Fermentation is a preservation technique that outdates almost all others. It was and is still used to make foods available even in seasons when it cannot be grown or harvested. Fermenting food allows it to maintain its nutrient density for months or even years.
Some common fermented foods include kombucha, olives, sourdough, wine, yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. While some enjoy the unique taste, others regularly eat these often stinky foods for their health benefits.
1. Gut Health
Fermented foods contain live bacterial cultures. The probiotics involved in the fermentation process can reduce gas, bloating, constipation and indigestion.
Studies have shown that those who suffer from common digestive issues can benefit greatly from the frequent dietary addition of fermented foods. This is because fermented foods are usually high in fiber, as the foods that tend to be best for fermenting are fibrous.
Take kimchi for example: Kimchi is made of cabbage, an extremely fibrous vegetable. ThIs is because vegetables and fruit with more non-digestible fiber will maintain their texture even after being preserved. This is why kimchi has such a nice crunch
Similarly, fiber is super important for keeping things regular. Fermentable fiber will break down into food for bacteria. Not just the bacteria in the fermented food, but also that bacteria living in your gut. Fiber also serves as sort of a cleaning element for your intestines. It helps to remove any old, dead cells along with bacteria that is no longer functioning. This will improve digestion by reducing bloating and constipation.
Fiber aside, fermented foods help your gut by breaking down sugars that are often hard to digest. For those that are lactose intolerant, fermented foods will have pre-digested the lactose before it ever makes it onto your plate. Meaning that the bacteria in the fermented food is doing the hard parts of digestion for you.
Studies have shown a decrease in anxiety, depression and insomnia in those who switched to a diet high in fermented foods. This is likely due to the bacteria’s ability to break complex sugars down to simple sugars, which your brain can use as energy.
Our brains run on the simple sugar, glucose. But glucose can be extracted from almost any type of sugar. Which is why we can get brain fuel from many types of carbohydrates.
Certain strains of live bacteria can contribute to higher energy and a better overall mood. Probiotics tend to claim better brain health due to their wide variety of live bacterial strains. Adverts for live and active probiotics are a great way to find these fermented foods.
Your microbiota, or the bacterial ecosystem that lives in your gut, plays a huge role in keeping you from getting sick. Fermented foods have a high probiotic concentration, which improves the density of this ecosystem. This can reduce your risk of getting common bacterial infections suck as the a cold or yeast infection. These good bacteria can also help you to recover faster if you are already sick.
Fermented foods also tend to have a high vitamin and mineral content. Specifically vitamin C, zinc and iron, which re all proven to boost your immune system. Vitamin C is an extremely popular supplement when a bug is going around. But vitamin C is also most effective in small doses, meaning that it is best to get vitamin C from your diet in small doses, rather than a large dose supplement. If you take too much vitamin C at once, you will simply pee it out.
Immune health is essential especially during flu season. Eating fermented food is an easy way to prevent illness rather than treating the illness after you get sick. Prevention is always preferred because being sick can often mean missed school or work, or risking the health of others.
Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in America. Blame it on our sedentary lifestyles, diet, or smoking habits. The only way to combat heart disease is to recognize that it is preventable.
Taking care of yourself by eating right, getting plenty of exercise and limiting negative health behaviors like smoking are so important for heart health.
Speaking of eating right, some foods go the extra mile in terms of heart health. Probiotics associated with the fermentation process have been linked to a decrease in heart disease, high blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. this means that foods with active bacteria are likely to lower your risk of heart disease.
It can be super hard to improve all of these aspects of your life at once. Incorporating fermented foods into your diet is a small step that can make a big difference.