Could Fermented Foods Boost Your Health?
Kombucha, a fermented sweet tea, is just one of many such foods and beverages growing in popularity around the country. Fermented foods made Whole Foods’ top five food trend predictions of 2016. Kimchi, a condiment of pickled vegetables popular in Korea, is now on three times as many restaurant menus as it was in 2010. An estimated one in four consumers drink kombucha.
In addition to kombucha and kimchi, some of the more popular fermented foods are yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, a fermented milk beverage, and tempeh, made from fermented soybeans.
The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods may promote gut health by increasing its number of healthy bacteria.
If you’re consuming a diet rich in fermented foods, you’re essentially bathing your GI tract in healthy, food-related organisms. An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms make a home in your gut, and they play a big, though not yet fully understood, role in your health. They influence metabolism and the immune system.
If the good bugs in the gut outnumber the bad bugs, you’re less likely to develop some of the conditions that we know are highly associated with obesity and certain cancers and a whole host of things.
During fermentation, live bacteria breaks down food components such as sugar, making it easier for you to digest and absorb its nutrients.
Fermentation also can boost the nutritional value of certain foods. In some cases, it can produce a variety of B vitamins in foods that did not contain them before they were fermented. Fermentation allows for nutrients to be better absorbed and used by the body.
What are the Health Benefits of Fermented Foods?
Yogurt may help you avoid heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Kimchi, meanwhile, may reduce your odds of diabetes and obesity.
Researchers have also studied fermented foods’ effect on gut problems. One study found that fermented milk eased symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, possibly due to beneficial changes in gut bacteria that such foods bring.
Other fermented foods appear to relieve the diarrhea that people often suffer after taking antibiotics. Antibiotics disturb the balance of gut bacteria, and diarrhea can follow. The probiotics — or healthy bacteria — in fermented foods appear to help restore that balance and ease diarrhea.
Should You Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet?
Keep in mind that these foods will add calories to your diet — some more than others. Kombucha, for example, has a lot of sugar, as do many varieties of flavored yogurts. If you make them a part of your daily diet, be sure that you change what you already eat.
Be aware, too, that fermented foods can be an acquired taste. Many have a distinct sourness to them that people often find unfamiliar and, at first, off-putting
Most people will rely on their local markets for fermented foods. Some brands will advertise that they contain live organisms. Those are the ones to choose.
Eat fermented food as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern.