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13 Amazing Benefits of Fermented Foods and The Power of Probiotics

If you’re looking for holistic home remedies, adding fermented foods to your diet is one way to greatly improve your overall health. In this post, we will take an in-depth look at how fermented foods can make you feel better, and I will also give you some fermented food recipes for the easiest and best ways to add fermented foods to your diet.

What Are Fermented Foods and Why Is Fermentation Important?

Fermentation is a process during which the sugar (carbohydrates) in food change their chemical makeup. For fermentation to happen, there must be a carbohydrate source, combined with bacteria and/or yeast.  The function of the yeast and bacteria is to transform the carbohydrates into the good type of bacteria, or probiotics. In other words, probiotics are the “magic” ingredient in fermented foods that makes them so healthy.

Notably, the food being fermented needs to be sealed off from oxygen during the process. The key to fermentation is taking oxygen out of the equation. Temperature should also be taken into consideration, since heat kills the healthy bacteria that makes fermented foods so valuable. Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and pickles are all examples of fermented foods. For example, pickles are simply cucumbers that have gone through the fermentation process.

But fermentation goes far beyond tasty dishes. In fact, studies have shown that fermented foods have the potential to improve your health on a much deeper level.

Have you ever wondered why some people swear by raw apple cider vinegar, or take probiotic supplements daily? Well, this good type of bacteria – probiotics – is a supercharged form of bacteria that carries numerous health benefits.

Roles of the Gut

According to Dan Peterson of John Hopkins University School of Medicine, “A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract”.  Since your gut is an anchor to your overall health, the merits of eating fermented foods goes far beyond strengthening your immune system.

The 13 Amazing Health Benefits of Fermented Foods: Why Are Fermented Foods Good for You?

There are numerous illnesses and ailments these superfoods fight. Below, I will cover a number of health benefits from eating fermented foods.  According to The Journal of Applied Microbiology, fermented foods and their probiotics have the following health benefits:

1. Reduce Inflammation:

If you’re suffering from inflammation of any sort, fermented foods will help. For example, since fermented foods reduce inflammation, they can greatly reduce discomfort from arthritis.

2. H. pylori Prevention:

Another benefit of probiotic-rich foods is building up resistance against H. pylori infection. If left untreated, this type of infection can lead to painful ulcers.

3. Blood Pressure:

Do you struggle with high blood pressure? Incorporate fermented foods into your diet, since they help lower blood pressure.

4. Gut Health:

Since fermented foods help with digestion, you can use them to treat issues like constipation, diarrhea, leaky gut syndrome, and IBS.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

5. Skin Health:

You can also expect better skin health. Fermented foods reduce the risk of developing eczema and other skin conditions.

6. Nutrient Absorption:

Since fermented foods naturally improve gut health, the probiotics help you better absorb all the other healthy nutrients in the foods you consume.

7. Immune System Support:

Expect a stronger immune system when you eat fermented foods regularly. Combine these foods with a doctor-approved immune supplement, and you’re on your way to maintaining regular good health!

8. Food Allergies:

Reduction of food sensitivities is another benefit of eating fermented foods. Consuming  the right probiotics is one way to help eliminate the discomfort you experience due to food sensitivities.

9. Promotes Energy:

Fermented foods are also a great way to combat chronic fatigue.

10. Reduces Risk of Hepatic Encephalopathy:

Probiotics help prevent hepatic encephalopathy, an illness that affects people with liver disease.

11. Vaginal Health:

One benefit of fermented foods is that they reduce the risk of vaginal infections. So, if you suffer from UTIs, consider adding probiotic-rich foods to your arsenal.

12. Cancer Prevention:

By eating probiotic rich foods, you’re reducing your risk of cancer.

13. Promotes Healthy Cholesterol:

Fermented foods help regulate your cholesterol levels.

Ready to embrace the fermented food diet?

It’s a good idea to have a go-to list of healthy fermented foods to keep you on track.

The healthy fermented foods list below contains the most popular fermented foods that are easy to incorporate into your everyday diet. Although you can buy them from your local grocery store, making fermented foods is a great hands-on approach to taking charge of your health.

