For centuries people have eaten fermented foods. Both the Korean and Japanese diets are rich in such foods and research is now finding that these cultures may know a thing or two.
What is fermentation?
Safe bacteria or yeasts gradually breakdown the sugars or starch in foods during the fermentation process. This produces alcohol or acids that preserve food, increase its vitamin content and add a tangy flavour.
Why eat fermented foods?
Fermented foods increase the ‘good’ bacteria in our gut that support our digestive system and strengthen our immune system.
We loose good bacteria when we drink too much caffeine, when we’re stressed or when we take medications such as antibiotics or steroids. A poor diet of refined sugar and processed foods boosts the bad bacteria in the gut and lowers the number of good bacteria.
Research at the University of Cambridge have found that people who regularly eat yoghurt are 24% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who never have yoghurt. This may be because yoghurt contains probiotic or ‘good’ bacteria, as well as a type of vitamin K that forms during the fermentation process.
According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, fermented foods may also promote good mental health. They believe that they can assist reduce inflammation in the body which can help brain health. These foods also increase the effectiveness off B vitamins and minerals that help regulate our mood.
Which foods should I try?
Be sure to introduce fermented foods slowly as too much too quickly will produce a lot of gas. Look for products that are ‘raw’ or contain ‘live cultures’.
Start with a teaspoon or two of fermented vegetables a few times a day and work towards half a cup with main meals. Here are some foods to look out for:
- Sauerkraut and pickled vegetables
- Kombucha tea