Fermentation not only creates delicious flavors, but also has immense benefits to your overall physical/mental health. A huge body of scientific research has been coming out in recent years regarding how probiotic foods (foods that contain beneficial living microorganisms) have all sorts of benefits, ranging from increased digestive health, stronger immune systems, and even improved mental health. Here’s a brief overview of the many ways that fermenting foods can increase your physical wellbeing.
Digestive microbiology and probiotics
Fermented foods are known as “probiotics” because they contain live microorganisms such as beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Including these living foods in your diet has been shown to support a healthy “gut microbiome”, a complex community of microorganisms that live in our digestive systems and play a crucial role in digestion and overall health.
A diverse and balanced gut microbiome is essential for the proper functioning of the digestive system, and research has demonstrated that regular consumption of probiotic-rich fermented foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut, can help maintain and improve gut health.
The gut microbiome is closely linked to the immune system, with approximately 70% of the immune system residing in the gut. A healthy gut microbiome can help enhance the body’s natural defenses against pathogens, and also
Enhanced Nutrient Bioavailability
Fermentation can increase the bioavailability of essential nutrients in foods, making them more accessible and easier for the body to absorb. For example, the fermentation of soybeans into tempeh or miso can break down phytic acid, a compound that binds minerals and inhibits their absorption. This process allows for better absorption of essential minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium.
Some fermentation processes can lead to the production of important vitamins, such as B vitamins and vitamin K2. For instance, the fermentation of milk into yogurt or kefir can result in increased levels of B vitamins, which play vital roles in energy production, brain function, and the synthesis of DNA and RNA.
Improved Digestibility and Lactose Tolerance
Fermentation can break down complex compounds in foods, making them easier to digest. For example, the lactose in milk can be broken down into simpler sugars during the fermentation process, which may help people with lactose intolerance better tolerate dairy products like yogurt or kefir.