Since these are all foods that contain probiotics, the benefits are far reaching – improved digestion, better gut health, and a boosted immune system. Since fermented foods naturally improve gut health, the probiotics help you better absorb all the other healthy nutrients in these foods!

Bookmark this blog post, and you’ll have a handy fermented foods list whenever you need some meal planning inspiration.

 1. Kimchi Benefits

Kimchi in jar

In addition to probiotics, Kimchi is full of other health-saving components.

Since it has a wide range of vitamins, amino acids, and plenty of fiber, it works with the probiotics to really supercharge your health.

Together, all these nutrients promote weight loss, healthy digestion, balance cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of cancer.

If you want to make this low-calorie superfood yourself, check out this homemade kimchi recipe.

2. Sauerkraut Benefits

Another excellent fermented food is sauerkraut.

Like Kimchi, sauerkraut is simply sliced fermented cabbage with spices. You can also make sauerkraut from fermented vegetables like kohlrabi, radishes, and turnips.  Along with the probiotics, sauerkraut has essential minerals and vitamins. It’s also a good source of fiber, iron, and protein. These ingredients all blend together to aid in digestion, weight loss, and heart health. Additionally, sauerkraut can help boost your mood, prevent osteoporosis, and even prevent cancer.

fermended foods in jars

Due to the high levels of vitamin A and carotenes, sauerkraut helps maintain good eye and skin health. Although sauerkraut has many benefits, it’s important to be aware of potential sauerkraut health risks. Since it has a high sodium content, you should limit your intake if you suffer from renal or cardiovascular diseases. Fortunately, using sauerkraut as a condiment on burgers or hot dogs makes it easy to consume in moderation.

Feeling adventurous? Try making sauerkraut with this recipe for homemade sauerkraut.

3. Miso Benefits

The secret behind this immune system booster is all the extra nutrients. Ingredients like zinc, vitamin K, manganese, and copper are its secret healing powers.  You can get Miso soup from most Asian restaurants.

Alternatively, you can also buy canned Miso soup from your local grocery store. Another option is to make Miso soup from scratch, since it only contains a few ingredients.

miso soup

How to Get Probiotics Without Eating Fermented Foods

When you’re working on creating a healthy food diet, it can be tough to incorporate everything into the meals you eat. Luckily, there are a few sneaky ways to add probiotics to your diet.

Apple Cider Vinegar:

One incredibly easy way to reap the benefits of fermented foods without eating anything is to incorporate raw apple cider vinegar into your daily routine. Just a tablespoon or two will do the trick. This daily habit can work wonders for your immune system!

Probiotic Supplements:

Another option is to take probiotic supplements. Just make sure to check the ingredients if you have food allergies. There are plenty of safe gluten- and dairy-free supplements on the  market.

Side Effects of Fermented Foods

Without a doubt, the benefits of fermented foods outweigh the possible side effects. However, it is important to be mindful of potential problems.

Here are a few possible downsides to consuming too many fermented foods.  Most of the time, probiotics help treat digestive issues. However, there is a small percentage of people who notice side effects like gas and bloating.

In some fermented foods, something called biogenic amines are present. Biogenic amines occur when protein is in the food being fermented. For example, yogurt contains biogenic amines since it’s rich in protein. Biogenic amines may cause headaches in people who are already prone to them.

Although it isn’t common, certain types of probiotics can increase histamine levels. This can lead to a stuffy nose, as well as other common allergy symptoms.

histamin release

Although rare, susceptible individuals are at risk of infection from certain types of bacteria or yeasts from fermented foods. This mostly applies to people who have had recent surgeries or people with histories of long hospital stays.

Again, it’s essential to realize that these risks only affect a small percentage of people. To minimize risks, tell your doctor if you start taking probiotic supplements or eating a diet that’s much higher in fermented foods than you’re used to.

Fermented Foods and a Functional Medicine Approach

Adding fermented foods to your diet or taking probiotic supplements is just one of the many ways to address the origins of chronic health diseases and ailments. If you have spent time on my blog, you know that I take a functional medicine approach. This involves treating the whole patient and addressing the underlying causes of health problems.

Establishing and maintaining the best diet for your specific needs can seem overwhelming, but I’m here to help you tailor an individualized plan. At The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine, I will help you analyse your lifestyle and determine what kind of approach is best for you.