Fermented Foods: Going Back to Basics
Fermented foods have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years, but this “new” food trend is truly having its moment in the spotlight right now. From kombucha to kefir, these fermented foods are particularly good for gut health and have potential health benefits including improving digestion, immunity, and more.
But what exactly is a fermented food and why this sudden resurgence in this trend?
Many cultures across the globe and throughout history have turned to fermentation for food preservation and the production of alcohol. Fermentation refers to the process in which natural bacteria feeds off starches and sugars in various foods. This process helps extend shelf life. You might be familiar with fermented foods like yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread. In fact, it’s hard to find an example of a culture where fermented foods don’t make an appearance.
Other fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, miso, and kefir are becoming increasingly popular in today’s food trends.
A major health trend for 2019 focuses on gut health thanks to a growing awareness of the gastrointestinal tract and the role it plays in our overall health. Along with this focus comes the question of how best to support the gastrointestinal tract through food. Insert: fermented foods. Touted for their probiotics, fermented foods are often top of mind when considering a healthy digestive system and the research is growing when it comes to the benefits of probiotic-rich fermented foods.
Some studies have shown a connection between fermented food consumption and a lowered risk for chronic disease. Research also shows that eating fermented foods may play a role in the formation of health-promoting compounds that have an anti-inflammatory effect. We recently spoke with Kate Scarlata, registered dietitian and gut health expert on the FODMAP diet and the role fermented foods play in our overall health.
But, before you stock up on pickles, kimchi, or yogurt, remember that the fermented foods must contain probiotics to have this added benefit. Heat treatment through pasteurization or fermentation using vinegars can kill off and/or not produce live organisms, so it’s important to know what you’re purchasing. Additionally, fermented vegetables are often high in sodium which can be a concern when consumed in excess. Other fermented products such as yogurt can also be high in added sugar, so it’s important to limit yogurts with excess sweeteners.
If you’re looking for creative ways to use fermented foods, check out some of our recent recipes:
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