Traditionally fermented foods like grass-fed cheese, kefir, miso, natto, olives, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, and yogurt are some of the oldest and healthiest foods on the planet.
Fermented foods may sound “yuck” to those new to the healthy-eating scene, but really, it should be a part of everyone’s diet. The vast majority of people simply do not receive enough healthy bacteria that can be obtained from this traditionally preparation and preservation method. The fermentation process involves breaking down carbohydrates and proteins using microorganisms that actually produces delicious food!
More importantly, these “functional foods”, contain probiotics that can be beneficial to your overall health. Beneficial bacteria in fermented foods help boost your overall nutrition, support digestion, and increase B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase, and lactic acid.
Nowadays, many people settle for mass-produced pickles and other cultured foods, unaware that they don’t offer substantial health benefits. For instance, canned California-style black olives are not generally fermented and are just treated with lye to remove the bitterness, packed in salt, and canned.
Many olive producers now use an acidic solution of lactic acid, acetic acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate and have abandoned the old salt-and-time fermenting method. Some pickles are now just packed in salt, vinegar, and pasteurized. Many yogurts are only a little better than puddings because they either contain too much sugar or use artificial sweeteners.
Let’s take a closer look at the main benefits of including more of these foods in your meals, especially when you prepare them yourself at home. They’re not difficult to make.
1. Fermented Foods Help Balance Stomach Acid
Fermented foods can help ease digestive discomfort, whether your discomfort is related to having too much or too little stomach acid. As you age, your ability to produce digestive enzymes decreases. Fermented foods can help correct this issue.
If you are dealing with a limited amount of hydrochloric acid in your stomach (as in the case of acid reflux), fermented foods can increase the the production of gastric juices for better digestion. At the same time, if your stomach produces too much acid, the food helps protect the stomach and intestinal lining.
2. Fermented Foods Prevent Over-Population Of Unhealthy Bacteria
Fermented foods help destroy and prevent the growth of unhealthy bacteria. In fact, consuming certain fermented foods can be more effective than antibiotics at killing unwanted bacteria. Additionally, probiotics found in fermented foods result in the production of healthy gut bacteria, while antibiotics simply kill all bacteria—good and bad.
3. Increase Nutrient Absorption
When you eat food, it takes a while to absorb the nutrients that it contains. Depending on the health of your digestive system, you may not fully benefit from the food you consume.
Having a healthy balance of bacteria in your stomach will powerfully improve nutrient absorption. This allows your body to absorb more of the nutrients from the food that you eat.
4. Fermented Foods Last Longer
The process of fermentation has been used in various cultures for thousands of years as a way to preserve food. The fact that this results in beneficial probiotics and provides a range of health benefits is an added bonus. Fermented foods have a longer shelf life, remaining fresh for a couple of months.
Read about gastrointestinal health and possible symptoms of a severely imbalanced gut flora.
What Fermented Foods Should You Eat?
There are many options to choose from when looking for fermented foods. There is kimchi, which is a Korean dish made from fermented cabbage. Sauerkraut is also made from cabbage but does not often include the addition of other vegetables and meats, as with kimchi.
- People often don’t think of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) as a fermented food, but it is. Add just a teaspoon of it into your water and drink it every morning for improving your digestive health. Especially beneficial for individuals suffering from acid reflux.
- Kombucha tea is an excellent alternative drink for those who like to drink soda. It gives a similar carbonated fizzle taste and makes an easy switch if you choose this healthy option.
- Tempeh, which is often used as a meat alternative by vegetarians, is made from fermented soybeans. It can be used for making vegetarian burgers, or heated and added to a fresh salad.
- Miso is a fermented paste that is made from either barley, soybeans, or rice. It is sometimes used to add a bit of an umami flavor to dishes. Only a small amount of miso is used, as it is high in sodium and easy to spread.
- Kefir is a fermented milk drink. Some people think that it tastes like a thinned yogurt. If you are a fan of smoothies, you could try working kefir into some of your favorite recipes. It pairs well with banana, celery, and kale. If you have a choice, choose coconut kefir for its superior health benefits.
- Yogurt is perhaps the most popular of the fermented foods. Yogurt tends to contain some of the largest doses of beneficial bacteria. If you find yogurt with a seal labeled as “Live & Active Cultures”, then the yogurt is most likely to have over 100 million probiotic cultures per gram. That is over 17 billion cultures in a 6-ounce serving.
As you can see, there are many reasons to start eating fermented foods, if you are not already. There is almost no excuse for not eating these foods. If you are not a fan of yogurt, you can eat kefir, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, and any other item that have gone through a fermentation process. Almost any vegetable could be used for pickling to benefit from the probiotics.