Using science and technology, we humans have succeeded in mass producing biologically engineered foods, which have replaced healthier, time-tested traditional foods. Most foods today hardly contain half the nutritional value of their original raw forms.
While consuming them raw provides most of its nutrients, eating them fermented also offers plenty of health benefits, thanks to the high levels of healthy bacteria found in fermented food. Here’s why you must include simple, yet deliciously healthy fermented foods into your daily diet.
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods go through a process of lacto-fermentation in which natural bacteria consume the sugar and starch in the food. This process, in turn, creates lactic acid which preserves the food, and produces beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3s, and many strains of probiotics.
Naturally fermented foods also preserve the nutrients in food and break it down to a more easily digestible form. This, combined with the different probiotics created during fermentation, could be the reason why consuming fermented foods improves digestion.
What’s With The New Fermented Foods Fad?
Fermentation has been in practice since ages when ancient Greeks and Romans consumed fermented cabbage. The Romans were also aware of its health benefits and that cabbage fermented in acid prevented and treated intestinal infections. Our unhealthy eating habits and dependency on processed foods have upset the balance of our gut bacteria. Probiotics are the solution to rectify and repair the abuse we have put our digestive systems through.
Today, as more people are becoming health conscious and considering healthier alternatives, many of these long-lost foods are making a comeback. Although numerous mass-produced probiotic supplements are available, fermented foods are a healthier, tastier, and less expensive options to balance the good bacteria in your gut. Introducing probiotics naturally into your diet and into your system results in healthy digestion and prevents dangerous ailments.
How Does Gut Bacteria Help Digestion?
The process of fermentation exposes the food to healthy lactic-acid producing bacteria and stores the food in a contained environment.1 For instance, when milk is exposed to yeast, the bacteria turn the milk sour and converts it into curd.
Ingesting these good bacteria helps you create a more acidic environment in the gut, which promotes digestion and boosts the production of beneficial enzymes. This results in a healthy digestive tract. The presence of the healthy gut bacteria can prevent and help treat many diseases including the ones mentioned here.
Various studies have shown that the intake of probiotics may have a beneficial effect by providing metabolic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.2 The good bacteria present in fermented foods are also known to improve pancreatic function.
Moreover, as the organic matter that is exposed to lactic acid is already partially digested, vegetables and other fermented foods can be easily assimilated by your body, which avoids undue stress and strain on your pancreas. Many results note that probiotics are of potential therapeutic utility to counter obesity and diabetes.3
In the last 10 years, the usage of probiotics for the management of chronic constipation has gained immense popularity.4 Scientific research suggests that probiotics may help treat constipation. One particular study observed that probiotics may improve whole gut transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency.5
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter naturally produced during the fermenting process that helps in sending out nerve impulses. It can be ingested through fermented foods and helps improve the movement and responsiveness of the stomach, which promotes digestion and relieves constipation.
Weak Immune System
Probiotics also have a positive effect in boosting your immune system. They play a crucial role in defining and maintaining the delicate balance between necessary and excessive defense mechanisms including innate and adaptive immune responses.6
Probiotics that can be delivered via fermented milk or yogurt could improve the gut mucosal immune system.7 When your immunity is down, you suffer from various infections and diseases. Consuming probiotics enables your body to combat the bad bacteria and thwart sickness.
Easy DIY Fermented Foods
Apart from providing a wide range of health benefits, fermented foods don’t burn a hole in your pocket. The raw materials required to prepare fermented foods are easily available and inexpensive. The best part is that you can make them right at home and not have to worry about preservatives or other unhealthy substances lurking in them. Here are some excellent fermented foods.
- Sauerkraut is finely sliced cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, along with salt and caraway seeds added to it. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor. It is a good source of vitamins B, C, and K and also provides dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese.
- Kimchi, a variety of deliciously spicy kraut, is a traditional Korean dish made from salted and fermented vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage and Korean radishes, with a variety of seasonings including chili powder, scallions, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal (salty seafood).
- You can pickle most vegetables with some whey protein, sea salt, dill, and garlic for taste. Although vinegar is used to can vegetables, to avail the complete probiotic potential of your fermented vegetables, rely on the bacteria on the surface of their skin.
- Kombucha is a traditional fermented drink that’s easy to make at home. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Probiotics that you can drink include fermenting milk and juices, which you can easily prepare at home.
- Although less popular, fermented cranberry sauce is another healthy way to include probiotics into your meal.
|↑1||Gilliland, Stanley E. “Health and nutritional benefits from lactic acid bacteria.” FEMS Microbiology letters 87, no. 1-2 (1990): 175-188.|
|↑2||Kasińska, Marta A., and Józef Drzewoski. “Effectiveness of probiotics in type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis.” Pol Arch Med Wewn 125, no. 11 (2015): 803-13.|
|↑3||Yadav, Hariom, Ji-Hyeon Lee, John Lloyd, Peter Walter, and Sushil G. Rane. “Beneficial metabolic effects of a probiotic via butyrate-induced GLP-1 hormone secretion.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 288, no. 35 (2013): 25088-25097.|
|↑4||Liu, Louis Wing Cheong. “Chronic constipation: current treatment options.” Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 25, no. Suppl B (2011): 22B-28B.|
|↑5||Dimidi, Eirini, Stephanos Christodoulides, Konstantinos C. Fragkos, S. Mark Scott, and Kevin Whelan. “The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 100, no. 4 (2014): 1075-1084.|
|↑6||Yan, Fang, and D. B. Polk. “Probiotics and immune health.” Current opinion in gastroenterology 27, no. 6 (2011): 496.|
|↑7||Ashraf, Rabia, and Nagendra P. Shah. “Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 54, no. 7 (2014): 938-956.|