Fermented products are growing in popularity. Two well-known items are fermented beverages like kombucha, a beverage prepared from fermented mushrooms, and kefir, a fermented milk drink. More natural food stores are carrying fermented foods and beverages because of the health benefits they offer.
What Are the Health Benefits of Fermented Foods?
One reason fermented foods and beverages are good for you is the natural probiotics they contain. Probiotics are “good bacteria” that keep disease-causing bacteria in check by competing for the same resources. There’s only so much room available in your gut for bacteria, and when the good guys move in, they push the bad ones out. Unfortunately, most people who eat Westernized diets don’t get many natural probiotics in their diet. That’s all changing as yogurt and other fermented foods grow in popularity.
Probiotic bacteria not only keep bad bacteria in check, but they also help “tune up” your immune system. You may not know it, but 70% of your immune system lies in your gut – so nurturing your gut immunity with probiotic bacteria keeps your intestinal tract healthy.
Some studies also show that these friendly bacteria offer added resistance against infection. Plus, they offer potential benefits for treating irritable bowel syndrome, some types of diarrhea and vaginal yeast infections. If you have gas and bloating after meals, probiotics may help with these symptoms, because fermented foods are a natural source of intestine-friendly bacteria.
Fermenting Foods Reduces Anti-Nutrients
Another benefit to fermenting foods, especially soy, is it inactivates anti-nutrients that block the absorption of minerals from the foods you eat. Soy contains phytates, compounds that reduce the absorption of minerals like iron, zinc and calcium from your gut. Fermenting soy inactivates these phytates, making it a healthier way to eat soy.
Examples of fermented soy foods you can buy at most natural food markets are miso and tempeh. You may have enjoyed a cup of miso soup at a Japanese restaurant and not realized you were doing good things for your intestines. Believe me – your intestines would thank you if they could.
Other examples of probiotic-rich foods are sauerkraut, kimchi (fermented cabbage), fermented cheeses and soy sauce. Just as there are fermented foods, you can nurture your intestines with probiotic beverages like kefir and kombucha.
Kefir is a probiotic-rich beverage that has the consistency of thin yoghurt and is available in different flavours at natural food markets. It has a slightly tart taste like yogurt, but you can blend it with fresh fruit for a sweeter taste. You can even make your own kefir at home.
Kombucha is fizzy and has a rather tart taste. Some companies that produce it, like Synergy, add flavors like lemon, strawberry, and cranberry to it to give it more mainstream appeal. Being an acquired taste, some people don’t like it when they first try it, but after drinking it a few times, its fizzy effervescence becomes addictive.
How to Enjoy the Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
You can experience the benefits of probiotic bacteria by simply eating a container of yogurt with active cultures every day. If you’re a little more adventurous, give kefir or kombucha a try. There are ways to make eating kefir more fun. Try making a kefir parfait by adding nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and spices to kefir. It’s a healthy way to start the morning. Sip on a bottle of flavored kombucha as a healthy replacement for soft drinks.