With a host of recent research demonstrating the link between the health of our gut and the health of our entire body, fermented foods have experienced a bit of a resurgence – something that I suspect you yourself have quickly become aware of.
And I can assure you that this is undoubtedly a good thing.
These foods were once a key part of the human diet, but with modern advancements in agriculture (and the need for traditional methods of food preservation disappearing), their consumption has declined significantly.
Fermented foods such as Sauerkraut, Kimchi, and Tempeh (among a host of other pickled vegetables) are known as such because they have undergone a process of fermentation.
Fermentation essentially describes the process in which natural bacteria feed upon the sugar, fibre, and starches found in food, creating lactic acid as a by-product. During this interaction, the food becomes better preserved, while the bacteria also produce a large number of essential nutrients, key digestive enzymes, and of course, an abundance of probiotics.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the consumption of fermented foods has been shown to cause a huge improvement in digestive health and function, while also interacting with the rest of the body in an extremely positive manner.
In the following article we have outlined what we believe to be the top five benefits that come when you start introducing fermented foods into your diet – ensuring HUGE improvement in health and function.
Fermented Foods Improve Digestive Health
The gut is home to billions upon billions of bacteria.
For the sake of simplicity, these gut bacteria can either be described as good bacteria, or bad bacteria. As their names imply, good bacteria contributes to the healthy function of the digestive system, while bad bacteria hinder it.
It is important to note that having bad bacteria in the gut is completely unavoidable – they are found in small amounts in most of the foods we eat on a daily basis (including many of the healthy ones…). It is for this reason that our best bet is to try and keep a healthy bacterial balance within the gut, ensuring the number of our good gut bacteria remains high.
Which is exactly where fermented foods come into the discussion.
As fermented foods are full to the brim with healthy bacteria, they essentially repopulate the gut with good bacteria, boosting their numbers significantly. This in turn greatly improves our ability to break down and digest complex foods, reducing digestive discomfort and improving digestive health.
Fermented Foods Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is one of the body’s primary defence mechanisms. Occurring in response to either the invasion of harmful compounds or physical injury, inflammation describes an increase in fluid distribution to the site of an injury or issue.
This process flushes the area with antibodies and nutrients essential to healing, and also allows the removal of any harmful compounds from the body. While in the short term inflammation is quite beneficial, if left unaddressed for long periods of time it can wreak havoc with the body, causing declines in health while placing huge amounts of stress on its physiological systems.
Interestingly, inflammation can also occur in response to the consumption of poor quality foods, exposure to air driven chemicals, and even increases in general life stress.
But fortunately for us, fermented foods play a role in limiting this harmful inflammation.
The good bacteria we obtain from fermented foods actually ferment fibre and starch found within the food we eat – during which compounds known as Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs for short) are produced as a key by-product.
SCFAs are absorbed into the body, where they interact with specific anti-inflammatory cells causing a huge decline in inflammation, and improving health as a result.
Fermented Foods Improve Immune System Function
One of the key roles of good digestive bacteria is to protect the body from harmful compounds, other microorganisms, and inorganic matter. In this regard, they act as our first point of defence against the outside world.
By increasing the number of good bacteria within the gut, fermented foods improve their ability to protect the body from disease and illness. This greatly reduces the stress placed on the body’s immune system, increasing its general effectiveness while also improving overall health and wellbeing considerably.
Fermented Foods Enhance Nutrient Absorption
Fermented foods contain both an abundance of good bacteria and a huge amount of digestive enzymes. With this in mind, their consumption greatly improves our ability to break down food into key nutrients that can easily be transported from the gut and into the bloodstream.
This essentially means that we absorb a much greater quantity of the key nutrients within the food we eat and lose much less as waste.
In this manner, fermented foods can have an extremely large impact on our overall health by ensuring the body has adequate nutrients available to maintain optimal function, easily supporting its many physiological processes.
Fermented Foods Exhibit Anti-Cancer Properties
And finally, in conjunction with all of the above, fermented foods have also been suggested to prevent the development of cancerous cells.
Cancer is caused by the mutation of normal genes within our cells, causing them to malfunction and grow uncontrollably, inhibiting the function of many of the body’s systems. Research has suggested that many of the nutrients found in fermented foods have key anti-oxidative properties that fight against the formation of this cancerous tissue.
This suggests that fermented foods may play an important role in preventing the onset of cancer, while potentially offering a natural addition to more traditional cancer treatment plans.
Fermented foods were once a dietary staple, but over the last 100 years or so their consumption has declined rapidly – which is a shame because they are without a doubt one of the most health positive foods on the planet.
With this in mind, the inclusion of fermented foods in your diet can lead to large improvements in gut health, reduced inflammation, a boost in your immune system function, increase in your ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat, and even the reduced risk of developing cancer.
They are one of the few foods that could genuinely be classified as a ‘superfood’.
If you have had any experience using fermented foods to boost your health, we would love to hear about it – so please drop us a comment and we will get back to you.
Author: Hunter Bennett