As a nerd of all things related to gut health, I thought that I’d write a blog post about fermented foods!
Why fermented foods? Fermented foods are amazing for your guts! The health benefits of fermented foods are immense and I will cover a few of these benefits in this post. I will also share what fermentation is, nutrients found in fermented foods, and a few fermented foods that you can make from home.
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What Is Fermentation?
Fermentation is a chemical reaction. It’s a process where molecules, like glucose are broken down anaerobically. Fermentation happens when bacteria and yeasts break down and alter the microbes of the food.
In the past, people used fermentation mainly to preserve foods so that they would have a longer shelf life. Fermentation was also used to improve the flavor of certain foods.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries new approaches to food preservation were developed. Canning, pasteurization, refrigeration, freezing and preservatives were developed and slowly fermentation was considered less necessary.
However, as time has gone on, fermentation has become associated with many health benefits, which has caused many people to turn to fermentation to help support their health; specifically gut health.
Fermented food is good for you as it contains beneficial bacterial colonies. These colonies prevent spoilage and boost the nutritional value of the food.
These microorganisms that help with the fermentation process have very recently been associated with many health benefits. They are gaining a lot of attention!!
WHAT ABOUT PICKLED FOOD?
Pickled foods are not the same as fermented foods. The pickled vegetables that you buy from the supermarket shelves, the ones not refrigerated….pickled onions, pickled beets….pickles; these are all preserved in an acidic liquid – usually vinegar. Even though vinegar is a product of fermentation, these pickles are not fermented. These vegetables have been submerged in vinegar and then heated and pasteurized so there are no live and active cultures.
To find true fermented pickles…or other vegetables, look for these items in the refrigerated section of your local health food store.
Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods
As more research into fermented foods come to light, more information is being shared as to the benefits to your body of eating fermented foods. The microorganisms helping with the fermentation process provide us with a lot of health benefits. These microorganisms are known as probiotics
What are probiotics? Probiotics are live bacteria!
The activity of these bacteria when fermenting the food/beverage, give these foods and beverages a distinct flavor and texture. The nutritional profile of the food being fermented is also upgraded.
Lactic Acid Bacteria are one of the most important bacteria groups in fermented foods! These bacteria groups are found in fermented dairy (Kefir), fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi) and fermented bread (sourdough bread).
Consuming fermented foods means you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your intestinal flora. These bacteria and enzymes in turn make it easier for your body to digest food which then allows your body to more easily absorb the nutrients from the fermented food.
What are the health benefits of eating fermented foods?
During fermentation, Lactic Acid Bacteria synthesize vitamins and minerals and produce biologically active peptides (small chains of amino acids) with enzymes. These peptides have many health benefits.
- The peptide CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) has a blood pressure lowering effect.
- Exopolysaccharides (carbohydrate residues) show prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are food for your “good” gut bacteria.
- Bioactive peptides have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti allergenic and blood pressure lowering effects.
Some other health benefits of fermented foods are:
- Anti-atherosclerotic activity.
Nutrients Found In Fermented Foods
Here is a list of the vitamins and nutrients that can be found in fermented foods.
B Vitamins: these vitamins are often found together in the same foods. This is the same for fermented foods. The two main B vitamins found in fermented foods are Folate (B9) and Riboflavin (B2). Vitamin B2 helps the body to break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins to produce energy.
Vitamin E: this fat soluble vitamin is an antioxidant that protects blood vessels from free radicals.
Vitamin K: this is a fat soluble vitamin that helps with blood clotting and calcium transportation.
Folic Acid: is a form of Vitamin B9. This vitamin helps with the formation of red blood cells. It is linked to reducing depression by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels. It is also required for the proper development of the fetal nervous system.
All of these vitamins are essential for good health and are more bio available in fermented foods.
Make Your Own Fermented Foods
You’ve learned what fermentation is and the nutrients found in fermented foods so now you can start making your own fermented foods!
Making your own fermented foods is quite simple and easy to do.
Sauerkraut is one of the easiest fermented foods to make at home. All you will need are cabbage, salt, water and caraway seeds. Pack these ingredients into a clean glass jar and leave to ferment for 3 to 10 days. Here are a few recipes on how to make sauerkraut.
I also found a great recipe that shows you how to ferment any vegetable! How To Ferment Vegetables – www.runnigtothekitchen.com
Another great fermented food to try is sourdough bread! Here’s a great recipe to get you started on your sourdough starter: Simple Sourdough Starter.
I’ll be honest.
I have not tried to ferment vegetables on my own. I printed off a few fermentation recipes, but have yet to make them. However, I did buy a very yummy sauerkraut that I eat daily and, have found it to be very helpful in digesting my food.
If you are still on the fence about making your own fermented foods, then start out like I have, and buy some sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha from your local health food store. There are so many good brands to choose from!
Concerned that you won’t like the taste?
Buy a small jar of sauerkraut, or better yet, a mixed fermented vegetable blend. Or start with kombucha! This fermented drink is tangy but all you need is about 2oz daily to start. You don’t need much to feel the benefits!
Fermented foods are easy to make and they are an inexpensive way to help assist your beneficial bacteria in growing strong and gaining more “good” bacteria.
If you do decide to give fermented foods a try, be sure to start low and slow. What I mean by that is, eat or drink just small amounts of fermented foods to start. If your body has never eaten these types of foods before, it may take a bit for your body to adjust. Of course, the more your body gets used to eating fermented foods, the more of these foods you will be able to eat.
You don’t need to eat heaps and heaps of fermented food to receive the benefits. A spoonful of fermented food or shot glass of fermentd drink daily and you will feel the benefits.
After reading this article, do you think you’re going to give fermented foods a try? Comment below and let me know!
The Gut Nerd.