Why eat fermented foods? From yogurt to kombucha to sauerkraut, fermented foods are delicious! However, what you may not know is that they have many health benefits due to their natural bacteria. You have probably read terms such as “probiotics” and “gut health” but fermented foods have so much more to offer. But what are these additional health benefits and when did fermenting even begin?
The Fermentation Movement
Humans have been fermenting foods for a long, long time. Think thousands of years in the past. Japanese people were fermenting miso, Greeks were fermenting wine, Chinese were fermenting tofu. More recently, food activists such as Sandor Katz, author of “Wild Fermentation,” have been revitalizing fermentation, making these powerhouse foods quite trendy!
Health Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods
Now that you know about the origins of fermented foods, let’s talk about the multitude of health benefits that come with eating or drinking them:
Fermented foods are known for improving your gut health. What does this mean? Well, when foods are fermented, this process promotes probiotic growth. Probiotics are microorganisms that are considered “good” bacteria. This good bacteria helps with your digestive system and issues such as bloating and constipation.
Improving Your Mental Health
Fermented foods and probiotics are also linked to the improvement of mental health conditions such as stress and negative feelings. This is because of connections between the gut, inflammation and mental health symptoms. Over time, inflammation can really take a toll on your health.
Having a Stronger Immune System
Probiotics can give your immune system a boost. When you consume probiotics, you’re also inhibiting bad bacteria. A study shows that fermented milk had “significant effects” on the functioning of the immune system.
They may help you lose weight. Having a healthy microbiome in the gut is essential for your overall health, as well as maintaining a healthy weight. Adding fermented foods to your diet may also help you feel fuller longer!
Lastly, probiotics may improve your heart health. This improvement is due to good bacteria lessening cholesterol in the gut. Probiotics can also help to lower your blood pressure, thus contributing to good heart health.
Some of the Best Fermented Foods for Optimal Gut Health
There are so many healthy, fermented foods and you’re likely already eating some of them!
Sauerkraut, which is pickled cabbage, is rich in probiotics and nutrients. This food also includes fiber, vitamins B-6 and C, potassium and iron. You’ll find more probiotics in the sauerkraut that you can find in the refrigerated section of the store than the jarred or canned varieties.
Kombucha tea is a refreshing, fizzy drink that is made from tea, yeast, bacteria and often a sweetener. This drink is loaded with good bacteria, as well as B vitamins, and tastes delicious when chilled.
Kimchi is made of fermented vegetables, including cabbage and radish. It’s packed with flavor and, of course, probiotics. In this spicy and sour vegetable dish, you can also find vitamins A and C, folate and manganese.
Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and kefir are both dairy foods that are high in protein, calcium and probiotics. The difference between the two is that yogurt is fermented milk bacteria and kefir includes both fermented bacteria and yeast.
Miso and Tempeh
Miso is a seasoning and tempeh is often a side dish but what they have in common is that they are both made from fermented soybeans! This adds good bacteria to these protein-heavy foods.
Overall, fermented foods are an excellent (and tasty!) way to improve your health. Consider adding some of these probiotic-rich foods to your diet as a natural way to become your best self.
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