The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
By: Jenn Moss
Fermented foods have been around for decades, providing sustenance for months after the food was prepared. The use was mainly for survival, as certain crops were not available year-round. During the process of food fermentation, bacteria, yeast, or fungi convert into organic compounds and convert starches and sugar into alcohol or acids. This lactic acid serves as a natural preservative for fruits and vegetables.
Fermented foods have a very distinctive taste, often pungent, sour, and effervescent (some little bubbles). These kinds of foods may be an acquired taste for some, but if giving them a chance may be great for your overall health.
Here are some great examples of fermented food:
A traditional Korean dish that is often made of fermented cabbage, radish, and a variety of seasonings. It packs a bit of a punch, a little kick of spice, but can also be very addicting, and makes a yummy side dish.
Another dish made of sliced cabbage, sauerkraut may be easier to eat if spice is not something you love to eat. The sour taste that accompanies it is from the lactic acid bacteria that are built during the fermentation process.
A fermented dairy drink that is made of probiotic-rich strains. You can find it in many flavors such as mango, strawberry, blueberry, and more. Kefir is great as a treat or consumed daily for its probiotic qualities.
This may surprise you, but some bread is made from the fermentation process. For example, true sourdough bread is made from this process, hence how it gets the sour taste.
Furthermore, those who are gluten-sensitive often find that true sourdough is easier to digest because it is fermented and easier on the gut.
Here are some health benefits to be aware of:
A Good Source of Probiotics
The probiotics, a byproduct of good bacteria, found in fermented food, are amazing for your gut health. Your gut is extremely important for your overall health, but more specifically plays a big role in immune function, digestive, and heart health.
Increased Mental Health and Mood
This may come to a shock, but your gut is connected to your brain health. The gut and brain are connected through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The gut is aligned with neurons that affect our moods and emotions. By getting your gut health in check, you may notice an increase in your mood and perhaps a more relaxed state of mind.
Heightened Ability to Digest
If you are someone who is lactose intolerant, you have trouble breaking down the enzyme, lactase. However, in fermented foods such as cheese and yogurt, the lactose is broken down during the fermentation process, making them easier to consume without stomach troubles.
Additionally, as we mentioned before, sourdough is easier to digest for those who are sensitive to gluten, as it is partially broken down during the fermentation process.
Because of the recent popularity in fermented foods, buying them in the store can become costly. You may want to consider making them at home if you have the time and resources!