Ever wondered why some foods like yogurt, pickles, and kimchi taste so tangy and different? Well, it turns out these are not just yummy treats; they’re also like secret agents for making your tummy super happy. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the exciting world of fermented foods to discover why they’re like superheroes for your belly.
What are fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are special types of foods that change over time due to the natural transformation that takes place. With the help of tiny living things such as bacteria, fungi, and yeast, products like yogurt, and kimchi to name a few come into the market today as it was years ago.
These minute creatures are doing their magic to change the consistency and flavors of food. Making your taste buds crave more of the sour, crunchy taste.
Fermentation has been gaining popularity recently. People are realizing how important it is to keep their tummy healthy. Studies have shown these foods are full of helpful microorganisms. That can improve digestion, boost the immune system, and as a result prevent all sorts of diseases.
So what’s the buzz about fermented foods recently? Have you noticed how popular fermented foods have become? For example, when you go to the grocery store there is a whole aisle dedicated to fermented foods only.
Next time you go to local groceries pay attention and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Fermented food has gained widespread popularity. In platforms, like TikTok, Pinterest, and Instagram to name a few. People are bombarded constantly. with ads about fermented foods.
What is the history of fermentation in food?
Fermentation was a method used by Sumerians and Egyptians to preserve foods since 5000 B.C.E. They didn’t have any refrigerators so fermentation was a God-sent. It was a means to keep the food from getting spoiled. Even though they didn’t know exactly what was happening they knew the shelf life of their food lasted longer.
Also, they made different products like bread, beer, and wine from fermenting foods. Looking at the historical perspective of fermentation can be attracted as far centuries of years. It can be found in every culture in one way or another all over the world, from modernized countries to remote villages to anywhere on the planet Earth.
A scientist named Louis Pasteur discovered fermentation occurred because of tiny living things called microorganisms. These microbes had special chemical reactions with the food they encountered. He also learned that different types of bugs do different kinds of fermentation.
During fermentation, the microbes form a chemical reaction in their medium to convert sugars to produce gases, lactic acid, and alcohol. These byproducts not only give food a flavorful tanginess but also contribute to the health benefits experienced by many. Examples of these foods are Kimchi, yogurt, etc.
Fermentation is considered the first biotechnological advancement that happened to humanity. As ancient as it may seem, fermentation is still used in many industries today as it was 10,000 B.C.E as mentioned in the Frontiers for young minds journal.
These are the 3 most common methods of fermentation that are used both for commercial and home purposes.
- Acetic acid fermentation – Used to make vinegar, kombucha, and tasty condiments
- Lactic Acid fermentation – Pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt, sourdough, and kimchi are made using this method
- Alcoholic fermentation – Help with the production of wine, beer, and other alcoholic drinks
General benefits of fermented foods
Digging deeper into the benefits of fermented foods we not only get utterly different byproducts but also the health benefits are outstanding.
Here are some health benefits you can rip from consuming fermented foods
- They prevent disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, lowering blood sugar, improving high cholesterol
- They boost the immune system by increasing nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, and Iron as a result you can regain from an infection faster.
- They increase and balance gut microorganisms which are the hub of health as Socrates said many years ago “All diseases begin in the gut”. Thus healing the gut is a way to eradicate all diseases. And now we’ll delve into how fermentation and the gut have worked together as a team in a symbiotic relationship to prevent diseases.
Here is a video outlining the health benefits of fermented food by Mediahub
Gut health and fermentation connection
The gut and fermentation have had a long complicated sisterhood since the beginning of civilization. It is the action of microbes like yeast and bacteria that have transformed fermented food into new products with great taste, texture, and health benefits.
These products can improve the health of the gut microbiome, which has trillions of tiny friendly living things that live in our guts. Their main goal is to make digestion easy and improve our health for the better. When the digestive system is healthy, it plays a domino effect on all the other systems in our body. For example cardiovascular, immune system, as well as our mental wellbeing.
A balanced gut microbiome enhances your digestion, makes the absorption of nutrients easy, and prevents inflammation.
What are the benefits of fermented foods for gut health?
