Healthy Digestion/Fermented Foods For The Gut
Fermented Foods For The Gutby Hannah Nguyen ● 17/01/2022 ● 6 min read
Kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut.
These sweet, tangy treats are a staple of most people's diets thanks to their distinct taste, flavor, and aroma.
But little did people know about the nutritional benefits fermented foods contain.
For example, a 6-week study involving 274 adults with IBS showed that consuming 4.4 ounces of yogurt-like fermented milk everyday improved the symptoms such as bloating and stool frequency .
Another study from France showed that consumption of a fermented drink containing a strain of L. casei helped reduce the duration of common infectious diseases.
It's no wonder medical experts recommend two to three servings of fermented foods per day for a healthy gut.
According to food scientist Robert Hutkins, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
"If you're consuming a diet rich in fermented foods, you're essentially bathing your GI tract in healthy, food-related organisms."
Unfortunately, the majority of people still treat fermented foods as a side dish to accentuate the flavor of their meals.
So today, let us talk about fermented foods and the benefits they could bring to your gut health.
What Are Fermented Foods, Anyway?
Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years spanning all-known cultures in the world.
From the famous fermented sharks of Iceland to the cheeses of Sardinia, people from all walks of life rely on fermentation to preserve their produce and add zest to their meals.
According to Heart Foundation, fermentation involves the introduction of live microorganisms like bacteria, molds, and yeasts into foods so they can convert simple sugars into other products such as acids, gases, or alcohol.
This process gives fermented foods and beverages their distinct aroma and taste you won't find anywhere else.
Additionally, these microorganisms, also known as probiotics, provide gut-friendly vitamins and minerals you won’t get from unfermented foods.
There are thousands of fermented foods available -- each having a unique taste and application.
The most famous ones are:
Yogurt - Made from fermented milk, yogurt is rich in probiotics, protein, calcium, and vitamins. Use it as a dipping sauce or as a thickener for your favorite shake.
Kimchi - Made from fermented cabbage and other vegetables, kimchi is full of beta-carotene and antioxidants to help improve your gut health. It's high on sodium, though, so eat it in moderation.
Sauerkraut - It is another type of fermented cabbage that is low in calories and high in fiber that is known to aid in digestion.
Kombucha - It is a type of sweetened black or green tea drink that underwent fermentation to promote the growth of gut-friendly bacteria. Drinking 1-2 cups of kombucha daily will help improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, and reduce blood pressure.
Kefir - This fermented, carbonated drink from grains provides a diverse range of gut-friendly bacteria and yeast than regular yogurt. Kefir is said to promote normal bowel movement, reduce flatulence, and offer relief to an upset stomach. If you're lactose intolerant, kefir is a much better option than yogurt.
Miso - This fermented soybean paste adds depth and flavor to soup dishes, salad dressings, and marinades. It is rich in protein and is a good source of probiotics for improved gut health.
Apple cider vinegar - This popular folk remedy may help increase stomach acid levels for better digestion. It also has anti-microbial properties that may aid in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.
Although most of these items are now available at your local grocery stores and health shops, you can always create your preserves using available vegetables, including:
- Mustard Greens
When shopping for fermented foods, always look for terms like "low sugar,” "organic,” "contains probiotics,” "naturally fermented,” and "low sodium.”
Why Eat Fermented Foods?
Here are more reasons why you should include fermented foods in your meals:
- Fermented foods can be more nutritious - Fermentation helps release certain nutrients locked inside plant structures and indigestible materials that otherwise aren’t available in their unfermented counterparts. For example, 100g of milk contains 3.4g of protein. On the contrary, 100g of yogurt contains 10g of protein.
- Improves the bioavailability of nutrients - With the help of probiotics, the nutrients locked inside the fermented foods become readily available for your body to absorb. For instance, eating sauerkraut allows you to absorb 20x more Vitamin C than raw cabbage.
- Boost the immune system - 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. By adding fermented foods into your diet, you’re promoting the growth of good bacteria responsible for fighting viruses, toxins, and fungi.
- Improve your digestion - Good gut bacteria serve as your workers who break down complex compounds from your food. As a result, you reduce the risk of suffering from constipation, gas, and bloating.
- Fermented foods are budget-friendly, too! - For example, a jar of sauerkraut nearly lasts for 5-6 months in the fridge compared to a raw head of cabbage.
Now that you understand why fermented foods are good for your health let’s look at different ways to incorporate them into your meals.
Delicious Ways To Sneak Fermented Foods Into Your Meals
You don’t have to be a seasoned chef or buy expensive utensils to get the most out of your preserves.
And because fermented foods are packed with nutrients, just a small serving is enough for your daily gut health.
Remember: consistency is better than quantity.
Eating a quarter cup of sauerkraut every day with meals is better than eating a plateful twice a week.
You see, it’s all about building a healthy habit you can stick with for a very long time.
Lastly, avoid cooking or baking with fermented foods so you can absorb all the enzymes and probiotics.
For fantastic breakfast ideas, top your scrambled eggs with sauerkraut or spicy kimchi.
Or, you can blend a cup of yogurt or kefir with a handful of frozen berries for a power-packed breakfast smoothie.
A bowl of breakfast cereals topped with a dollop of yogurt and fresh fruits should help energize you throughout the day.
For lunch and dinner, add some chopped pickles into your egg, potato, or chicken salad for added flavor and probiotics.
If you’re looking for an Asian-inspired flavor, top your brown rice with kimchi or pickled veggies plus a dash of sesame oil.
Experiment with your favorite sandwiches, burgers, and hotdogs by adding fermented onions or pickled vegetables.
Miso as part of your dressing, dipping sauce, or marinade adds a layer of flavor to your meals while giving your gut health a boost.
Grab one or two sticks of pickles to reduce your cravings without the calories.
As mentioned earlier, it’s all about sustaining a healthy eating habit by introducing different types of probiotic bacteria into your gut.
The more you’re open to trying different fermented foods, the more exciting your experience can be.
Adding fermented foods into your meals will bring extra flavors to your meals and make your eating habits healthier for your gut.
Many studies have shown that fermentation boosts the nutritional value of any food, fortifies the immune system, and strengthens the gut, all while being budget-friendly.
Just make sure to check the label of the product you’re planning to buy, so you’re always getting the maximum benefit of fermented foods.
To get the most out of any fermented food, always remember that consistency is the key. It’s much better to consume small amounts every day than a big serving once or twice a week.
And while it requires time and consistency to get used to eating fermented foods, the rewards are all worth it.
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