You may think that eating fermented foods is a modern dietary craze, but humans have been doing it for thousands of years. Our ancestors somehow gained the knowledge that fermenting food preserved it. But were they aware of the many health benefits that fermented foods offer?
It’s hard to say, but even if they weren’t aware of the benefits of fermented foods, if you keep reading, you will be.
Good VS Bad Bacteria
Some people get confused when learning about the benefits of fermented foods, and it’s easy to understand why. I just told you fermenting foods is a traditional way to preserve them. To preserve foods usually means to prevent the growth of bacteria.
But if you know anything about fermented foods, you probably know they are good for your gut because they contain probiotics, or good bacteria. So how is it possible that the process of fermentation can both prevent and encourage the growth of bacteria at the same time?
Well, one of the most traditional ways of fermenting foods is by using a process called lacto-fermentation. This simply means that you start your fermentation process by soaking your vegetables in salt water. In a short amount of time, this kills harmful bacteria but, miraculously, good bacteria survive and thrive.
After this, the good bacteria turn the natural sugars in the veggies into lactic acid. The lactic acid levels rise and voila… your food is preserved and loaded with healthy bacteria. Your food also happens to be loaded with flavor and nutrients and easier to digest.
Top 5 Benefits of Fermented Foods
Now that you know how fermentation works, let’s look at some of the biggest benefits and why you should start eating more fermented foods.
1. Improved Gut Health
We’ll start with the most obvious benefit. When you eat fermented foods, you populate your gastrointestinal tract with beneficial bacteria.
Why is this important?
Medical experts are now, finally in agreement – if your gut isn’t healthy, YOU’RE not healthy. Most of us are walking around with too much bad bacteria in our guts and not enough of the good guys. This is a result from poor diets, stress, and antibiotics and other harmful pharmaceutical medications.
Did you know that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? What do you think happens to it when your gut is overpopulated with harmful bacteria? You certainly aren’t able to sustain good health.
Most of us would greatly benefit from populating our guts with beneficial bacteria, and eating fermented foods is an easy and delicious way to do it.
2. Fermented Foods Help Stabilize Blood Sugar
Thanks to that lacto-fermentation process I told you about, where the good bacteria convert carbohydrates/sugars found in plants into lactic acid, fermented foods do not cause a blood sugar spike. This makes fermented foods a great side dish for diabetics.
Also, a 2012 study looked at the gut microbial DNA of 345 people and fund that the participants with type 2 diabetes had an imbalanced gut flora – ie… too much of the bad guys and not enough of the good guys. If you want to prevent diabetes, make sure you populate your gut with those beneficial bacteria!
3. May Offer Relief from Allergy Symptoms
The more good bacteria you have in your gut, the more soldiers that will defend against pathogens and bad bacteria. Some of the good bacteria are even able to remove procarcinogens (cancer-promoting agents) as well as alleviate allergy symptoms.
4. Improves Mental Health
Studies have shown a strong connection between the consumption of fermented foods and mental health. A healthy gut microbiome can guard against:
- Difficulty processing emotions
- Social withdrawal
A healthy gut microbiome is essential for your overall well-being and your mental health.
5. Fermented Foods Fight Obesity
Did you know that a gut microbiome with an imbalance of good and bad bacteria has been linked to obesity? Many studies have shown that fermented foods can protect against weight gain. For instance, in Korea, the staple food is called Kimchi. Now Kimchi comes in two varieties: fresh and fermented.
In controlled studies comparing the two versions of Kimchi, it was the fermented Kimchi that showed a much more significant impact on weight reduction.
Best Fermented Foods
Now that you know the benefits of fermented foods, let’s look at some of the ones you could start to incorporate into your diet.
Sauerkraut – German fermented cabbage.
Kimchi – Korean fermented cabbage. This is a bit spicier than the German kind.
Raw Cheese – Most of the cheese sold in supermarkets is pasteurized, a process that uses high heat to kill harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, this process also kills good bacteria and important enzymes. Many local farmers will sell raw dairy products that still contain these beneficial bacteria.
Yogurt – Even regular pasteurized milk can be fermented, and when it is, you end up putting those beneficial bacteria back into it. Try to eat plan yogurt as flavored yogurts are LOADED with added sugar.
Would you like to know some other natural ways for you to maintain healthy blood sugars?
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