Fermented foods can play a vital role in rebalancing the gut flora and providing relief for digestive disorders.
However, every fermented food is different. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what that means, and what you need to watch for it when it comes to fermented foods.
1. Fermented foods are built to last
Fermentation is a chemical process in which bacteria breaks down starches and sugars inside foods. The result is a food filled with beneficial organisms and enzymes. This process also acts as a natural preservative, so once a food is fermented, it can last a long time.
2. How fermentation happens
Fermented dairy products such as kefir and yogurt are created by adding a culture to milk, while kombucha comes from the addition of a culture to sweetened tea.
Fermented vegetables are made by cutting the vegetables into small pieces and packing them into an airtight container with salt water. Any food labeled “pickled” is a fermented food.
Aside from kefir and yogurt, fermented foods include:
- Sauerkraut – That’s right, this popular hot dog topping is the result combining fermentation with finely shredded cabbage.
- Tempeh – A popular meat substitute, tempeh is a cake made from fermented soy beans.
- Sourdough bread – True sourdough is made from milk or other foods that had been allowed to ferment to create the dough.
- Buttermilk – Originally the liquid left over after butter was churned, modern buttermilk is made by an industrial process where bacteria is added to milk.
- Kimchi – This traditional Korean food is made by pickling vegetables – most commonly radish or cabbage – and flavoring it with chili powder, scallions, ginger or other seasonings.
- Miso – You’ll find this paste – made from fermented soy beans – in soups and glazes.
“Fermentation is almost like the beginning of digestion,” University of Miami dietitian Sheah L. Rarback tells Everyday Health. Therefore, people who can’t handle milk have no trouble eating yogurt.
3. Fermented foods are healthy
Because they are filled with probiotics and enzymes, fermented foods can aid digestion, fight off disease-producing organisms, help your immune system and produce nutrients.
4. Fermented foods can help fight digestive troubles
If you’re dealing with chronic gastrointestinal issues such as IBS, fermented foods may be able to help enhance digestion. In addition, sugars in fermented vegetables and milk products have already been fermented, so that consuming these foods can result in less bloating and gas.
5. Like any dietary change, getting more fermented foods into your diet can take time
If fermented foods aren’t part of your normal diet already – that is, if you’re not used to the taste – you may have trouble incorporating them into your regular meals.
The University of Miami’s Rarback suggests making a gradual change: “any time you’re adding new foods into a diet, don’t overload,” she says. Otherwise, you risk becoming overwhelmed by – or unenthused about – your new dishes.
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