Nutritional Therapies
Why Are Fermented Foods Good for You?
March 27, 2019
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If you’re anything like me, the first time someone mentions fermented foods will probably make you gag. I mean, really, aren’t fermented foods rotten foods?

Get ready to have your mind blown…

No, they are anything but rotten! In fact, they are insanely good for you. I can remember my best friend telling me about all of the foods she was fermenting and thinking she was insane.

Then, it happened….

She gave me my very first kombucha SCOBY (an amazing thing that creates amazing fermented tea). Soon after making my first successful batch of kombucha tea, I was fermenting all of the things.

Many of you may not realize this, but popular foods that you’ve probably been consuming your entire life are fermented. Sauerkraut? Fermented! Yogurt? Fermented! Sour cream? You guessed it, fermented! So, see? You’ve been eating your fair share of fermented foods and just didn’t know it.

In this article, we are going to get to the nitty gritty on fermented foods and why they will totally rock your socks….and gut health.

What Are Fermented Foods?

Basically, when a food is fermented it goes through a process called lactofermentation (1). During lactofermentation, natural bacteria munch on the sugar and starches found in the food. This creates lactic acid. Once fermentation takes place, your food is preserved and chock full of gut-loving enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and a plethora of probiotic strains.

Stay with me, now. I know that’s a lot of sciency stuff to take in. It gets better, trust me!

Studies have shown that naturally fermented foods are able to more adequately preserve nutrients and make your food easier to digest. Coupled with glorious probiotics, they are EXCELLENT for your gut and overall health (2).

So Many Incredible Benefits

Surprisingly, fermented foods taste really good. You might think that they’d taste strangely, but I promise, you’ll find the fermented food of your dreams and totally fall in love with it.

Now, besides tasting amazing, fermented foods offer a whole host of health-loving benefits. There are a ton of reasons why you should consume these tasty forms of sustenance.

Let’s take a look at a few of them:

  • Probiotics: When you eat or drink fermented foods, you are helping your gut to populate its colony of good bacteria. Yes, some bacteria are VERY good for you. I know we’ve been taught that bacteria must be fought with a syringe of penicillin, but trust me, you need good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics have been shown to slow down and reverse some diseases, they help you stay “regular”, aid in digestion, and encourage your immune system to work at full speed.
  • Complements Food Absorption: Did you know that when your gut is balanced with the proper bacteria and digestive enzymes you will absorb more of the vitamins and nutrients that you consume? When you incorporate more fermented foods into your diet, that is exactly what will happen. You may start to notice that you aren’t needing to supplement your nutrients by taking so many vitamins.
  • Affordable: How often do you hear people claim that eating healthy is expensive? Well, folks, not when you add these foods to the mix! You can make scores of them right from your very own kitchen. Fermented drinks, like kombucha and milk/water kefir, are literally pennies on the dollar to create.
  • Preserves Well: Fermentation allows these foods to last a whole lot longer than non-fermented foods. For example, a jar of traditional homemade tomato sauce will only hold up for a couple of days in the fridge, right? Well, lacto-fermented tomato sauce will stay good for months. They also retain much more of their nutrition versus foods that have gone through the high-heat canning process.

Fermented Foods and Cancer

There have been some links between eating fermented foods and reducing one’s cancer risk. Yes, they are really that good, guys. They do so many amazing things within your body. It’s worth eating them in order to decrease your risk of developing cancer (3).

How do fermented foods lower the risk of cancer?

  • A good gut environment is one of the building blocks of health. When your gut is populated with good bacteria and flora from probiotics found in fermented foods, your risk of developing disease diminishes.
  • Probiotics from fermented foods increase your immune system strength. Having a healthy immune system fights off cancer-causing cells.
  • There is a positive correlation between eating fermented foods and improvement of Metabolic Syndrome and cardiovascular diseases. Metabolic Syndrome is linked to several types of cancer, so it is important to consume probiotic-rich fermented foods to ward off this awful disease.
  • Cancer survivors have been shown to recover faster and improve their health and well-being by incorporating fermented foods into their diets.
  • Fermented foods are a great source of beneficial microbes. Microbes reduce inflammation in your body’s microbiome. When this inflammation is reduced, your chances of cancer and other undesirable issues decrease.

They’re Just Awesome

I think it is safe to conclude that fermented foods are pretty darn amazing. They taste good and they’re good for you. Who knew that all of those years you spent being forced to eat grandma’s sauerkraut, you were actually improving your gut health? Kind of puts things into perspective.

Adding these foods into your diet does not have to be a weird concept. Once you start adding them into your meal plan, you’ll become more and more accustomed to their presence. Start out slowly by topping your brats with sauerkraut, having a pickle with your meal, or making yourself a batch of lacto-fermented salsa. You can even go to the store and purchase a bottle of kombucha to sip on. When you’re ready to get creative, check out my Dijon shrimp over sauerkraut recipe. The possibilities are endless.

Remember, fermented foods = excellent health.

References

1. The Weston A. Price Foundation. Lacto-fermentation [document on the Internet]. Weston A. Price Online; 2000 January 1 [cited 2019 Mar 27]. Available from: https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/food-features/lacto-fermentation/

2. Rezec, S., Kok, CR., Heermann, M, Hutkins, R. Fermented Foods as a Dietary Source of Live Organisms. Front Microbiol. 2018;(9):1785. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.01785.

3. Aragon, F., Perdigon, G., LeBlanc, AM. Modification in the diet can induce beneficial effects against breast cancer. Wolrd J Clin Oncol. 2014;5(9):455-464. doi: 10.5306/wjco.v5.i3.455.

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About author

Heather Cooan

Heather is a marketing executive turned nutrition counselor, consultant, and educator. Heather is currently a Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner candidate at the Nutrition Therapy Insititute and advocates for informed consent, bodily autonomy, and self-directed healthcare. She speaks and writes on nutrition and lifestyle interventions for improved health and wellness. Heather successfully avoided radiation and chemotherapy and healed her body of vulvar cancer utilizing a food-as-medicine approach combined with conventional interventions such as surgery. Heather has also put two autoimmune diseases into remission (Hashimotos and Lichen Sclerosus) and reversed estrogen dominance, insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, and fatty liver through diet and lifestyle change.

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