Before we discuss the health benefits of fermented foods it is important to understand that fermented food is one of the oldest events in human history and even before humans existed. In nature, bacteria, fungi (ex., yeast), and other microorganisms are the major players in fermenting food.
And humans for thousands of years discovered this type of food processing from nature and they have never let go of it. And I am not talking about wine, beer, and other alcoholic drinks but other fermented foods that sustain our health and preserve food for when we need those life-saving calories. Without these preservation processes, food would spoil by putrefying bacteria and we can’t eat it any longer.
Fermented foods or Lacto fermented foods is when bacteria consume the sugar and other starches and produce lactic acid and one common known bacterial species is the Lactobacillus. For example, if you want to ferment vegetables such as carrot or cabbage is you:
4-You also give the lactobacilli some time to produce the lactic acid to make a hostile environment for other bacteria to grow.
5- Another option is to add raw whey as an inoculant and will speed up the process a bit faster
While the bacteria are feeding on the sugar and whatever amount of starches contains in vegetables they produce compounds that protect the fermented cabbage which becomes sauerkraut. So the next question is...
Here is a list of health benefits of fermented foods and are not in any particular order of importance:
-Consuming the live beneficial bacteria in the fermented food itself which are probiotics is one of the affordable health benefits of fermented foods when it comes to cost. Although it is true many microbes don’t survive the gastric acid in the stomach, but some bacteria species have the ability to pass through (1)
-Fermentation adds unique flavors to food which make them more enjoyable to eat. Consuming raw cabbage is not the same as consuming sauerkraut.
-Lactic acid bacteria in fermented foods provide benefits to the immune system (2).
-Fermentation process predigest the fiber which makes it more digestible and easier for the digestive system to break down and assimilate (3)
-You can preserve food for weeks and months without being spoiled thanks to the Lacto fermentation process. Our ancestors did not have refrigerators a century ago so food preservation was a critical part of their lifestyles (4).
-Because fermented foods have a significant amount of beneficial bacteria, yeast, and possibly other microorganisms which can have a positive impact on the gut flora and gut health (5). After all, this is a traditional food processing being practiced for thousands of years where societies included some amount with their meals and mostly on daily basis.
-Fermenting dairy does a similar thing by predigesting the protein to make it more readily bioavailable with fewer steps to break down and absorb.
-Fermentation process makes the food contain less sugar like yogurt, kefir, or clabbered milk. Many individuals with digestive issues can’t tolerate the sugar lactose in milk but can tolerate drinking kefir or clabbered milk.
-One of the great health benefits of fermented foods is that the cabbage which turns into sauerkraut has more vitamin C content thanks to the fermentation process which frees vitamin C that was locked in the cellular wall of the cabbage (6).
Beyond food preservation, there are an increasing number of studies addressing the question if fermented food is good for gut health or not.
Because fermented foods have been an integral part of the human diet for thousands of years the science now is validating the idea about the health-promoting probiotics in fermented foods to gut health specifically and in general to the rest of the body.
Here are some of the health benefits of fermented foods that directly (and indirectly) improve the gut health and gut flora:
-Researchers in the Stanford medicine department show that how fermented foods can increase the diversity of gut flora and subsequently decrease inflammation in the body and can also help in strengthening the immune system(7).
These probiotics such as in kefir, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods can bring balance and diversity to the gut flora as a result improving your gut health. You can’t have good gut health without a balanced and robust gut flora.
Fermented foods become pre-digested such as protein and carbohydrates therefore there is less work and energy for the digestive system to do.
Because fermented foods bring balance and diversity to the gut flora. The gut flora is your best ally when it comes to leaky gut. These beneficial microbes help build a layer of mucus which is called a microbial biofilm and this will be part of the gut wall(8). In other words, the gut flora helps to rebuild the gut wall along with of course the nutrients you supply through food. Fermented dairy such as sour cream and yogurt have soothing and improvement effects on the digestive system wall.