The art of fermenting food is not a new concept. Several cultures around the world ferment different types of food. This age-old preservation technique enhances the nutritional profile of ingredients in the food that is fermented.
Fermenting converts sugars – glucose, fructose and sucrose – into cellular energy and a metabolic by-product called lactic acid. Lactic acid improves the micronutrient profile of foods, thus fermented foods are full of probiotics, enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
Some popular fermented foods are yogurt, whey, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, nattō, kimchi and so on.
Besides the fact that fermented foods taste great, they are also healthy for your mind and body. Fermenting also extends the shelf life of foods.
Here are some of the reasons why you should eat fermented foods.
1. Restores Gut Health
Including fermented or probiotic foods in your diet is one of the easiest ways to restore your gut health.
The lactic acid produced during fermentation promotes the growth of healthy flora in the intestines. It also aids in reducing bad bacteria levels in the body, which further supports the elimination of toxins.
At the same time, it improves digestion and nutrient absorption.
A 2013 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology found that probiotics work as preventive and therapeutic measures to maintain or restore the healthy composition and functioning of the gut microbiome.
2. Removes Toxins from the Body
Your body is regularly exposed to various chemical and biochemical toxins present in food, water and the environment that are laden with heavy metals and chemicals.
Over time, this can lead to toxin accumulation in the body that can cause headaches, fatigue or sluggishness, weight fluctuations, bad breath, digestive problems and more.
You can stop this accumulation of harmful toxins by eating fermented foods.
Fermented foods help break down the nutrients in foods through the action of the beneficial microorganisms present in them. This in turn improves digestion and aids in eliminating metal toxicity from the body.
A 2008 study published in Toxicon reports that certain strains of probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods are effective in eliminating different cyanotoxins from aqueous solutions.
3. Supports Immune Function
The intestines contain more immune cells than the rest of the body. By keeping your intestines healthy with the help of good microbes present in fermented foods, you can build your immunity, too.
A lack of these beneficial bacteria allows harmful microbes to grow, leading to inflammation in the gut wall that is linked to diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
A 2013 study published in Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology reports that gut microbes play a key role in the immune system, and these microbes may hold the key to dealing with some of the more significant health problems that people face.
4. Boosts Brain Health
Including fermented foods in your diet also benefits your brain. The gut and brain are linked through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The gut is lined with neurons that are linked to a healthy mind.
A 2014 animal study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods that may be associated with mental health.
Also, the microbes associated with fermented foods may influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways.
Furthermore, a 2015 animal study published in Nutritional Neuroscience reports that whey (a type of fermented drink) may be useful in preventing neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and enhancing learning and memory in healthy human subjects. However, human clinical trials are needed to evaluate this potential benefit.
5. Reduces Cancer Risk
Fermented foods also help prevent cancer, especially bladder cancer. This is mainly due to the introduction of good bacteria into the body through fermented foods.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that high intake of cultured milk may lower the risk of developing bladder cancer.
Another study published in 2010 in the American Journal of Epidemiology provides weak evidence that bladder cancer risk is inversely associated with low intake of fermented dairy products and suggests a positive association with butter intake in women.
There is also evidence that the incidence of breast cancer is much lower in women who eat fermented foods on a regular basis.
6. Improves Energy Level
Eating fermented foods is also linked to better metabolism. This happens due to the microbes in fermented foods aiding the chemical breakdown of food for fuel.
Also, they aid the body’s absorption of nutrients from foods, leaving you feeling more energetic throughout the day.
Plus, they help flush toxins out of the body. Accumulation of toxins can affect your energy level.