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Four Reasons to Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Liz Merritt
October 3, 2016
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You’d have to live in a cave to not be hearing about the powerful punch fermented foods deliver to your overall gut health.

A process that has been in practice for thousands of years, fermentation starts with whole foods that are exposed to yeast or bacteria. The sugars and carbohydrates in the foods are changed into compounds such as lactic acid. The process gives sauerkraut and pickles their sour taste.

Fermentation Supports Gut Health

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods deliver a powerful nutritional punch to your overall gut health.

While fermenting is a great way to produce new flavors in foods, it also brings a variety of health benefits to the table.

It’s important to understand that years of bad eating habits, along with the consumption of antibiotics and gut-unfriendly habits, can take a real toll on the body’s digestive system.

On top of that, our digestive and immune systems are linked. Taking antibiotics can kill both good and bacteria. Without the reintroduction of good bacteria from fermented foods, you can become sick once more. This is a big factor in the push to consume probiotics.

Fermented foods can also support good health through:

  • Immune system enhancement
  • Better digestion
  • Enhanced ability to take in nutrients
  • Added probiotics
  • Reduced of carbohydrate and sugar cravings
  • Improved brain health

In a scientific study published in 2014 in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, researchers conclude that fermentation can amplify the nutrient content of foods and may lead to better brain health.

That study revealed fermented foods can magnify protein quality and improve the bioavailability of mood-regulating B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. The Lactobacillus in fermented foods may also provide strong antioxidant protection, preserve vitamin C levels and enhance free-radical scavenging activities.

Good Bacteria and Brain Health

The study highlights the important role fermented foods play in overall gut health and brain health.

“The clinical world of mental health involves one where consumption of convenient, high-fat, or high-sugar foods is the norm; these foods, at odds with our evolutionary past, are not only undermining optimal nutritional status, they have untold effects on the microbiome and ultimately the brain,” the researchers said.

Fermented foods are loaded with good bacteria. Eating fermented foods introduces various strains of good bacteria into the digestive system. These microorganisms provide vitamins, increase the strength of your immune system and help to weed out the bad bacteria that try to overtake your gut.

Digestive Health

Fermented foods can balance out the composition of your gut. Fermented foods are loaded with digestive enzymes that will better absorb and digest your foods. Healthy eaters who have a nutrient-rich diet can really benefit from eating fermented foods.

Immune System Support

Eighty percent of your immune system resides in your gut, so if you want to stay healthy and feeling good, your diet should include the power-packed support of fermented foods. If you have more good than bad bacteria in your body, your body can better fight infections and reduce inflammation.

Special Note: If your goal is to have a flatter stomach, fermented foods can help as the gut heals and inflammation/bloating decreases.

Where to Start

Fermented food choices can be mind-boggling, so let’s start with some of the basics that are readily available.

Fermented Foods

Kimchi is a Korean dish made of fermented cabbage.

Kimchi – Kimchi is a Korean dish made of fermented cabbage loaded with seasonings and spices to give it a kick. In addition to cabbage, kimchi can include a variety of veggies such as cucumber and daikon radish.

Miso – This is a Japanese paste that combines fermented soy beans with koji, which is a fungus. The vitamins and minerals in miso are plentiful and include manganese, zinc and vitamin K. While generally used for miso soup, it’s also a flavor additive to many Asian noodle meals and broths.

Pickles – For fermented pickles, look for lacto-fermented pickles, which have bacterial enzymes and cultures. Don’t go with grocery store versions. They tend to be processed with high pressure and heat, which means the pickles lose their nutrient value.

Yogurt  – This fermented food can ease bowel problems. Plus, it contains hormone-like substances such as prostaglandin E2, which can prevent ulcers. Of course, the kind of yogurt you eat makes a difference. Make sure choose products that have active cultures, contain L. acidophilus bacteria cultures and have no added sugar in them.

If your goal is to look and feel better for the long-term, give fermented foods a try. Incorporating them into your diet may just be the punch in the gut you need for better overall health.

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