Fermentation is a process in which bacteria and yeast break down sugars. Not only does it improve food preservation, but eating fermented foods can also increase the number of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, in your gut. Probiotics are associated with a variety of health benefits, including better digestion, improved immunity, and even increased weight loss.
Here are 8 fermented foods and drinks that have been shown to improve health and digestion.
Kefir is a type of cultured dairy product. It is made by adding kefir grains (which are a combination of yeast and bacteria) to milk. The result is a thick, tangy drink whose taste is often compared to that of yoghurt. Studies reveal that kefir has many health benefits, from digestion to inflammation to bone health. In a small study, kefir was shown to improve lactose digestion in 15 people with lactose intolerance. People with this condition cannot digest the sugars in dairy products, leading to symptoms such as cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.
Kefir also contains less lactose than milk. When kefir grains and milk are combined to make kefir, the bacteria in the grains help ferment and break down the lactose in the milk. Another older study found that consuming 200ml of kefir daily for 6 weeks reduced markers of inflammation, known to contribute to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
This tangy drink can also support bone health. In a 6-month study of 40 people with osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and porous bones, people who drank kefir had better bone mineral density than the control group.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans that have been pressed to form a compact cake. This protein-rich meat alternative is firm yet chewy and can be baked, steamed or sautéed before adding to dishes. In addition to its impressive probiotic content, tempeh is rich in many nutrients that can boost your health (9Trusted Source). For example, soy protein has been shown to help reduce certain risk factors for heart disease.
A review of over 40 studies found that consuming 25 grams of soy protein every day for 6 weeks resulted in a 3.2% decrease in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and 2.8% in total cholesterol. Additionally, an older test-tube study found that certain plant compounds in tempeh may act as antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce the buildup of free radicals, which are harmful compounds that can contribute to chronic disease. Tempeh is perfect for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Natto is a staple probiotic food in traditional Japanese cuisine. Like tempeh, it is made from fermented soybeans. It has a very strong flavor and a viscous texture. It contains a good amount of fiber, 5.4 grams per 100 gram serving.
Fiber can contribute to digestive health. They move through your body undigested, adding bulk to stools to promote regularity and relieve constipation. Natto is also high in vitamin K, an important nutrient that helps with calcium metabolism and bone health. In studies including hundreds of Japanese women, natto consumption has been associated with reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women.
In an 8-week Japanese study, diastolic and systolic blood pressure decreased by 2.84 and 5.55 mmHg, respectively, while they decreased by 3 and 4 mmHg, respectively, in an 8-week North American study. weeks. Natto is often paired with rice and served as part of a digestive-friendly breakfast.
Kombucha is a fermented, sparkling, tangy and tasty tea. It is made from green or black tea and offers the powerful health-promoting properties of these beverages.
Animal studies show that drinking kombucha can help prevent liver toxicity and damage from exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Additionally, test-tube studies have found that kombucha can help induce cancer cell death and block the spread of cancer cells. Some animal studies have even found kombucha to help lower blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL.
Although these results are promising, more research in humans is needed. Thanks to its growing popularity, kombucha can be found in most health food stores. You can also make it at home, although you have to prepare it carefully to avoid contamination or over-fermentation.
Miso is a common seasoning in Japanese cuisine. It is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. It is most commonly found in miso soup, a savory dish made from miso paste and broth. Miso soup is traditionally served for breakfast.
Several studies have found miso-related health benefits. An older study of 21,852 Japanese women linked miso soup consumption to a lower risk of breast cancer.
Another older study involving more than 40,000 people linked higher consumption of miso soup with a lower risk of stroke in Japanese women. Miso may also help lower blood pressure and protect heart health. In fact, a study on rats found that long-term consumption of miso soup helped normalize blood pressure levels. Additionally, a study in middle-aged and older Japanese adults found that frequent consumption of miso soup may lead to a lower heart rate. This study also concluded that miso soup did not raise blood pressure, despite its saltiness.
Kimchi is a popular Korean side dish, usually made from fermented cabbage or other fermented vegetables like radishes. It has a wide range of health benefits and may be particularly effective in lowering cholesterol and insulin resistance. Insulin is responsible for transporting glucose from your blood to your tissues. When you sustain high levels of insulin for long periods of time, your body stops responding to it normally, leading to high blood sugar and insulin resistance. In one study, 21 people with prediabetes ate fresh or fermented kimchi. After 8 weeks, people who ate fermented kimchi had decreased insulin resistance, blood pressure, and body weight.
In another study, people followed a diet with a high or low amount of kimchi for 7 days. A higher consumption of kimchi, 210 grams per day compared to 15 grams, led to a greater decrease in blood sugar, cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol). Kimchi is easy to make and can be added to everything from noodle bowls to sandwiches.
Sauerkraut is a popular condiment made from shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. It is low in calories but high in fiber and vitamins C and K. Like other leafy green vegetable foods, it also contains a good amount of lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants help promote eye health and reduce the risk of eye diseases. The antioxidant content of sauerkraut also has promising cancer prevention effects. A test-tube study showed that treating breast cancer cells with cabbage juice decreased the activity of certain enzymes linked to cancer formation. However, current evidence is limited and research in humans is needed. You can use sauerkraut in countless dishes, from stew to soup to sandwiches. To get the most health benefits, be sure to choose unpasteurized sauerkraut, as pasteurization kills beneficial bacteria.
8. Probiotic yogurt
Yogurt is produced from milk that has been fermented, usually with lactic acid bacteria. It is rich in many important nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Yogurt has also been linked to a wide variety of health benefits.
An analysis of 14 studies showed that fermented milk products, including probiotic yogurt, may help lower blood pressure, especially in people with hypertension. Another study linked higher yogurt consumption to improved bone mineral density and physical function in older adults. This creamy dairy product may also help prevent weight gain. One study linked yogurt consumption to lower body weight, less body fat, and smaller waist circumference. Remember that not all yogurts contain probiotics, as these beneficial bacteria are often killed during processing. Look for yogurts that contain live cultures to ensure you get your dose of probiotics. In addition, opt for products that contain a minimum of sugar.
How often should you eat fermented foods?
Although there are currently no official guidelines for how often to eat fermented foods, adding a few servings to your daily diet may be beneficial. For best results, start by consuming one or two servings a day, then gradually increase your intake. Intake of probiotics through whole foods is an easy way to enjoy the benefits of fermented foods while reducing the risk of side effects associated with probiotic use, such as digestive issues.