The Benefits of Fermented Foods
Though fermented foods are only now coming back in vogue, they were once a regular part of our ancestors’ diets. With the invention of pasteurization and other food preparation technology, fermentation was all but lost to most of our society. Unfortunately, with its decline also came a decline in the amount of probiotics and enzymes available in the average diet.
The shocking reality is that our bodies are only 10% human. The combined mass of all microbes living inside your body is significantly larger than the combined mass of your human cells. It’s easy to see why taking good care of the microbes in our bodies is a good idea. In a sense—they ARE our body.
Since fermented foods help balance the microbes in our gut, and increase probiotics and enzymes, they can have a positive impact on our physical and even mental health. Let’s talk about how fermented foods improve digestion, provide probiotics, increase nutrient absorption, restore bacterial balance in the gut and increase immunity.
Five Benefits of Fermented Foods
1. Fermented Foods Improve Digestion
Fermenting foods before eating them is like digesting part of the food in advance. The process involves natural bacteria feeding on the sugar and starch in food, creating lactic acid—which our stomach uses for digestion. A good example is the fact that many people who are intolerant to milk can eat yogurt without any trouble. That’s because the lactose (which is the real intolerance) is broken down during the fermentation process. Additionally, the enzymes provided in fermented foods help our guts digest, absorb and utilize the nutrients in what we eat. As we age, our supply of enzymes goes down—and fermented foods are a good way to restore what we’re losing.
2. Fermented Foods are Teeming with Probiotics
Probiotics are what’s known as beneficial bacteria and they naturally occur in certain fermented foods. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines probiotics as “Living microorganisms that provide a health benefit to the host when ingested in adequate amounts.” But those little bugs deserve much more credit. Their benefits are too great to ignore.
3. Fermented Foods Make You a Nutrient-Absorbing Virtuoso
When beneficial bacterial and beneficial enzymes thrive in the gut, it is easier to absorb more nutrients. The need for supplements and vitamins decreases, as the body is able to absorb live nutrients instead.
4. Fermented Foods Restore Proper Bacterial Balance
Recent studies show that we are made up of millions of friendly bacteria. As mentioned above, they make up 90% of our bodies. As such, maintaining balance of good bacteria to bad has a tremendous influence on overall health. It’s easy for this balance to get out of whack considering how modern society uses anti-bacterial products, drinks chlorinated water, eats processed foods, takes antibiotics (even puts them in meat!) and is often stressed. All of those behaviors kill good bacteria in the gut. Bacterial imbalance often results in constipation, excessive gas, bloating, and a lowered ability to absorb nutrients in the body. More disruptive problems can develop over time, including allergies and autoimmune diseases.
5. Fermented Foods Increase Immunity
The gut doesn’t simply process food for elimination. It actually houses 85% of the immune system. Studies from as far back as 1948 report that the gut uses acid to kill disease-causing bacteria, worms, viruses, and fungi. All the while, the gut allows beneficial microbes to pass through. Without a balanced gut, fighting pathogens will be unsuccessful. We need beneficial bacteria to be in tip-top shape in order to wage war against disease and illness.
There is one more, tiny little benefit to fermented foods—they taste delicious.
One thing is clear—it takes guts to be healthy. Take care of yours with fermented foods.