Fellow foodies and searchers of good gut health - who has jumped on the fermented food bandwagon??
Fermented foods are not a new phenomenon but recently they have made fashionable comeback as a provider of 'good' bacteria that contribute to a healthy digestive system - so are they worth the hype?!
I have read a HUGE number of articles on this now, and I have decided to try these superfoods out for myself. For the next 30 days (actually I started on Saturday!) I will be eating at least one portion of fermented food a day, to see if I notice anything different, full update to follow.
What are fermented foods?
When a food is fermented, it means that it’s left to sit and steep until the sugars and carbs become bacteria-boosting agents. Historically the fermentation technique was used as a way of preserving foods and drinks long before we had fridges. During the process of fermentation, micro-organisms such as bacteria, yeast etc convert the sugars and starches into alcohol or acids. This then acts as a natural preservative. Due to this fermented foods have very distinctive, strong, and often slightly sour flavors.
Bread, yogurt, wine, beer – they all go through a fermentation stage on their road to deliciousness, but what is new about the current crop of trendy ferments however is the change to the fermentation of vegetables and fruits.
Why are fermented foods good for you?
Consuming food or drink that has gone through the fermentation process gives so many benefits to your body, but most specifically your gut bacteria. The transformations of sugar and starch in the food enhance the natural and beneficial bacteria in the food, more commonly known as probiotics - "good bacteria". It is thought that these good bacteria help a multitude of health issues, and most specifically digestive health. In addition as they are already broken down, ferments are easier to digest and help the digestive system run much more smoothly.
Studies also suggest that consuming these foods improve skin health, mood, and can alleviate symptoms from IBS. Research also suggests that they can help promote better brain function, reduce anxiety and even reduce cravings.
Good vs Bad bacteria...
The bacteria that live in our gut are essential for digestion and absorption of nutrients and they play a role in the function of our immune system. There are two types of bacteria - good and bad - and the challenge is achieving the right balance between the two. When the balance is shifted in favour of bad bacteria this can lead to bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Unfortunately most modern diets are high in refined sugar and this coupled with our busy stressful lifestyles can lead to our gut bacteria being out of whack. By eliminating refined sugars and including fermented foods in our diets it is thought this should bring our gut flora back to health and help support our digestion and immune systems.
WOW! A total of one trillion bacteria live in our digestive system - their total weight is about four pounds!
Tell me - how can I include these probiotic powerhouses in my diet?
Fermented foods are easy to fit into your diet, but some may be more beneficial than others. For instance, sauerkraut bought from the supermarket typically goes through a process using vinegar, which does not have the same reaction to the nutrients. Also, any fermented foods that have been pasteurised are a risk to health because of the contamination possibilities and susceptibility to bacterial infections. So, when buying anything pre-packaged, make sure to read the lable!
A few suggestions of food are below:
Live Yogurt - Yogurt is made by adding good bacteria into heated milk. It thickens up from the lactic acid that's produced by the bacteria.
Top your porridge or granola in the morning with Live yoghurt, or add it to smoothies. YUM!
Kefir - This is a cultured form of yogurt drink, supplying high levels of probiotics, complete protein, vitamin B12, and other essential minerals. It is particularly rich in Vitamin K and Vitamin B.
Available in most supermarkets, I love the Bio-tiful Morello Cherry Smoothie
Miso - Miso is a well-known ingredient you may have seen on menus at sushi restaurants. It's a traditional Japanese paste that's made from fermenting soybeans with salt and koji. Not only is it a complete protein (meaning it contains all essential amino acids), but it also stimulates the digestive system, strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk for multiple cancers.
The PK's favourite winter supper, is from Naturally Sassy and uses a mushroom miso topping on a baked sweet potato. Or add a tablespoon of brown miso paste to black beans, a couple of cloves of garlic, some tomato puree and cook until you have a delicious garlic black bean mash.
Sauerkraut - This fermented cabbage dish has been around for years. It is high in fibre as well as vitamins A, C, K, and various B Vitamins. It is also a good source of iron.
Look out for organic and raw sauerkraut that has not been pasteurised. Top buddha bowls or salads with this delicious tummy boosting food.
Kimchi - Spicer than sauerkraut, kimchi is also a type of fermented cabbage dish developed in Asian cultures.
Kimchi is super delicious, and apparently easy to make (this is on my to do list!) Try Nutrition Stripped's version - CLICK HERE
Kombucha - a fizzy fermented black tea
I have to say I do not enjoy this one - MPK however loves it, especially the Whole Foods version. Careful of shop bought Kombucha as it often has a lot of hidden sugars.
Sourdough - A popular one in the PK household, this bread is made from dough that is fermented. The starches and grains from the bread are predigested from the bacteria and yeast, thus making it easier to digest and a much healthier option than any processed white bread.
Toast and top with avocado, roasted tomatoes and poached eggs = happiness!
Hopefully that has tempted you to try something fermented and get your gut bacteria balanced and happy in a simple and delicious way!