial enzymes. Not only do these tiny, living bacteria taste delicious they also help improve our digestion and improve our immune system’s ability to ward off illnesses.
The bacteria found in our digestive tract is important for our bodies to function properly so it is important to keep that bacteria happy, healthy and strong. Eating fermented foods help to replenish the good bacteria that already lives in our gut, causing it to stay strong. These bacteria help us break down our food, which in turn makes it easier for us to absorb nutrients vital to proper body function. Many people take probiotics as a dietary supplement for digestive health, but if you add a variety of fermented foods to your diet you can naturally get probiotics.
Fermented foods are also beneficial to people with diseases such as diabetes and food intolerances like lactose. This is because the fermentation process breaks down some of the compounds in the food, making them easier to digest. For diabetics, this is important because it means their pancreas doesn’t have to work quite so hard to digest. For people with lactose intolerance, it explains why they can have some yogurts, cheeses, and other milk products without it causing an upset stomach.
The great news is that fermented foods are easy to prepare at home and easy to find in stores, plus you might be eating some fermented foods without even knowing it. Popular foods such as greek yogurt, sourdough bread and beer are all fermented. Some other popular fermented foods include:
Aged cheese: Not all cheese is fermented, but those that are have bacteria added during production to give them a prominent sour flavor. Cheese such as cheddar, feta, parmesan, brie and blue cheese are all fermented.
Kimchi: This Korean staple is made when vegetables, typically cabbage and radishes, are fermented with garlic, ginger and chili flakes. In Korea, this is generally eaten at every meal and is a great addition to everything from salads to burgers.
Kombucha: This super-drink has been gaining popularity for many years now. It is made when tea is fermented with sugar, typically with flavors such as berries or ginger added, creating an effervescent and healthy beverage. Kombucha has been around for over 2,000 years and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.
Sauerkraut: This natural probiotic is likely the most familiar to most Americans, made from fermented cabbage, this has long been a favorite sandwich and hot dog condiment.
Kefir: Resembling a liquefied yogurt, this milk drink can be made with cow, goat or sheep milk. Just be wary of the varieties that contain fruit, as the fruit harms the good bacteria found in kefir canceling out all of the probiotic goodness.
Miso: A traditional Japanese product used for seasoning, miso is made from fermented soybeans combined with salt. It can be used for a variety of things, from soups and dressings to marinades and vegan dairy substitutes.
Pickles: Traditional fermented pickles do not use vinegar, they are fermented using salt, water and a variety of spices. They can be used as a sandwich topping or a refreshingly crunchy snack right out of the jar.
Fermented foods should be included as part of a healthy diet because of their many health benefits, from digestive regularity to immune support, adding just a few to your meals every day is a great way to help your body continue working the best it can.