We all know that probiotics are good for our health, but what food sources contain them? Fermented foods contain probiotics that our bodies need for good health. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of fermented foods and how you can incorporate them into your daily meals and contact Nutrition Dynamix to learn how to maximize your nutritional health.
What is a Fermented Food?
Fermented foods have been around for centuries, but have become a popular food trend over the past few years (for good reason). These foods undergo a process called fermentation in which bacteria and yeast break down sugars into alcohol or acids. You might be thinking... doesn’t bacteria cause illnesses? Surprisingly, not ALL bacteria is bad for us. Our bodies need healthy bacteria to keep our digestive and immune systems in tip top shape!
Foods that are fermented have a very distinct taste and smell and are usually sour and tangy. You may not realize that many fermented foods are already part of your diet such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, cider, tempeh, miso, kombucha, wine and beer. These food sources can be beneficial for your digestive and immune systems.
Are there Health Benefits to Fermented Foods?
Even though there is no standard requirement for intake, fermented foods are essential for gut and immune health and this is why it is recommended to include them in your diet as much as possible. Often, it's necessary to take supplements to obtain a sufficient amount, but FOOD should always be a priority.
These foods increase the availability of B vitamins (Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, B6, B12) and vitamin K. These are all crucial for supporting your energy levels, brain function, digestion, heart and bone health.
Improvement of gut health leads to lower inflammation all over your body. In fact, over 70% of your immunity comes from your gastrointestinal tract! Although you may see improvements in constipation, gas or bloating over time, improving your digestive health also leads to lowering your overall inflammation levels too.
What's the difference between a PRE and PRO biotic?
Both pre and probiotics work together to maintain proper digestion. Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria and probiotics increase the amount of microbes in the gut. In other words, prebiotics are food for probiotics.
Sources of prebiotics include many fruits, vegetables, and legumes such as garlic, onion, beans, cabbage, asparagus, and bananas. Probiotics come from already fermented foods, such as kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
Is there a Difference Between Canned vs. Raw Fermented Foods?
Yes! RAW fermented foods have more health benefits than the CANNED or shelf stable types. Once the food is heated, much of the probiotic is killed. In addition, once that food is fermented (without heat) it must be stored in a cool place to keep the healthful bacteria alive and keep the nutritional value.
How can you tell the difference at the supermarket? Buy fermented foods that are stored in the refrigerated section. Look for simple ingredients. Avoid those that contain preservatives like sodium benzoate/sodium bisulfate, and sugar.
Recommended Raw Fermented Foods for Health Benefits
- Other fermented/pickled vegetables (asparagus, cauliflower, bell peppers, etc.)
Learn how to make homemade sauerkraut with this recipe below.
Author: Melissa Karch, RDN, LD, CLT, Nutrition Dynamix
- 1 head of cabbage (shredded)
- 1 to 1 ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- Other seasonings of choice (optional, for added flavor)
- Shred cabbage.
- Add the shredded cabbage and salt into a mixing bowl (allow it to sit for about 10-15 min).
- Massage the cabbage and salt together until water forms.
- Add seasonings and spices of your choice (optional).
- Once the cabbage has drained enough water, move the cabbage and water into a large jar.
- Fill a smaller jar with water and place it directly on top of the cabbage to weigh it down.
- Cover the jar with a towel and a rubber band or twine.
- Continue to press the cabbage down with the jar of water to release liquid (for the next 24 hours) then remove weight.
- Allow the cabbage to sit at room temperature for a week (optional to leave it for longer if you want a more intense flavor).
- Once fermentation is complete, store the sauerkraut in the refrigerator to maintain flavor and health benefits.
This recipe could be used with red cabbage as well. Get creative with your spice combination to mix up the flavor!