Fermentation is an age-old process used to preserve foods and keep them edible for longer, which was mostly used before the presence of electricity and canned foods. Recently though, fermented foods have also displayed properties that are hugely beneficial for your gut health. During fermentation, the sugars and starches in the food are broken down and the food is given probiotic-boosting properties becoming more nutritious and easier to digest. With the evolution of food processing, some foods have lost the good bacteria from which the body can benefit.
Why fermented foods?
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, a diet that includes different fermented foods has a wide range of benefits for your health. Fermented foods are filled with probiotics that target your digestive system – improving not only your digestion but also strengthening your immune system. With probiotics helping to balance out your gut bacteria, this makes it possible for the body to better absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat. Probiotics can also improve your mental health. A 2017 study showed the relationship between a healthy gut and positive mental health.
The following fermented foods are not only filled with probiotics but other nutrients that the body will readily absorb and appreciate.
Kefir is a drinkable yogurt made from cow, goat, or sheep’s milk. It’s considered the go-to drink for lactose intolerants due to its ability to improve their digestion. Compared to the yogurt generally found in supermarkets, kefir is extremely low in sugar as it contains only 1% sugar, while yogurt contains 4%. Being filled with high levels of nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, and probiotics, kefir is anti-inflammatory and can improve bone health and control blood sugar.
A fermented tea, kombucha is not only the best beverage to help you start your day but also the best fizzy alternative to sugary sodas and energy drinks as it’s low in both sugar and calories.
Although research is limited to animal studies, kombucha has been shown to reduce blood sugar and joint pain, detoxify the body and boost the immune system.
One of the most common fermented foods, sauerkraut is made from cabbage strips, water, and salt. A recipe so simple that you can make it yourself, all you need to do is mix the three ingredients in a jar and leave to ferment for 7-20 days. According to a study done by Russian neurologist Dr. Mercola, sauerkraut has a higher level of probiotics than probiotic supplements. Aside from being low in calories, sauerkraut contains plenty of fiber and anti-cancer properties such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that help it combat inflammation, lower cholesterol, and improve eye health.
A traditional Japanese paste, miso is made using fermented soybeans. It can be added to soups, used as a dressing, or a marinade. Miso contains all the essential amino acids – making it a complete protein. Therefore, its benefits include anti-aging, improvement of both heart health and your immune system, and lower risk of breast cancer.
Another product made from soybeans – tempeh is a favorite meat-alternative amongst vegans and vegetarians alike due to its versatility. It can either be baked, steamed, or sautéed. High in calcium, iron, magnesium, and other vitamins, the tempeh lowers cholesterol and eases menopausal symptoms.
Like the previous two foods, natto is another dish made from fermented soybeans. Natto improves the digestion of vitamin K2 which is essential for heart and bone health. Natto also contains a unique enzyme – nattokinase – that not only dissolves blood clots but also fights against cancer and lowers blood pressure.
7. Probiotic yogurt
Who doesn’t love a tub of yogurt? Plain yogurt – free of preservatives and sweeteners – is full of vital nutrients. It not only lowers blood pressure but also helps keep your weight in check and improve bone health. When purchasing yogurt, ensure that you choose the ones labeled ‘live active cultures’. This is because others may have gone through too much processing and thus lost their probiotics. Furthermore, be sure to avoid the natural additive known as carrageenan.
Lastly, when purchasing various fermented foods, be sure to choose products that are organic and raw.