What exactly is fermentation and how can it affect your health? Fermentation is a chemical process that includes the anaerobic breakdown of molecules such as glucose. During this process yeast and microorganisms grow due to the absence of air. Fermentation was originally used to preserve foods, enhance shelf life of foods and improve flavor. Sounds pretty straight forward. But what is all the hype about fermented foods and what they do for our bodies?
Here are eight examples of fermented foods and their health benefits:
1. Kefir is a type of cultured dairy product that has many benefits including improved lactose digestion for those who are lactose intolerant, decreased inflammation markers and improved bone health.
2. Tempeh is a compacted cake made from fermented soybeans that can be used as a meat substitution. This is a nutrient and probiotic rich option that has shown to reduce some risk factors that cause heart disease. It can also help reduce the buildup of free radicals in the body.
3. Natto is a slippery and strong flavored fermented soybean product that contains a good amount of fiber. It has metabolism and bone health benefits when consumed and also has been shown to lower blood pressure.
More popular options:
4. Kombucha is made from a fermented green or black tea that can help prevent liver toxicity and damage. There are animal and test-tube studies that show it can block the spread of cancer cells and induce cancer cell death, as well as lower blood sugar, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
5. Miso is a seasoning made from fermented soybeans, salt and koji (a type of fungus). Studies have shown consumption can lower risk of breast cancer in women and also lowered heart rates in an animal based study. One downfall is that in instances where miso consumption is frequent (1-5 cups per day) there was an increased risk of stomach cancer.
6. Kimchi is made of fermented cabbage and/or vegetables. It has shown to lower cholesterol, reduce insulin resistance, lower body weight and blood pressure.
7. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that contains fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K. It contains antioxidants that reduce risk of eye disease and promising effects on cancer prevention. Unpasteurized sauerkraut has the most beneficial bacteria.
8. Probiotic Yogurt is made from fermented milk and contains live cultures. It also has a high concentration of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin B12. When consumed it can reduce blood pressure, improve bone density, lower body weight and less body fat.
Some things not mentioned:
Consuming fermented foods increases good bacteria in your digestive tract and helps you break down complex carbohydrates. It can also lower your intestine’s pH, decreasing bad bacteria. This good bacteria can also help your body produce vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and K.