Fermented Foods Are Good For You!

Think about healthy foods and what comes to your mind?  Vegetables, maybe?  Lean proteins? How about sauerkraut and pickles? No? If you believe those options sound more like hotdog toppings than nutritious foods to add to your shopping list, think again. Fermented foods provide unique health benefits, are easy to add to your diet and are suddenly back in vogue.

Here are a couple of reasons fermented foods are fabulous:

Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria support digestion, create a balance of flora in your gut and protect against certain diseases.

Nutrient Absorption: Increasing your good bacteria allows you to absorb more vitamins and nutrients from your food – whether they are fermented or not.

Food Preservation: Fermentation preserves foods for longer periods of time – sometimes months – without losing nutritional values. Store-bought foods designed to sit on a shelf for long periods of time undergo processes and contain preservatives that suck the vitamins right out of them.

What is Fermentation?

Fermented foods start out as regular foods.  They undergo a conversion process allowing bacteria to feed on the sugar and carbohydrates to produce lactic acid – which gives pickles and sauerkraut their distinctive sour taste. The process also boosts the levels of probiotics, vitamin and enzymes in the food –  which supports the good bacteria we have in our gut that helps with digestion and overall health.

For generations before the modern advent of canning and refrigeration, fermentation was used as a primary form of food preservation. Today, we buy our fresh foods from the grocery store and eat them the same afternoon – there’s need to preserve our food for long periods of time. Our purchased milk undergoes pasteurization– the process that removes all existing micro-organisms – and the notion that fermented foods could be healthy is just recently making its way back into the mainstream consciousness.

Fermentation vs Pickling

Before you load up your grocery shopping cart with multiple jars of Kosher Dills, you should know that many supermarket brands use a commercial pickling process with vinegar rather than a traditional fermenting process with salts, spices and a food’s own juices. Unfortunately, pickling does not provide the same health benefits or support the body’s “good bacteria.”  When shopping for fermented foods, make sure the ingredients do not include vinegar.

Ready to Take a Bite?

If you are not used to eating fermented foods, you may need to warm up to the taste slowly. Beneficial fermented foods go beyond traditional pickles and sauerkraut and include foods that are now easy to find in health stores and restaurants.

Miso: Fermenting soybeans with salt or grains produces miso paste which can be added to soups and stir-fry.

Yogurt and Kefir: These fermented milk products contain high amounts of probiotics and are great sources of calcium and Vitamin D. (You’re probably eating yogurt already!)

Kombucha: This tea is created from black tea, natural sugars, bacteria and yeast and includes high levels of B vitamins and acetic acid, which helps stabilize blood glucose levels.  It comes in many delicious flavors.

Now that you know about all the benefits of fermented foods, it might be time to try them out for yourself. Raise a glass of kefir or kombucha and drink to your health!

Healthy bodies start with healthy teeth. With a location in Alexandria, TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of The Greater Washington DC Area provides a holistic approach to integrative care that incorporates total-body health and wellness.