Here are some benefits of fermented food for digestive health
- Fermented foods have natural or add probiotics – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria are some of the most studied microorganisms present in the gut. Fermented foods increase t species that help balance blood sugar, assist with weight loss, and decrease inflammation
- Fermentation makes digestion easy – Phytic acid is anti-nutrient that is hard to digest, it’s found in foods such as grains, nuts seeds, and legumes. This antinutrient is known to bind to minerals like zinc, magnesium making it less bioavailable. Also, it makes proteins, starches, and fats difficult to digest them. Thanks to fermentation coming to the rescue reducing phytic acid content and increasing the bioavailability of nutrients, especially in grains.
- They contain higher amounts of hard-to-find nutrients – This process can increase the concentration of vitamins, and minerals, like B vitamins, biotin, niacin, etc. It will benefit most individuals vegans, and those on a plant-based diet because they struggle to consume foods with adequate B vitamins, iron, and other trace minerals. Fermented foods have probiotics, lactic acid, and enzymes which increase the bioavailability of these vitamins and minerals in the body
Which fermented foods are good for your gut?
Here are the best-fermented foods that are beneficial for gut health
- Sauerkraut – It is a fermented cabbage, a crunchy, powerhouse full of microbes that are beneficial to the gut. Be on the lookout for unpasteurized sauerkraut where you can find live cultures.
- Yogurt – For best results use unsweetened yogurt because it has live cultures.
- Kimchi – Originated from Korea, made from fermented vegetables, a mixture of cabbage and radish. It provides great nutrients and a mixture of probiotics.
- Kefir- This is sort of a drinkable yogurt full of different types of probiotics
- Miso – It is a Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybean full of beneficial probiotics, usually added to soups.
- Tempeh – Another soybean item with a firm texture, contain lots of protein and probiotics
- Pickles(Brine-cured)- only pickles brine-cured are fermented and provide probiotics. Naturally fermented pickles are better than the ones made with vinegar.
- Traditional sourdough bread – The fermentation process is longer which makes it easier to digest and lower in gluten content.
- Fermented dairy alternatives – Instead of dairy, alternatives such as almond milk, or coconut yogurt can be useful and provide probiotics
How often should you eat fermented foods for gut health?
There are no specific times on how often fermented food is eaten. As individuals have different health needs and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Try a variety of fermented foods to give you diverse probiotics and nutrients that will give better outcomes.
- Eating them regularly will help give you a balanced diet. It is also very important to eat them in moderation to avoid nasty side effects like gas and bloating.
- Starting slow and increasing gradually is the name of the game so your digestive system to adjust. Eat foods that are fermented naturally and contain live cultures.
- Look for labels that mention. raw unpasteurized, naturally fermented, contains live cultures, etc.
Do fermented foods restore gut health?
Yes, many studies prove fermented foods can restore gut health how? An increase in the variety of the consumption of fermented foods will give you the benefits of a diverse microbiome. This helps to prevent gut disorders such as IBS, diarrhea, and IBD.
Who shouldn’t eat fermented foods?
Anyone with food sensitivity, allergies, or intolerance should approach fermented food with caution and consult with their healthcare provider. As with everything in life, moderation is the key, because overconsumption of fermented foods might trigger bloating, gas, and a host of other issues
Going slow is the key but some bloating and gas symptoms are to be expected. Because these symptoms show signs that the prebiotics and probiotics are doing their job and will go away in a few days.
How long does it take to heal your gut with fermented foods?
The answer is, it depends on several factors like the state of your gut health right now, your diet, if you are active vs living a sedentary lifestyle and what type and amount of fermented foods are you eating. So all these factors come into play for the gut to start healing which also takes time.
A study by researchers at Stanford determined a highly fermented diet increased the diversity of microbes and decreased inflammation in healthy adults within 10 weeks. The study tested two groups, that either ate fermented foods or high- a fiber diet
The first group that consumed fermented foods had increased microbial diversity. Results showed a decrease in four types of immune cells and low inflammatory proteins in their blood test. The second group who only had high-fiber foods didn’t have the same results.
As you can see the partnership between gut health and fermentation is evidence of the wisdom of the ancient traditions of the inhabitants of the world. As our consumption of fermented foods increases. We embrace a journey that nourishes our gut microbiome. This boosts digestion, supports the immune system, and promotes vitality.
So, the next time you put a spoonful of yogurt or a crunchy sauerkraut into your mouth, remember that you’re not just enjoying a delightful treat. You’re nourishing a thriving ecosystem within. which will keep you healthy and happy for many more years to come.
- Fermented-food diet increases microbiome diversity, decreases inflammatory proteins, study finds | News Center | Stanford Medicine