There are many benefits of fermented foods. Knowing what to consume to optimize health can help with certain health issues and avoid others.
Even if you’re taking prescription medicines, doctors often suggest a change in eating habits.
You may have heard before that fermented foods are good for your body, but you might not know exactly what are fermented foods and what they do for your health.
We discuss the benefits of fermented foods and beverages and provide a fermented foods list of healthy options.
Benefits of Fermented Foods and Drinks
The fermentation process is when you use microorganisms to convert carbohydrates into alcohol.
Lactic acid is often used in this process and is why some fermented foods and beverages tend to have a hint of sourness to them.
The probiotic nature of fermented foods can help your overall health in many ways, including:
Fermented food can improve digestion because of the introduction of healthy or good bacteria during fermentation.
These bacteria aid in breaking down complex carbohydrates usually included in a regular meal.
They will help your gut get rid of waste regularly and help easily digest large and hard-to-digest foods.
Helps Lower Blood Pressure and Sugar Levels
Fermented food is also known to help lower blood pressure levels by reducing or maintaining aldosterone levels, a hormone responsible for controlling a person’s blood pressure.
There has also been a lowering of insulin resistance in patients who have diabetes and take insulin regularly.
Scientifically speaking, our bodies have good bacteria that compete with bad bacteria for food.
They also secrete particular types of antimicrobial proteins and lower the intestine’s pH, helping kill or prevent the growth of bad bacteria.
That is why we don’t usually get sick when exposed to a low number of disease-causing bacteria.
Increasing the number of healthy bacteria through fermented food consumption will enhance such positive effects.
Research also shows that a diverse gut microbial flora or microbiota can help prevent chronic diseases, such as asthma, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Supports Immune Response
Additional health benefits of fermented foods is that they support immune response. Good bacteria also help improve your immune system because they enhance vitamin synthesis or production. These vitamins include B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, and K.
They also help your body absorb nutrients better, specifically vitamin C, iron, and zinc, by breaking down interfering natural substances, such as phytic acid.
Improves Heart Health
Eating fermented foods is also good for your heart. They help promote healthy weight loss, which can help improve heart functions and lower the amount of work the cardiac muscle does to keep blood flowing.
Fermented food can also help lower your LDL or bad cholesterol levels that usually cause heart problems.
Can Improve Mental Health
Anatomically speaking, there is a link between the brain and the gut, called the enteric nervous system. That means the gut has neurons or nerve cells that can influence a person’s emotion.
The gut also produces the compound serotonin that affects one’s mood.
By increasing the number of probiotic bacteria that you can get from fermented food, you’ll have more serotonin and a healthier enteric nervous system.
As such, those who eat the recommended dose of fermented foods may feel a boost in energy, a more stable mood, and less anxiety or worry throughout the day.
Gut Health Restoration
More benefits of fermented foods include gut health restoration. Undoubtedly, we took and will take antibiotics to help treat infections at some point in our lives.
These medicines kill bacteria that cause infection or disease, but they will target not only bad bacteria but also the good ones.
That is why most of us experience diarrhea and other digestive issues after or even while taking antibiotics.
If those problems are a side effect of antibiotics rather than another form of illness, restoring your gut’s microbiota can resolve them.
That is where fermented food comes in because, again, they already contain good bacteria.
You can combine fermented food with high-fiber vegetables or plant-based food for better results or consider consuming fermented varieties of the said food types.
What Are the Best Fermented Foods
Although fermented foods come with tons of benefits, several healthy fermented foods and beverages are more popular than the rest. Some of the best fermented foods and drinks are:
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that can help improve your digestive system’s functions. It is also known to help people with lactose intolerance better digest the sugars in dairy products.
This milk beverage also helps reduce inflammation in the body as well as increase bone health.
Some people have even seen patients with osteoporosis improve their bone density by taking small kefir doses each week.
Kimchi is one of the most popular fermented foods known to help lower bad cholesterol and insulin resistance. It can also aid in weight loss and lower your blood pressure.
Among healthy fermented foods, this one is common. Sauerkraut is a low-calorie food that contains lots of vitamins K and C and fiber. It can aid in digestion, improve overall eye health, and fend off diseases.
There are even some signs that sauerkraut could help prevent certain types of cancer, although more testing is needed to get concrete results.
One thing that you should look for when shopping for sauerkraut is that it should be unpasteurized.
If you consume a pasteurized option, you will not get the same number of bacteria to help your body. That is because the pasteurization process strips away the beneficial bacteria.
Sauerkraut stores well and keeps a long time.
Miso and Kombucha
These two are highly suggested healthy fermented foods or beverages when you have digestive issues. They specifically help improve your bowel movement.
Yogurt is also one of the most popular fermented foods, but most of us aren’t familiar with it undergoing the fermentation process.
It is a food rich in potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B 12, and calcium.
It can be good for weight loss, reducing blood pressure, and play a role in helping bones stay denser over time.
In addition, it is also beneficial for older adults who want to stay active because it can help with physical functions that often regress when you age.
There are many different types of yogurts on the market, and they are not hard to find. However, not just any yogurt can provide you with all of these benefits.
You will need to purchase yogurt labeled as a probiotic option since not all yogurts have the ingredients you want.
Fermentation is also known for another popular product: beer. Although you need to consume alcohol in moderation, certain types of beer have health benefits.
Belgian beer is one of the healthiest options that you can drink a few times a week to reap the health rewards.
Unlike standard beers that only go through the fermentation process once, Belgian beer goes through the process twice.
As such, it has a beneficial number of healthy bacteria that can help digestion and fight off diseases. In fact, the type of yeast used for the second fermentation process is different from that of other beers.
So, if you go out to have a drink with friends and will consume some alcohol, it could be helpful to switch from your typical drink to a strong Belgian ale.
Most popular fermented foods
The most popular fermented foods are the ones you can find in stores easily. These include:
You can also learn to make your own healthy fermented foods and drinks.
Are Fermented Foods Bad For You?
As with anything, some people can experience some adverse side effects when consuming fermented foods or beverages.
As noted earlier, fermented food and beverage are usually rich in probiotics or living microorganisms that help digest foods and fight disease-causing cells.
Though this can be good for you, some people could have digestive issues since their body is not used to the higher level of probiotics in them.
The most common effects seen are stomach bloating and an increase in gas. Both of these can make your body feel uncomfortable. As such, those who get these side effects often stay away from fermented foods from then on.
That said, if you start to feel these issues, you will want to cut back on the number of fermented foods and beverages that you consume each week and give yourself smaller portions.
It can allow your body to have a slower introduction to the new bacteria so that it won’t be as big of a shock to your system.
Additionally, since it is recommended to eat at least two servings of any items in our fermented foods list each day, you want to get to that number.
However, you shouldn’t increase the portion size of your servings. That is because having two smaller portions will keep the bacteria in your system longer than eating one large serving.
Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
It seems that fermented foods and beverages have lots of positives and not many negatives, making them a great way to boost your overall health while also getting a few extra benefits.
Eating two items in the fermented foods list each day is recommended, but that can be tough to do every day when you have a busy schedule.
So, having a few a week allows you to ease into it without having as many side effects.
You can always add more when you feel like you have become accustomed to your normal portions.