Fresh Isn’t Always Best – The Benefits of Fermented Food
Sponsored by The Elements of Living
When you think of fermentation, you probably picture a tall glass of wine aged to perfection at your favorite vineyard. Surprisingly enough, there’s a whole world of fermented foods out there and it’s actually very healthy!
What are the Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
The lacto-fermentation process allows natural bacteria to feed on sugar and starch in the food to create lactic acid. Not only does this preserve the food, but it creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. It also makes the food easier for you to digest.
According to Dr. David Williams, a medical research and biochemist, fermented foods help balance the production of stomach acid. If your production of stomach acid is low, fermented foods can increase it, whereas when it’s high, fermented foods help protect your stomach lining. They can also help reduce constipation by producing acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that facilitates the movement of the bowels and improves the release of digestive juices.
Plus, the bacteria created by fermented foods helps kill harmful bacteria. In the 1950s, sauerkraut was an effective agent for killing typhoid. More recently, German scientists found that the lactic acid found in fermented sourdough bread is more effective at killing microbes and eliminating superbugs, which are currently resistant to most antibiotics.
Fermented foods can even help in fighting diabetes. They improve pancreatic function by “pre-digesting” food, making the pancreas do much less work than digesting normal carbohydrates.
What Fermented Foods Should you Eat?
You’ve probably been eating fermented foods without even knowing it! Pickles and sauerkraut are fermented, and so is sourdough bread. However, the most common fermented food is yogurt. Any yogurt that is labeled as “contains live and active cultures” has been fermented. Most lactose intolerant people can eat fermented yogurt, because the lactic acid has already been broken down.
If you’re looking to add more fermented foods to your diet, there are plenty of things you can try:
+ Tempeh is made from naturally fermented soy beans and is a great source of vegetarian protein. Here are some great tempeh recipes from our sister site Vibrant Wellness Journal.
+ Miso is a fermented paste made from barley, rice or soybeans and can add a lot of flavor to any dish. Just note, a little goes a long way! Learn more about the health benefits of miso.
+ Kefir is a fermented milk product that is a lot like drinkable yogurt, and is full of calcium and probiotics. Kefir can be made with dairy milk, plant-milk and even water – though these use different starter cultures, so be sure to choose the correct culture for your medium.
+ Kimchi is like a Korean version of sauerkraut. It is made from cabbage, but the end product is a lot spicier than normal sauerkraut, offering digestive benefits from the fermentation and garlic, chilies, and ginger. Feeling spicy: make your own kimchi with this easy kimchi recipe.
+ Kombucha is a fermented tea created by combining black tea with natural sugars, bacteria, and yeast. It has been shown to help stabilize blood glucose levels, and is available in a variety of fruit flavors.
Tips for Enjoying Fermented Foods
When introducing fermented foods to your diet, start small. You don’t want to overload your system with something new. Make sure you stay hydrated, as fermented foods are a natural detoxifier and you want to flush the newly released toxins out from your body. If you’re grocery shopping for fermented foods, keep an eye out for keywords like unpasteurized, naturally fermented, raw, or ‘contains live and active cultures’.
No matter if you buy fermented foods or make them yourself, this is definitely something you should consider adding to your diet!
For more healthy living ideas, check out The Elements of Living, a lifestyle blog created by FirstService Residential, North America’s leading residential property management company. Kombucha image from Shutterstock; all other images from Vibrant Wellness Journal.