Fermented Foods and Your Gut Health
For thousands of years, people have been using fermentation as a way to preserve foods. Resulting in most countries of the world have their own particular, traditional fermented food.
As well as being a way to preserve foods, when you eat these fermented foods it helps to restore a good balance of the bacteria in your gut.
This means that you will be able to absorb more of the nutrients from the other foods that you eat. Plus you’ll be improving your general health and mental wellbeing.
Fermentation is a system in which foods go through a process where natural bacteria feed on the sugars and starch present in the food to create lactic acid.
As well as preserving the food, this process also produces B vitamins, beneficial enzymes, Omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics – all of which are advantageous if you want to be healthier.
Now, allowing bacteria to form in a sealed jar of food for several weeks may seem counter-intuitive, but trust me, this method really does produce a tasty side dish or even a main meal.
The two main methods of making fermented food are:
Adding yeast to sugar to produce sugar alcohols
Adding lactic-acid based bacteria (Lactobacillus) to dairy products or vegetables to aid in their preservation and increase their good bacteria content.
It’s the second method that is most beneficial for your system – particularly if you suffer from Candida or similar conditions.
Whilst it’s always good to ferment your own foods (that way you’ll always know what went into them) there are many choices available these days in most grocery stores.
However, it pays to be cautious when buying commercially produced fermented foods. Always read the labels as many products have added preservatives, colouring and cheap vinegar that are used instead of the lactobacillus.
This reduces production costs and means the process is much quicker, but also means there are very few good bacteria left in the product. It may taste the same, but has very little health benefit.
Here are some tips for choosing and using fermented foods that will be good for you:
1) Look for “No Added Sugar” on the label
Because of the natural sugars that remain in the food, once it’s fermented there will be some remaining sweetness so there’s no need to add sugar.
2) Check for organic ingredients
Organic ingredients give you the confidence that nothing has been added that shouldn’t be there.
Organic certificates are available for most fermented foods such as Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kefir, Yoghurt, Pickles, Kombucha and Olives.
3) Check that it’s unpasteurized
Products that have been pasteurized or sterilized will have had all the bacteria content killed – good or bad.
Some manufacturers add bacteria after processing, but they can’t replace the enzymes that would have been produced during the fermentation process.
4) Eat fermented foods with protein and fat rich foods.
Fatty and high protein foods inhibit your natural production of beneficial bacteria in your gut. So by eating a small portion of lactobacillus rich, fermented food at the same time, you’ll be helping to offset this.