Fermented Foods- Health Benefits of Fermentation

What are fermented foods? When a food is fermented, “it means that it’s left to sit and steep until the sugars and carbs that the food naturally contains interact with bacteria, yeast and microbes to change the chemical structure of the food. The process of fermentation converts compounds, such as a carbohydrate, including vegetables and sugar, to carbon dioxide and alcohol to an organic acid.”

Fermented foods provide probiotics, beneficial bacteria that mostly live within our gut/digestive system which can aid in digestion and maintain gut health. The microbes in fermented foods help create a protective lining in the intestines which are beneficial in shielding against viruses, bacteria and fungi.

Studies have shown that the consumption of fermented probiotic foods has many positive effects on the whole body not only in increasing antibodies and building a stronger immune system, but also in producing vitamins and enzymes which are beneficial to your overall health.

Here are a few fermented foods you can start to include in your diet: kombucha, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, apple cider vinegar.

Kombucha — This drink after being fermented, becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic and lactic). Make sure the kombucha is not high in sugar, which many can be.

Yogurt — Yogurt is a food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk which also contains calcium, potassium, vitamin B12 and protein. Probiotics, the healthy bacteria can help decrease stomach issues, such as diarrhea and pain. Avoid yogurt with added fruit or sugar.

Kefir- is a fermented milk drink made from kefir grains, and contains many nutrients, b vitamins, tryptophan, probiotics, and yeast. Kefir contains kefiran, a polysaccharide which has shown to be associated with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Kefir may also be a good option for you if you struggle with lactose intolerance. Lactose is removed from the milk during the fermentation process.

Sauerkraut- is a type of fermented cabbage with many health benefits that creates conditions which promote the growth of probiotics. Research also shows that probiotics help reduce gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea. Sauerkraut contains a variety of enzymes, which help break down nutrients into smaller, more easily digestible molecules which aide in digestion.

Pickles — During fermentation sugars are broken down into lactic acid bacteria, that can help in gastrointestinal issues. The brine contains natural antioxidants such as vitamin C & E which help fight free radicals which develop in our bodies. Pickles are also very rich in vitamin K, which plays an important role in bone and heart health.

Kimchi — Kimchi is a fermented food filled with probiotics, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals which may increase healthy digestion.

Apple Cider Vinegar- Unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar contains bacteria, the vinegar mother. This bacteria is considered the most nutritious part and has antimicrobial effects on the cell structure of some harmful bacteria such as yeast, and various fungi,

While fermented food have many benefits, do keep in mind not to consume too much at once or too quickly, as you may experience digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea. This will by no means indicate that these fermented foods are not good for you. Start slowly with smaller amounts of fermented food, like several tablespoons or try a probiotic supplement. Experiment with different types of fermented foods and find one that agrees with you and which you enjoy eating.

To get the best benefits of fermented foods, make an effort to purchase foods that are organic and contain “live and active cultures.” Look for the raw organic label which doesn’t contain much sugar or additives.