Last week I wrote about health supplements that may help our gut health recover from the overindulgence of the festive season. Although supplements such as glutamine, slippery elm, and aloe vera juice are great anti-inflammatory and healing supplements for our gut, sometimes it can also be helpful to increase the fermented foods in our diet.
Although fermented foods have been around for a long time, they are very much on the health radar these days, particularly when it comes to gut health and general well-being. So, what exactly are fermented foods you might ask? Fermented foods go through a natural process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food which then creates lactic acid. This not only preserves the food but also creates valuable enzymes and various strains of probiotics. Fermenting foods also preserves the nutrients as well as enables the foods to be more easily digested - hence the connection between fermented foods and gut health.
Unfortunately, the number of probiotics and enzymes in the average diet has declined over the years, mainly due to development in technology and food preparation. I use the word ‘development’ not necessarily in a positive way – where once we ate foods rich in enzymes and probiotics, the normal diet now consists largely of processed sugar, salt and saturated fat-based ‘non’ foods.
Fermented foods are in fact highly nutritious and easily digested. The fermentation process actually pre-digests the food which in turn makes the nutrients far more bio-available and quite often produces extra nutrients.
We have known for some time probiotics taken in a capsule or powder are beneficial for increasing the good bacteria in our gut. Many however have not been aware that eating fermented foods and drinking fermented drinks can be helpful in increasing the good bacteria in the digestive system. Fermented foods can also help to address the imbalance of stomach acid in the gut. When the stomach is low in hydrochloric acid, fermented foods can help to increase the acid level and vice versa if it is too high. The digestive enzymes in our gut in fact decrease as we get older and consuming fermented foods is the perfect way to increase those digestive enzymes.
To gain the best results with fermented foods, it is obviously important to eat them regularly. Fermented foods may include –
YOGHURT – I’m sure most have eaten yoghurt at some time, however, to gain the best results it is important the yoghurt be as natural as possible i.e. no added sugar (add your own fresh fruit to give extra flavour).
KEFIR – Kefir is a fermented milk drink made by adding kefir grains to milk. These grains are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast. Any type of milk can be used including cow, goat, soy, rice or coconut. Coconut water or water may also be used. When made with milk, kefir is more like a watery yoghurt. When made with water it’s a much lighter beverage.
One of the benefits of kefir is its very high probiotic content. A 2019 study (1) found kefir can contain more than 50 strains of probiotic bacteria and yeasts. Some kefirs are so potent they can be used as a therapeutic drink, meaning we would generally only take around 10ml a day. If you don’t wish to make your own kefir, you can buy kefir in many different flavours and milks.
KOMBUCHA – This beverage is a raw fermented, probiotic and naturally fermented tea. Once again Kombucha is believed to contain probiotics to provide our gut with healthy bacteria.
Making Kombucha can be fun or alternatively, you can purchase kombucha which has already been made for you, once again in various flavours.
FERMENTED VEGETABLES – I’m sure we have all tasted or at least heard of Sauerkraut which has been part of the European diet for centuries. Some may also know of Kimchi which is another fermented vegetable eaten for centuries in Korea.
These fermented vegetables are raw, unpasteurised, rich in good lactic acid bacteria, free from vinegar or flavour enhancers. They are a great addition to your meal – used as a delicious condiment with savoury dishes or as an addition to salads.
CASHEW CHEESE – These cheeses are a great alternative to dairy and even better the fermentation process means they once again contain probiotics.
There is no doubt, that gut health is imperative to our overall well-being. Now with all these options, there really is no excuse to not address our gut health.
For more information, call down to Go Vita Batemans Bay at 5 North St, Batemans Bay or phone the store on 0244729737. Don’t forget to tune into Bev on 2EC every Wednesday at 12.45 pm.
- Modern perspectives on the health benefits of kefir in next generation sequencing era: Improvement of the host gut bacteria. Dong-Hyeon Kim; Dana Jeong; Hyunsook Kim; Kun-Ho Seo. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2019;59(11);1782-1793 doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1428168. Epub 2018 Feb 9.