Fermented Foods

Fermented Foods - for your gut's sake!


04.03.2018 
Reading time: 3 minute 50 seconds

What is fermentation?

In simple terms, fermentation means that the sugars and carbohydrates in a food have been broken down by beneficial (or “good”) bacteria, resulting in the formation of lactic acid, which our taste buds recognize as a complex, pungent burst of flavor.

Why is gut health important?

In 400 BC, Hippocrates famously said, “All disease begins in the gut.” His words are even more true today than they were then. As the largest mucosal organ of the body, the gut plays a central role in maintaining the immune system. The intestinal lining functions as the bouncer at the door, deciding what’s allowed to pass through into the bloodstream. The characters lobbying for access range from essential nutrients to dangerous pathogens and toxins. And in order for the door to run smoothly, the gut ecosystem must be healthy.

The gut lining is a tightly woven net, permeable only to small molecules when healthy. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of factors that can disrupt this delicate lattice, including infections, toxin exposure (mercury, pesticides, and BPA), antibiotic overuse, stress, excess sugar, alcohol, and yes, gluten. When the net becomes irritated (also known as leaky gut), the lining breaks apart, allowing harmful particles to seep through into the bloodstream. The infusion of undigested food particles causes the body to attack them as it would pathogens. Over time, this immune response translates to food allergies and sensitivities.

Resetting your flora is totally possible. The GI tract is one big ecosystem, made up of over 500 diverse bacterial species. But when we talk about beneficial bacteria, we’re typically referring to lactic acid producing bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, which you may recognize from oral probiotic labels.

Benefits of fermented Foods

Gut health: When the protective lining of the gut is inflamed, the body is more vulnerable to allergies, infections, and yeast overgrowth. Lucky for us, lactic acid bacteria have the ability to reduce intestinal permeability, thereby restoring the net. They also create pH changes in the GI tract that make it difficult for pathogens to survive. Sayonara, leaky gut.

Nutritional boost: The fermentation process makes nutrients more bio-available for the body to absorb. For instance, the amount of vitamin C in sauerkraut is significantly higher than in the same serving of fresh cabbage. This is because the vitamin C in fresh cabbage is woven into the fibrous plant walls, so it’s less readily available for the intestinal cells to take in.

Detoxification: Both the beneficial bacteria and the active enzymes act as potent detoxifiers in the intestines. Beneficial microbes ferment fiber from foods like onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, and chicory root as a means to fuel their own growth. These foods are also called prebiotics, known for amping up the detoxification process.

Sugar cravings: Yeast and pathogenic bacteria feed off sugar. The more sugar you ingest, the more hospitable you’re making your intestines for harmful microbes. This creates a less-than-ideal cycle: the more sugar you eat, the more “bad” bacteria you have…which makes you crave more sugar. The reverse, however, is also true, meaning the fewer of these “bad” bacteria you have, the less you crave sugar.

Fermented Foods to Try

Kimchi

Kimchi (/ˈkɪmtʃiː/; Korean: 김치, translit. gimchi, IPA: [kim.tɕʰi]), a staple in Korean cuisine, is a traditional side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage and Korean radishes, with a variety of seasonings including chili powder, scallions, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal (salted seafood).There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi made with different vegetables as the main ingredients. In traditional preparations, kimchi was stored underground in jars to keep cool, and unfrozen during the winter months.

Kombucha

Kombucha (also tea mushroom, Manchurian mushroom, formal name: Medusomyces gisevii) is a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast" (SCOBY).

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage

Kefir
Kefir or kephir alternatively milk kefir, or búlgaros, is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus Mountains made with kefir "grains", a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in goatskin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.

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