The health benefits of fermented foods
Kitsa Yanniotis on the health benefits of fermented foods and choosing the right probiotic.
What are some of the health benefits of fermented foods?
When eaten regularly (and I do recommend a small serve of cultured foods or drinks with meals), cultured foods work alongside the food you are eating to aid your body’s digestion and to also help you absorb the vitamins and minerals readily available from that meal that may otherwise be lost if your body is not digesting the foods correctly. Cultured foods also strengthen the immune system and help eliminate toxins, reduce bloating and constipation.
"Cultured foods also strengthen the immune system and help eliminate toxins, reduce bloating and constipation."
Based on this, some of the health benefits my clients and I have enjoyed are better digestion, an overall feeling of well-being and happiness and stronger immune response to sickness. The other fantastic health benefit is when you properly digest your food you have a lot more energy as your body is not wasting energy trying to digest your food.
When you are eating a nutrient-rich diet and are able to digest your food fully and absorb the nutrients from that food you will notice that cravings for ‘bad’ foods soon disappear. You see, as your body becomes fully nourished it does not search out ‘quick fix’ foods to help make you feel better in the short term when seeking equilibrium.
What are some of the nutritional benefits of fermented foods?
Fermented foods are more nutritious as the process of fermentation creates a food whereby its nutrients increase one hundredfold, so in the case of sauerkraut, the vitamin C naturally found in cabbage becomes one hundred times more potent and bio-available.
They are a powerhouse of probiotic nutrition and can contain billions of Colony-forming Units (CFU's) as well as providing enzymes, organic acids, B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin K.
Fermentation also transforms foods so that they are easier to digest in their original raw form. They are easily assimilated and help digest the other foods we eat alongside them. In this instance, they act like a digestive enzyme helping to break down and predigest the food for us.
What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
This is a great question and one that many of my clients are confused by. Very simply, probiotics are friendly bacteria that line our digestive tract and are made up of a variety of beneficial bacterial strains and yeasts. They help to maintain good gut health by supporting our body's ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. We are born with them as we travel down the birth canal and the type we receive will depend on the health of our mother.
"Very simply, probiotics are friendly bacteria that line our digestive tract and are made up of a variety of beneficial bacterial strains and yeasts."
Probiotics are important to aid digestion, protect from bloating or gas and also support your immune system and good gut health. Excellent sources of probiotics include home made yogurt, kefir, cultured foods and drinks.
We can in theory also get probiotics from our fresh food however nutrient deficient soils due to over farming and use of pesticides mean we don't receive the same exposure. Our obsession with extreme hygiene also means that bacteria naturally present on our skin are depleted by the use of antibacterial soaps and children not encouraged to play in the dirt.
Prebiotics on the other hand are a form of fibre that serve as a food for the probiotic. They reach the large intestine undigested and so feed the good bacteria. It makes good sense to take these together so the probiotic can feed off the prebiotic. Good sources of prebiotics include onions, chicory root, garlic, leeks, fruit, vegetables and legumes. They are also known as fruchtooligosacchariides (FOS).
Choosing the right probiotic
Not all strains are beneficial for everyone - children especially or adults with sensitivities can have extreme reactions and probiotics can sometimes do more harm than good. Organic 3 understand this better than most and have created their range for the most sensitive consumers often referred to as the 'canary in the coal mine' who require a therapeutic probiotic to not only be gluten, dairy, soy and corn free, pure without fillers or additives, as well as being suitable to those on the autism spectrum or on special diets such as GAPS, Body Ecology, Paleo, Keto or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). They are designed to be used with a real food diet in order to maximise and absorb your nutrients.