What are fermented foods and how can they help promote a healthy gut?
Fermentation is an anaerobic process where bacteria or yeast convert sugars in food to organic acids or alcohol. This helps preserve the food while adding a little zing to the palate.
In recent years, fermented foods are finding their way to grocery store shelves for their potential benefits on gut health.
Many fermented foods are made with the help of bacterial/yeast cultures. However, most of the finished products do not contain live or active cultures, one of the main components found in probiotics.
Fermented foods contain what is knows as “prebiotics.” However, since it is in the presence of “probiotics” we see reduction in gut inflammation, it is unclear the role fermentation has on leaky gut.
And while there are no recommended daily serving sizes, it is not clear how much we need to eat to optimize our GI system.
While we can’t always rely on a boost of “good bacteria” from them, fermented foods offer other benefits. They are rich in nutrients and vitamins while adding a punch to the taste buds.
Here is a look at different fermented options:
Kombucha is a fermented drink using green or black tea. Most of the studies outlining the benefits of Kombucha are limited to animals or test tubes. However, they show promising hope against liver toxicity, cancer cells and lowering blood sugars. Kombucha can be made at home, but care must be taken when attempting to handle live cultures.
Kefir is a type of cultured dairy product made by adding kefir grains made from yeast/bacteria. In one small study, kefir was shown to improve the digestion of lactose in 15 people with lactose intolerance. Another study found that consuming 6.7 ounces of kefir daily for six weeks decreased markers of inflammation. One study looked at the effects of kefir on 40 people with osteoporosis. After six months, the group consuming kefir was found to have improved bone mineral density, compared to a control group.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans that have been pressed into a compact cake and can be used as a meat-substitue. A test-tube study found that certain plant compounds in tempeh could act as antioxidants, helping reduce the buildup of free radicals. A word of caution when using soy: soy contains estrogenic properties and should be used in limited quantities.
Studies have shown fermented milk products like probiotic yogurt could help reduce blood pressure, improve bone health and contributes to helping maintain body fat. Not all yogurt varieties contain probiotics. Look for ones that contain “live cultures” with minimal sugars.
Maintaining a mostly plant based process-free diet is the perfect way to help preserve and maintain gut restoration. Fermented foods only assist in this process. If you have questions about this, or any other issues going on with your gut, contact our offices today to schedule an appointment.
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