Ugh, the very sound of the word fermented leaves me feeling gross. I don’t know about you, but it has taken me a while to appreciate the potential health benefits of eating fermented foods. And it’s probably TMI, but as I have gotten older (I hit the big 4-0 earlier this year), my gut health has gotten more important to me. It can truly make or break my day, and it is as simple as introducing one new food, or one bad food, that can throw me off my game all day long. Look around though, and one of the biggest health food trends is the consumption of fermented foods. Why is a food classified as fermented? Why is it so great for you? Let’s take a look…
What is Fermentation?
When it comes to food, fermented foods have gone through the process of lactofermentation, where natural bacteria have fed on the sugar and starch to create lactic acid. Not only does this process preserve the food, but is results in a nutrient-dense byproduct. Fermented foods are rich in b-vitamins, beneficial enzymes, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various probiotics. This process also retains important nutrients in the food and helps in digestion as the food is presented in a easily digestible form.
Health Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods
- Probiotics – How many of you actually take a probiotic supplement? Many doctors are now recommending daily consumption of this supplement. Instead of that, why not ensure that you are diet is rich in fermented foods and do it naturally? Probiotics help maintain the natural balance of bacteria in your gut. This process has been proven to slow or reverse disease, improve your bowels, improve digestion and immunity!
- Weight Loss – Because fermented foods help to restore the gut’s natural balance of bacteria, inflammation is reduced. In our westernized diet of convenience foods, many of us are in a chronic state of inflammation (leptin or insulin resistance). Both of these states are linked to weight gain and obesity. Fermented foods will help reduct inflammation and thereby aid in weight loss.
- Maximize the Nutrients – By consuming fermented foods, your body will absorb all of the nutrients in your foods much better. Wouldn’t it be nice to minimize the number of supplements that you have to take, simply by eating a few fermented foods? Coupled with a clean diet, and you can maximize the benefits of all those clean, healthy foods!
- It’s Cheap – Even though you see Kombucha and Kefir on the shelves at Whole Foods for a pretty penny, you can make many of these fermented foods and drinks at home inexpensively. And when you cut out all those supplements, you will really save some dough!
- Preserve your Homemade Foods – Over the last couple of years, you won’t find us grabbing a jar of store-bought salsa. We have created a delicious 5-minute Fire-Roasted Salsa recipe that is amazing. Even though we never have a problem polishing it off, it does go bad after a few days in the fridge. Fermenting the salsa would preserve it even longer, without losing the nutrients during the canning process.
Examples of Fermented Foods
- Tempeh – Made from naturally-fermented soybeans, it contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Perfect for vegetarians and vegans!
- Miso – Japanese horseradish – this amazing paste is made from soy, barley or rice. We all love it with our sushi, but it is available on everything now. Just go easy on it!
- Sauerkraut – It’s not just for New Year’s anymore. This fermented cabbage is easy to make and great for your digestive health.
- Yogurt – Simply perfection when it comes to probiotics. Make sure to have some daily, and it’s especially great for your little ones.
- Kefir – Often considered drinkable yogurt, this fermented milk is one of the latest health food trends.
- Kombucha – This bubbly tea can be either black or green, and it is usually flavored with fruit or herbs. You can now find it bottled in many health food or even mainstream grocery chains.
- Kimchi – The Korean version of sauerkraut, this is a spicy fermented cabbage. It can now be found prepackaged in most grocery stores.
- Pickles – Most everyone loves pickles, so it’s a great way to start incorporating fermented foods in your diet. Plus they make a great snack, just don’t overdo it, given the high sodium content in pickles.
- Lassi – Usually incorporated at the end of a meal at an Indian restaurant, lassi is a drink made of yogurt and milk. Often you will see paired with fruit (mango) and even some spices. This fermented drink is an incredible digestive aid at the end of an often very spicy meal.
Regardless of how to you consume them, it is clear that fermented foods are excellent for your digestive health. And with an added benefit of sustained weight loss, there’s no reason not to include these tasty options in your regular diet. Are you focused on including fermented foods in your diet? Register with us and use our food tracker to ensure that you are including fermented foods in your diet.