3 Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Do you enjoy kimchi or sauerkraut? Did you know these fermented foods are beneficial for your health?

Kimchi and sauerkraut, along with other fermented foods such as kombucha and tempeh, are full of good bacteria called probiotics, which help promote a healthy gut microbiome.1

Also known as the digestive tract, the gut consists of roughly 100 trillion bacteria and microbes.1 Taking care of these microorganisms can help support general health.1,2,3

If improving your health sounds appealing, you may want to incorporate more fermented foods into your diet.

How do fermented foods work in the gut?

Fermentation is a hot topic in the nutrition space.

During fermentation, yeast, bacteria, and other microorganisms convert carbohydrates such as sugars into alcohols or acids.4 These alcohols and acids not only serve as natural preservatives, but they also give fermented foods their unique flavor.

Common fermented foods and beverages include:

  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Aged cheese
  • Kimchi
  • Sourdough bread
  • Yogurt
  • Salami
  • Sauerkraut
  • Olives

Foods and drinks with beneficial probiotics are fermented via natural processes.2 This means ingredients that are pickled by using vinegar, rather than live organisms, do not contain probiotics.

What are the health benefits of fermented foods?

Fermented foods offer a number of health benefits, including better absorption of nutrients and immune protection.4 They are ideal for:

1. Digestive health

The probiotics in fermented foods rebalance the healthy bacteria in the gut.4 This means they can reduce the symptoms of many digestive issues.4

So, if you’re grappling with bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome, think about eating more tempeh or sauerkraut.4

Fermentation also promotes easier digestion.

2. Nutrient absorption

Fermented foods support easier digestion and better nutrition by allowing nutrients to be absorbed and not just eliminated as waste. Since fermentation breaks ingredients down into simpler parts, foods that have gone through this process are generally easier to digest.4

And easier digestion may support better nutrient absorption.

Put simply, it is thought that fermentation makes nutrients more bioavailable to the body.4 The process can also enhance the nutritional value of specific foods, as it produces several B vitamins as a byproduct.2

3. Cognitive wellbeing

Did you know the gut and the brain work together?5 Their connection is in the gut-brain axis, which includes signaling between the nervous system and the digestive tract.5

Consequently, emerging research suggests a healthy gut may support a healthy mind—and vice versa. Studies show that eating fermented foods may support mood and cognitive function.5

How can you add fermented foods to your diet?

Fermented foods ranging from cabbage to ginger deliver important vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and more.6

You can buy these foods at the grocery store or prepare fermented meals yourself. Focus on quality when possible, and monitor your intake of added sugars, salt, and fat.2

No matter your approach, it’s best to start slow when adding fermented foods to your diet.2 One to three servings per day may be just fine.2

Please consult a doctor or nutritionist for dietary guidance and remember that it may take a week or two before your body adjusts to your new eating habits.

For more information on nutrition and general wellness, please visit the Metagenics blog.

References:

  1. Bilodeau K. Fermented foods for better gut health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fermented-foods-for-better-gut-health-2018051613841. Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed April 2, 2019.
  2. McMillen M. Could Fermented Foods Boost Your Health? https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20170213/could-fermented-foods-boost-your-health#1. WebMD. Accessed April 3, 2019.
  3. Schéle E et al. The gut microbiota reduces leptin sensitivity and the expression of the obesity-suppressing neuropeptides proglucagon (Gcg) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) in the central nervous system. Endocrinology. 2013;154(10):3643-3651.
  4. Coyle D. What Is Fermentation? The Lowdown on Fermented Foods. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fermentation#what-it-is. Healthline. Accessed April 2, 2019.
  5. Yan F et al. Probiotics and immune health. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 2011;27(6):496-501.
  6. Sivamaruthi BS et al. Impact of Fermented Foods on Human Cognitive Function – A Review of Outcome of Clinical Trials. Scientia pharmaceutica. 2018;86(2):22.

Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team

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