Fermentation is an age-old food preparation technique that has gotten a huge amount of attention lately due to its profound health benefits.
I know the word ‘fermented’ may be a bit off-putting because it can seem… unpleasant at first glance.
A few years back, I wouldn’t have even considered eating fermented food.
But I’m someone who will try almost anything. Heck, if fermentation makes beer and wine so good, then it shouldn’t be so bad (even though it’s a slightly different process). So after reading up on the health benefits of fermented food, I decided to give it a try.
And man did I have it all wrong. Not only did eating fermented food make me feel amazing, I was also pleasantly surprised that it is downright delicious. In fact, my body started to crave fermented foods on the norm.
I think it was safe to say that I was hooked (and still am).
But for those of you who are on the fence about fermented foods, consider what they can do for your body:
- Heal and seal your gut to reverse disease
- Detoxify your body
- Reverse food allergies and sensitivities
- Absorb more nutrients
- Feel all around more energized and healthy
And that just skims the surface.
The point is, when you eat fermented foods on a regular basis, your body will radiate with wellness. You will feel amazing.
What is Fermented Food?
For foods to be fermented they must have gone through a process called lacto-fermentation.
Lacto-fermentation occurs when naturally present bacteria feed on the sugar and starch found in food. When we put a vegetable such as cabbage in the right setting, the Lactobacilli begin to eat away at the sugar and starches. This gradually breaks down the food and allows healthy bacteria to multiply.
In this process, the sugars are converted into lactic acid which preserves the food. In fact, before the advent of modern day canning, lacto-fermentation was the main method to preserve food so it would last over the winter months.
The “lacto” portion of the term simply refers to a specific species of bacteria, namely Lactobacillus. It doesn’t have anything to do with lactose or dairy as some are lead to believe.
Lactobacilli strains are naturally found on the surface of all plants and even more so on plants which grow close to the ground. That’s why vegetables like cabbage are popular to ferment.
Lactobacilli are also naturally found in your digestive system, in your mouth, and several other areas.
The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
Cultures around the world have traditionally been eating fermented foods for centuries. From Sauerkraut in Germany to Kimchi in Korea, fermented foods have been a staple of traditional eating. Sadly, modern food preparation and eating habits have caused us to abandon fermented foods. As a result of this and the over-use of antibiotics, our health is suffering.
I think it’s time we revive the tradition of eating fermented foods so you can take advantage of the countless health benefits:
1. It’s a Probiotic
We need healthy bacteria to properly digest food and absorb nutrients. Unfortunately, thanks to antibiotics, pesticides, chlorinated water, and our eating patterns, many of us are deficient in healthy bacteria.
Eating fermented foods can help replenish the beneficial bacteria and even fight off pathogenic (harmful) bacteria in your gut. Probiotics have also been shown to bolster your immune system, cure psoriasis & chronic fatigue syndrome, and improve your digestion.
2 . Provides Important Nutrients
Fermented foods are fantastic sources of essential nutrients such as vitamin K2 and several B vitamins. The nutrients largely depend on the fermented food. The point is, if you ferment something, you make it much more digestible and nutrient dense.
Fermented foods are some of the best chelators out there according to Dr. Mercola. In other words, fermented foods have substances that bind to harmful toxins such as mercury. When toxins become bound to a chelator, it allows your body to easily get rid of them. It’s kind of like a garbage truck.
4. Budget Friendly
We’re all familiar with the notion that healthy foods are expensive. This holds true with store-bough fermented foods, but if you make it yourself, it’s extremely cheap. Since fermentation acts as a natural preservative, you won’t risk wasting money on spoiled food. . And since fermented foods help you absorb more nutrients from your food, you can also avoid having to take a multivitamin. More money saved.
5. Prevent Disease
It’s estimated that 80% of your immune system is your gut! With that said, probiotics are required for the development of your immune system and for the production of antibodies that fight off infection. That means a healthy gut is required for optimal health, since your immune system is the defense against all disease.
6. Healthy Behavior
Your gut is literally your second brain. Studies have shown that probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt or kombucha change your brain’s function (neurochemistry). In other words, the balance of bacteria in your gut can determine your mood and behaviors. Studies have even found that probiotics can treat anxiety and depression.
7. Fight Obesity
Consistently eating fermented foods can also help you stay thin. Several studies have shown that probiotics can help restore the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, which in turn can help you lose or maintain a healthy weight. In fact, those who are obese are much more likely to have an overabundance of a strain of bacteria called firmicutes. It’s thought that firmicutes extracts calories from sugars and deposits those calories as fat. Probiotics can help balance out your gut flora so you don’t have an overabundance of bacteria like firimuctes.
8. Absorb Food Better
I’ve said it before, but fermented foods give you a healthy dose of probiotics which will improve how well you digest food. When you digest your food properly, you get much more nutrients out of it.
9. You’ll have more energy
Fermented foods will balance your gut bacteria (flora), help you absorb more nutrients, improve your mood, and enhance your immune system. With all of these health benefits, you’re going to feel better and have more energy. It’s that simple.
10. Fermented Food Can Reverse Allergies
Food allergies like gluten or lactose intolerances have actually been linked to a lack of gut bacteria / leaky gut. So if you find out what you’re allergic to, cut it out of your diet, and eat lots of fermented food, it’s possible to reverse your food allergies. It can take a while, but it’s been done.
Getting More Fermented Foods Into Your Diet
Not only are fermented foods delicious, now you know they also provide a huge range of health benefits. It’s a really easy way to boost your health and feel better.
And who doesn’t want that?
So if you want to give fermented foods a try, here is a list to get you started:
- Kimchi (you can get one of my favorites here)
- Fermented Grains (such as real sour dough)
- Locally sourced yogurt
- Kombucha (another one of my favorites—it’s a great substitute for soda)
There are countless other fermented products out there, but these are the most popular. If you choose to ferment your own food, the possibilities are endless. Almost any vegetable, grain, or dairy product can be fermented.
You can make fermented salsas, chutneys, yogurt, or sour cream.
In my next article to come I’ll explain how you can ferment your own foods. In the meantime you can buy some to hold you over by clicking any of the links in the list.
What’s your favorite fermented food / drink? Do you have a really good recipe you like to use? I’d love to hear from you, and so would my other readers!