What Are Fermented Foods and Are They Good for You?

Fermented foods seem to be all the rage at the moment, but are they another fad or are they actually good for your health?

Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of fermented foods to see how they might fit into your lifestyle:

What are fermented foods?

Fermenting food is known to be an effective way to preserve it and unlock additional health benefits for our bodies. It is the process of converting carbohydrates like sugar and starch into organic acids or alcohol, which means it facilitates the growth of good bacteria (probiotics).

It’s a common practice all over the world and has been for centuries, but it’s arguably only just become popular in the UK in recent years. Many of our favourite foods, in fact, involve some level of fermentation – think breads, wines, cheeses – so it’s more common than you might think.

What are some popular fermented foods?

There are many foodstuffs that are rich in probiotics and good for our gut health. The potential benefits are far-reaching, ranging from improved digestion to boosted immunity and better weight management.

Some of the most popular fermented foods include:

  • Yoghurt
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir

Thanks to the ability of the fermentation process to not only preserve nutrients, but also to unlock their potential in your body, you may get much more for your money when it comes to the health benefits of the food you eat if you opt for fermented.

For instance, your gut gets much more of the vitamin C in cabbage if it is digested as sauerkraut instead of eating it raw, as much of it simply passes through the digestive tract if it is not fermented.

fermented foods

Are fermented foods good for you?

The probiotics present in fermented foods are great for helping your immune system produce the antibodies required to fend off foreign objects in your body.  

They could also be good sources of B vitamins and vitamin K2, which helps your heart and bone health.

Several health benefits are attached to fermented foods because they help to keep your gut well-balanced and functioning efficiently, as long as you eat them in moderation. A happy gut is associated with a happy mind, too, given that 90% of the body’s serotonin (or ‘the happy chemical’) is produced there – that’s more than the brain produces – so fermented foods could also have positive impacts on mental health.

It’s entirely possible to make your own fermented foods at home, but one thing to keep an eye out for in some supermarket products is pasteurisation.

Popular foodstuffs like pickles are sometimes pasteurised instead of fermented, which means you don’t get the probiotic goodness that you would otherwise get because the good bacteria are killed in the process.

As always, be sure to check the labels before you buy so you know what you’re taking home with you.

Are there risks of intolerance with fermented foods?

The reality of the fermentation process is that it requires microorganisms like yeasts and bacteria by its very nature, which can be troublesome for sufferers of, for example, a yeast intolerance.

Such an intolerance means that your body has an inflammatory reaction to foods and drinks that contain yeast, which often manifest themselves in symptoms like bloating after eating, skin rashes or itches and tiredness and fatigue.

Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly check the products you want to buy before committing, as some fermented foods may cause more trouble than they are worth.

If you need to speak to a dietician about introducing fermented foods into your diet, please don’t hesitate to contact us today to discuss your options. It’s always recommended to seek professional advice before making significant changes to your diet.

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