Our digestive system, from the mouth through the esophagus to the gut, contains millions of beneficial bacteria that help in digesting the food that we eat, absorb various nutrients, fend off harmful bacteria, and remove certain toxins. When these bacteria are not present or are removed as a result of taking antibiotics, processed foods, and food additives, our gastrointestinal system suffers.
What are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods contain probiotics—a term for live and healthy bacteria. These are the foods that are left to sit and steep or go to a process by which the starches, carbs, and sugars become bacteria boosting agents.
Aside from probiotics, fermented foods also have a lot of vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, trace minerals, and vitaminK2.
What are the Most Common Fermented Foods?
Here are some of the most popular fermented foods that are rich nutritional value:
Milk and Yogurt
These cultured drinks and foods are helpful for the digestive tract. Unlike other fermented food, milk and yogurt have certain types of live cultures of probiotics.
Coconut yogurt and kefir contain nutrients that are antiviral in nature. These nutrients, such as lauric acid and caprylic acid fight yeast as well as other forms of harmful bacteria in the body.
Kimchi is a favorite Korean food that may or may not contain peppers and other vegetables. Some are spicy, and some are not, but almost all kinds of kimchi are rich in antioxidants.
Pickles, made with cucumbers and spices, are high in probiotics and minerals.
Sauerkrauts are probably the most popular lacto-fermented vegetables (cabbages). The cabbages are shredded, then sprinkled with salt, and left to ferment just like how some pickled cucumbers and kimchi are prepared.
Fermented dark chocolate, green bananas, seed cheese, kombucha, cottage cheese, yeasted bread, whey, tabasco sauce, blue cheese, vinegar, feta cheese, and other aged cheeses.
Why Eat Fermented Food?
Eating the right type and the right amount of fermented food can help nourish the gut and maintain the function of our digestive system. Consuming foods that contain good bacteria and avoiding foods that feed the harmful bacterias in the gut can balance the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria, which will eventually reflect on our general health and well-being.
The Benefits of Fermented Foods
Fermenting foods have many benefits, aside from the preservation of food. Here are the most common six health benefits of fermenting foods.
1. Aids in detoxification of the body
The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods help in detoxifying the body. These bacterias are capable of flushing out a wide range of heavy metals and toxins from the body.
2. Helps fight obesity
Many studies say that some bacteria from fermented foods aid the body in retaining, while others help in shedding unnecessary calories. Restoring these gut flora (500 species of bacteria that the gut houses) are crucial when trying to lose weight.
3. Optimizes the immune and body’s defense system against infection or diseases
The skin and the gastrointestinal lining are the first lines of defense against the outside world. Housed in the gut lining are lymphocytes — key players of the immune system which are activated by compounds found in food such as cabbage and broccoli. Lymphocytes produce antibodies that neutralize pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
Another invisible helper or probiotic bacteria found in naturally fermented food like yogurt or sauerkraut is lactic acid bacteria called Lactobacillus paracasei. This lactic acid produces an enzyme called lactocepin. This enzyme has an anti-inflammatory effect of which can alleviate inflammation and prevent certain intestinal disorders or inflammatory bowel diseases.
4. Improves the mood and behavior
The good bacteria in the human gut can stimulate the cells of the intestinal lining to produce a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that has many functions. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘happy hormone’ because it contributes to happiness and well-being.
5. Helps control Diabetes
There is evidence that some bacteria found in the intestines may actually produce compounds which can increase estrogen levels that have been linked to an increased risk for diabetes.