10 Week Gut Health series: Part 6
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Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. Allowing bacteria to form in a sealed jar of vegetables over a few months might not seem like the most appealing way to create a meal or side-dish, but fermentation plays an important role in balancing the bacteria in your gut.
There are two ways to ferment foods:
- Fermenting sugar with yeast to produce sugar alcohols; OR
- Using lactic acid-based bacteria (e.g. Lactobacillus) to act on dairy products or vegetables, which aids in their preservation and increases their good probiotic content. (In the case of Candida, this second method is particularly useful).
When talking about eating fermented foods for a healthy gut, the lactic acid-based bacterium is the process to look for. And, it isn’t necessary for you to learn how to ferment your own food as there are many options available to you in your local grocery store.
A note of caution: Not all fermented foods are good for restoring balance to your gut bacteria. Many mass-produced fermented foods, unfortunately, have little actual fermentation left in them (i.e. lacto-acidic beneficial bacteria). This is because of the added sugars, preservatives, colorings, or cheap vinegar used. These additives are used in place of a real fermentation process. Typical examples are the sauerkraut, kimchi, and olives that you find in your local supermarket. But, there is no need to panic. Educate yourself by reading the labels of these products and you will find that there are, indeed, options at the grocery market that fit your need for fermented foods.
Consider the following tips as guidelines for helping you choose and consume healthy, fermented foods:
- Look for foods with no sugar added. Fermented foods will typically have some residual sweetness from the natural sugars that remain in the food, so there should be no need to sweeten them further.
- Look for organic ingredients. Great fermented food options that can be certified organic include:
- Go unpasteurized. Processes like pasteurization and sterilization kill the beneficial bacteria. Even if bacteria are added back in and cultured after pasteurization, remember the enzymes in the food are still destroyed by pasteurizing. Those enzymes help you to digest foods more easily
- Consume your fermented foods with fatty and protein-rich foods. Fatty and protein-rich foods tend to inhibit the natural production of beneficial lactobacillus bacteria in the gut. To offset this, it makes sense to eat a small portion of fermented foods at the same time.
For more information on how to select healthy fermented food, check out the following video:
Next week: Strengthen Your Immune System By Improving Gut Health