Fermented foods are definitely hot as evidence accumulates about the powerful disease-fighting effects of populating your gut with beneficial bacteria.
Traditional diets which were based on whole foods as opposed to Western diets which are chock full of processed foods, made it so much easier for these healthy microbes to flourish.
Fermented foods, which were customarily used to preserve foods- before the days of refrigeration- also contributed to a healthy microbiota. The process of fermentation yields a wealth of beneficial bacteria. It’s one of the reasons that when interviewed for What will you be eating in 2014? Food resolutions from doctors, dietitians and more by CTV News, my response was fermented foods (that’s on top of my usual nutrition basics of vegetables, fruits, whole grains etc.).
Fermentation can be carried out a number of ways – for example, by adding bacterial cultures to certain foods- such as in the case of yogurt making – or by pickling through the addition of salt to make a brine.
If a food has been pickled simply through the addition of vinegar, though, it is not fermented and there won’t be microbial benefits to be reaped. This may be the case with many commercially made pickles.
Here are some top fermented choices to include on your menu:
• Kefir (fermented milk drink)
• Kimchee (Korean fermented vegetable dish usually made with cabbage)
• Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
Not all foods that have been fermented with just salt will provide you with those beneficial bacteria either. Some commercial versions may be pasteurized and the resulting heat will destroy the live bacteria contained. Check labels and look for the term unpasteurized. If you’re unsure, contact the food company.
Or better yet, make some of your own fermented products. Keep in mind, that while there may be salt used in the fermentation process, the amounts you need to consume to take in the bacteria are not large. As well, when you make your own, you have more control over the amount of salt.
Up next: probiotic foods and supplements – are they worth buying and prebiotics – feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Do you ferment your own foods? What’s your favourite? Please share in the comment section below.