Why You Should be Fermenting Your Foods


That unidentified container covered in blue fur might have colonized some interesting microbes but I wouldn't advocate you eating it. The fermented foods I'm talking about can be easily found at your nearest supermarket or even made a home using simple ingredients. At my naturopathic office in New York City, I have taught patients even with the tiniest of kitchens to be expert fermentors.

Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, keifir, yogurt, and even sourdough bread might be the new staples of a healthy diet. Of course they are not so cutting edge as most cultures have included fermented foods as part of their diets for thousands of years. In the past, fermentation helped to preserve foods before the advent of refrigeration because the beneficial microbes made the environment uninhabitable to harmful bacteria. Although this is no longer that important, the various health benefits of fermented foods make them powerful condiments to grace any meal.

They Improve the absorption of nutrients
Ever wondered why cows chew their cud? It’s because they are mixing their feed with micorganisms, which breakdown and eliminate phytates. Phytates are organic chemicals found naturally in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The problem with phytates is they block the absorption of zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron by forming complexes with these nutrients. Fermentation inactivates the formation of these complexes so we can absorb more nutrients from these foods. It has been shown that fermentation of quinoa decreases phytates by 82% and in lentils they are reduced by 75%. Surprisingly choosing a whole grain sour dough bread might actually be a more nutrious option than cooked grains.

They might keep you trim
Having some sauerkraut with your meal won’t magically make you slim but it may help. This could be for a few reasons. First acetic acid, one of the natural byproducts of fermentation, has found to lower the glycemic index of the meal and increase postmeal satiety. Meaning these foods might make you eat less helping you lose weight. In addition Lactobacillus curvatus and Lactobacillus plantarum both found in brined olives, pickles and kimchi an improve fasting insulin levels and glucose turnover rates, even in the presence of a high-fat diet. Now to really tip the scale, in one study, overweight and obese patients who consumed kimchi over a 4 week period showed a significant decreases in body weight, body mass index, body fat, waist-hip ratio and fasting blood glucose in comparison to the control group.

They keep you in a good mood
You may have heard that the gut referred to as the second brain. This is due to the fact that many neurotransmitters including 90% of the body's serotonin are produced in our GI tract, which is greatly impacted by the microbial environment. Certain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in both mice and human studies have shown to have anti-anxiety effects due to their impact on γ-aminobutryic acid (GABA) and serotonin and have demonstrated positive neurologist brain changes. These bacteria commonly found in yogurt and sauerkraut also increase tissue absorption of omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients key in nerve cell health. Though soy itself has gotten a bad rap consumption of fermented soy products like miso and natto has been associated with lower depression rates.

They keep colds and flus away
You might not have know this but 80% of your immune system actually resides in your gut. So have healthy intestinal flora equals a healthy immune system. Two bacteria that have been shown to a positive effect on cellular immunity are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis. Particularly one study demonstrated consuming these two bacteria for 5 weeks increased the phagocytic activity of granulocytes and monocytes. Basically your immune cells' ability to eat unwanted invaders. So a side of yogurt or raw cheese might make the compliment to your chicken soup next time you're fighting off a cold.