In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people eating fermented foods as part of a healthy diet. However, while this sudden popularity may seem temporary, individuals have been enjoying these foods for thousands of years.
While it was originally a way to help preserve food, research has shown that these foods can also play a vital role in keeping your body fit and healthy. What are fermented foods, though, and how can they help you? We thought we would take a closer look.
What is fermented food?
Before looking at some of the most popular options and the health benefits they can provide, it is first important to understand what exactly fermented foods are. Fermenting is a unique preservation process that has been utilized for thousands of years. It allows people to keep food for longer.
The process involves a controlled microbial growth that sees microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast. They convert certain compounds such as sugar and starch into alcohol and acids. This helps to not only ensure foods have a longer shelf life but it can also enhance the taste. Fermented foods also have a positive impact on our gut health.
What are the benefits of consuming fermented food and drink?
Introducing fermented foods into your diet will allow you to enjoy a wide range of new and exciting flavors. It can also help to enhance your health. There are many health benefits of fermenting, including:
1) Boost your lactic acid bacteria
One of the biggest benefits of fermented foods is that they can be a great source of probiotic bacteria, which helps to restore the balance of bacteria in your gut and support your digestive health. This means that they can be a great way to help reduce the symptoms of any digestive issues you might be facing.
These benefits will depend on several factors, though, such as the level of bacteria already in the gut, the amount you are eating, and the foods and drinks you are consuming.
2) Easy to digest
As the fermentation process breaks down many of the natural sugars and starches found in your food, it makes the food much easier to digest. For example, those who are lactose intolerant will find that certain items such as yogurt or cheese cause more minor issues when eaten.
3) Maximize the nutrients you consume
The food and drink that we consume are a vital source of the vitamins and nutrients we need to keep our body functioning as designed. When certain foods are fermented, they are able to produce more vitamins and minerals that our bodies can absorb.
This is due to certain natural compounds, such as phytic acid, which is known to inhibit the absorption of iron zinc, being removed during the fermentation process.
4) Enhance your mood
Did you know your gut plays a major role in your behavior and mood? This means the foods we consume can impact how we feel. Research has shown the probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods can have a positive impact on our mood.
Certain bacteria such as Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacteria longum can help those who are feeling anxious and depressed, while Lactobacillus casei Shirota has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress.
5) Improve your heart health
Alongside enhancing your gut health and boosting your mood, consuming more fermented foods and drinks can also improve your heart health. The bacteria and nutrients have been shown to help balance cholesterol levels. They also lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of developing heart disease.
What are the best fermented foods to consume?
There is a huge array of fermented foods to choose from, which can make it tough to know which are the best items to incorporate into your diet. To help you, we have taken a closer look at some of our favorites:
Kefir is a unique and delicious type of dairy product. It is produced when mixing kefir grains with milk to create a thick beverage that is very similar to yogurt. This is a fantastic addition to any diet, and regularly consuming kefir has been shown to provide an array of health benefits, including boosting your digestion, reducing inflammation, and improving your bone health.
It is these benefits that make kefir a popular choice for those individuals struggling with the discomfort of arthritis.
This high probiotic food has long been a staple of Japanese cuisine and is made from fermented soybeans. It provides your body with a host of probiotics that can help improve your gut health. Natto is also very high in fiber, which can support your digestive health.
It is also very high in Vitamin K, which is an essential vitamin for the body, helping to strengthen your bones. Regularly consuming natto has also been shown to help prevent the risk of blood clots and high blood pressure.
This delicious fizzy fermented tea is packed with flavor and is traditionally made from green or black tea. Alongside being a tasty drink, studies have shown that kombucha can also offer a range of positive benefits, particularly in helping to prevent liver toxicity and damage. Additional research has also shown that kombucha can block the spread of cancer cells while also helping to reduce cholesterol.
This popular side dish is made from fermenting shredded cabbage in lactic acid bacteria. The result is a delicious food that is not only low in calories but also high in fiber and Vitamin C, and K. Sauerkraut is also very high in antioxidants which are known to help boost your eye health and reduce the risk of cancer.
Sauerkraut is an incredibly versatile food. It can be used in a huge array of dishes, from sandwiches and soups to casseroles, making it incredibly easy to incorporate into your diet.
Another very easy food to add to your diet and one that is fantastic for your health is probiotic yogurt. Created from milk which has typically been fermented in lactic acid bacteria, probiotic yogurts are incredibly high in calcium, potassium, and Vitamin B12.
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