Research shows that the healthy bacteria living in our bodies improves digestion and immunity. We can boost these healthy bacteria by eating foods that contain probiotics like those found in fermented foods.
How are fermented foods made?
When a food is fermented, bacteria feed off of the natural sugars. This produces compounds that help preserve the food, and the food becomes filled with healthy bacteria and enzymes.
How do fermented foods improve health?
The healthy bacteria and enzymes help to break down the food. Simply put, they kickstart digestion before the food is eaten. As a result, the food is easier for the body to digest once it reaches the stomach. Digestive health is linked to inflammation, allergies and autoimmune disorders, which all play a role in illness. Because fermented foods improve gut health, they may also help boost the immune system to protect against illness. They may also help fight cancer. According to Tufts University, fermented cabbage has increased levels of cancer-fighting glucosinolates.
What are some examples of fermented foods?
Fermented foods have gained popularity in recent years and are now readily available. Many of these foods have always been around, but because of a renewed association with health, they get more attention.
Tempeh - made from fermented soybeans
Sauerkraut - made by fermenting cabbage
Kefir - made from fermented milk
Kombucha - a fermented tea drink
Yogurt - made by introducing beneficial bacteria to milk
Kimchi - made with fermented cabbage and Korean spices
Are all fermented foods healthy?
The bacteria and enzymes in fermented foods are healthy, but this can be overshadowed by unhealthy additives and flavorings. For example, some fermented foods can be high in sodium. Others have added sugar and artificial fruit flavors. Additionally, some fermented foods have been pasteurized to make them shelf-stable, which involves high-heat cooking that can kill the good bacteria. Stick with freshly fermented foods with little added sugar and salt, and consider making your own so that you can control additives and reap the full nutritional benefits.