Have you ever heard people talking about “good bacteria” and their associated health benefits? While it might seem strange to think that bacteria could be good for you, it’s true–the human digestive system needs bacteria to stay balanced and healthy. When you consider that your gut is very closely linked to your immune system, and digestive issues can lead to a host of other health problems, keeping the bacteria in your stomach balanced should be a top priority.
Where can you get this kind of bacteria? Unfortunately, it’s largely missing form our conventional diet, but it can be consumed in the form of naturally fermented foods.
What are naturally fermented foods?
Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha, have been through a process known as lactofermentation. Essentially, they have been exposed to natural bacteria, which feeds on the sugar and starch in the food. During the process, lactic acid, enzymes, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics (the “good bacteria” mentioned earlier) are produced.
Why are fermented foods good?
In addition to the B vitamins and Omega-3s, the probiotics in fermented foods are particularly beneficial because they introduce good bacteria into your digestive system, keeping it balanced and functioning at an optimal level. These good bacteria, combined with digestive enzymes, help your body absorb more nutrients from the food you eat. On top of these benefits, fermented foods are inexpensive to make at home, and the fermentation process naturally preserves the food so it lasts a long time without losing its nutritional value. Why not just take a probiotic supplement? Fermented foods actually contain a much higher amount of probiotics than most supplements can deliver, and they are pretty tasty too!
How to get started with fermented foods
If you’re new to fermented foods, it’s important to start with small amounts so your digestive system can get used to them. Try adding a teaspoon of sauerkraut to your meal and gradually increase from there. You can buy miso, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha and other fermented products pre-made in the store, or you can try making your own. Kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are great places to start. All it takes are a few inexpensive ingredients and a little patience as the fermentation process works its magic.
You can learn more about the science behind probiotics and get step-by-step instructions on how to make your own fermented foods at home here.