Gut health seems to be all the rage nowadays, but is it really that important? The answer is yes. Think about it, your gut is responsible for fueling and maintaining the critical functions of your entire body. Consider gut health as another form of self-care. There are many different ways to start caring for your gut, it’s important just to start somewhere. The good news is fermented food is an easy place to start! Fermented foods can actually be more nutritious than unfermented forms. Before getting into the health benefits of fermented foods, let’s talk about what fermented foods actually are.
What are Fermented Foods?
Fermentation is an anaerobic process in which microorganisms where microorganisms (such as yeast and bacteria) break down food components, like starch or sugar, into organic acids or alcohol. The practice of fermenting foods came about centuries ago as a way to preserve foods or improve their flavors. This practice is over 13,000 years old.
You’ve heard that fermenting food in the process of making wine and beer. But in fact, fermenting foods and beverages results in the growth of good bacteria, also known as probiotics. When you add probiotics into your diet, your gut will thank you!
Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
Boosts Immune System
Did you know that 70% of your immune system resides in your gut and digestive system? Therefore when you disrupt the bacteria levels in your stomach it significantly weakens your immune system. The probiotics from fermented food maintains the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, strengthening your immunity. This means less chances of catching the common cold or the flu! If you’ve already caught a cold, the good news is that fermented foods can actually help you recover quicker.
Your immune system is your first line of defense against infection. Maintaining its effectiveness by drinking probiotics means fewer sick days and more time to enjoy yourself!
Reduces Irritation in Digestion System
If you suffer from reoccurring digestive issues introducing fermented foods into your diet will relieve symptoms. Studies have proven daily probiotics intake reduces irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. For everyone who suffers from regular bloating, probiotics are for you.
Fermented foods will also reduce other irritation that occur in the digestive system. These include diarrhea, gas, and constipation.
Makes Regular Food Easier to Digest
If you suffer from an intolerance to certain food groups, fermentation reduce the irritation the food causes. The process of fermenting foods breaks down their nutrients in to simpler, more digestible nutrients.
For example, approximately 65% of the general population struggles to properly digest lactose past infancy. If you’re one of those people who has a lactose intolerance but loves dairy (we understand), fermented foods are your solution. The natural sugars in milk, AKA lactose, are broken down into simple sugars. Your body can digest simple sugars a lot easier and without any uncomfortable digestive issues later. So feel free to browse the yogurt aisle knowing you won’t have digestive problems and you’re getting benefits from the probiotics.
Some foods such as seeds, nuts, and grains have an amazing nutrition profile that our bodies aren’t able to absorb fully. By fermenting these foods, our bodies will actually absorb more of the nutrients that are found in these foods. And who doesn’t want more nutrients?
Other studies have proven that fermented foods may also promote positive mental health benefits. These include less anxiety and depression. Other health benefits of fermented foods may include weight loss and reduced blood pressure. Fermented foods need to be a regular part of your diet.
Easy Fermented Foods to Start With
- Yogurt – You’ve probably already been eating this probiotic rich food, which is great news. All you need to do is continue eating it! All yogurts are not the same. Keep an eye out for yogurt that has ‘live active cultures’ or lists the bacteria strains listed with the ingredients. Also, beware of the amount of sugar in your yogurt! Some yogurts can be loaded with as much sugar as dessert foods.
- Sauerkraut – Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals – the fermentation process makes these nutrients more readily available to your body. Avoid added sugars and preservatives when shopping for sauerkraut. It is extremely delicious and adds texture to any sandwich or salad. Try this Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Sauerkraut and Swiss Cheese!
- Kombucha – This is one of our favorite ways to consume probiotics! It is a fermented tea that’s history goes back thousands of years. It is also rich in antioxidants, which are great at protecting your liver. Kombucha is also low in calories. Try swapping it in place of your fruit juice or expensive coffee drink. Beware of added sugars!
- Miso – You have probably had traditional Japanese miso soup in an Asian restaurant before. Miso is a fermented condiment made out of soybeans. It is generally salty and savory. In addition to traditional miso soup, it is used as a sauce or spread. Try this Miso Butter Shrimp Recipe that is ready in 30 minutes!
- Tempeh – This is a great vegetarian meat replacement for protein. Tempeh is a product of fermented soybeans that is a traditional Indonesian food. It in addition to being a good source of plant-based protein, it is high in nutrients such as iron and calcium.
- Kefir – This is a fermented milk drink, cultured from kefir grains. It is a fantastic source of probiotics, even better than yogurt. Kefir contains upwards of 60 strains of bacteria and yeasts. This drink is also an incredible source of calcium.
More Ways to Promote Gut Health
Many of the foods you’re consuming on a regular basic can be detrimental to the health of your gut. Try cutting out food high in refined sugars, alcohol, and artificial additives. Try including more gut healthy foods, such as these 7 foods for a healthy gut.
A healthy gut is extremely beneficial to your overall well-being. With fewer sick days and better digestive health, who wouldn’t be satisfied with the health benefits of fermented foods.