Kimchi and Sauerkraut: Why Add Fermented Foods in Your Diet

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People around the world who are conscious about their health and diet continuously seek for the best food items to eat. There’s been a lot of talk lately about foods that are packed with probiotics. These are good bacteria found in certain foods that are believed to boost immunity, improve digestion and according to preliminary studies, can help keep a leaner body. Great sources of these good bacteria are fermented foods, such as kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi.

During fermentation, the bacteria or yeast convert sugar to alcohol, similar to the process of making wine, beer or bread. Based on research, evidence show that fermented foods can help improve one’s health. In a study published in Nutrition Research, participants were served unfermented kimchi for four weeks, before they were served fermented kimchi for the next four weeks. When participants consumed fermented kimchi, they showed improvements in carbohydrate and cholesterol metabolism. They also showed increased weight loss. This proved to researchers that bacteria produced during fermentation is what provided the healthier results.

Longer fermentation, according to another study found in the Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, provides food with more antioxidants. Many trainers, athletes and fitness professionals like Philip Mills, the CEO of Les Mills support the inclusion of fermented food in one’s diet. Mills says, “Human biology is a complex and wonderful mix of co-dependent bacteria, and there is increasing research indicating that maintaining healthy gut and other bacteria is a key ingredient for good health. Eating fermented foods like kefir, strong yogurt, slow-fermented breads, pickled vegetables and raw dairy products (often hard to source in most industrialised countries) is an important part of this.”

Benefits of fermentation

Before the invention of canning machines and freezers, vegetables were preserved by lacto-fermentation, wherein sugars and starches in vegetables, and even fruits, were changed into lactic acid. The amount of lactobacilli produced during fermentation increases the levels of vitamins and improves the digestibility of vegetables. The lactic acid causes the vegetables to be preserved which in turn improves the growth of lactobacilli in your intestines. Moreover, fermentation is the only food preparation method that do not destroy nutrients. In fact it enhances and creates additional nutrients in food.

Likewise, it removes harmful bacteria and toxins from food. The good bacteria-fermented foods contain improve digestion, particularly when consumed before a meal. This helps you to properly absorb nutrients. Aside from preserving food, fermentation promotes important enzyme production. Fermentation also boosts your immunity. It increases the supply of lactic acid, lactase, digestive enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins.

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Fermented foods

You can find several fermented foods in the market and it’s preferable to source them from a natural, organic, local food store or farmers’ market. Here are some of the top fermented foods that are good sources of probiotics.

  • Kimchi – a very good source of probiotics. It’s good for colon health, weight loss, healthy skin, stronger immune system and lower cholesterol.
  • Sauerkraut – One serving of sauerkraut provides a good dose of probiotics to help in digestion. Raw sauerkraut is said to prevent the formation of cancer cells.
  • Yogurt – the plain, full fat yogurt is the best to buy as it does not contain sugar. If you’re able to handle dairy, look for raw, unpasteurized yogurt. There is also dairy-free yogurt made from almond and coconut milk.
  • Nattō – this is fermented soy beans that is a traditional Japanese food eaten for breakfast. It’s a good source of vitamin K2 (good for the heart), dietary fiber, iron and calcium.
  • Kombucha – fermented tea produced by combining bacteria, yeast, sugar, water and tea. It’s known to fight Staph bacteria and E. coli in the digestive tract.

In your desire to keep fit or lose weight through diet and exercise, you should also pay particular attention to your nutritional requirements. Choose natural sources of vitamins and minerals, and increase your intake of probiotics from fermented foods. It pays to understand proper nutrition so that you can supply your body with all the needed nutrients each day and replenish those that you have lost from your exercise and diet regimen.

By by LWY at flickr (http://flickr.com/photos/lwy/2143709720/) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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