Fermented foods have come back into fashion in the last few years and I can hear our gut raising a 'Hallelujah'!
Research exploring the benefits of these and other fermented products on the gut, brain, and body health has revived a great deal of interest.
The fermentation process encourages essential bacteria to flourish and colonise. Our bodies also contain trillions of different strains of bacteria. These good bacteria - particularly those in our gut - may improve digestion, boost immunity and even help us get leaner.
As you can see, these mighty microbes are essential components of our health. There’s plenty you can do now to encourage their growth and the most effective way is by eating foods packed with probiotics (the good bacteria that live in your gut and show up in fermented foods).
What are fermented foods?
When a food is fermented, it means that it’s left to sit until the sugars and carbohydrates become bacteria-boosting agents. The fermentation of vegetables is also a great way to preserve them for a longer period of time. This gives you the option to make a large batch and have a ready-to-eat dose of microflora at your disposal for a very long time. The good bacteria break down lactose and other sugars and starches in the food, making digestion easier. And once they reach your gut, they continue to help break down food and keep out the bad guys like E. coli and C. difficile.
Gut bacteria line the stomach and intestines and help you to digest your food. They help the body absorb foods, vitamins and minerals and also link with our immune system. Good bacteria can help strengthen the immune system, whilst bad bacteria can cause inflammation and illness.
Gut problems are hard to see on the inside of your body, but there are a number of signs that are visible on the outside to take note of. Unhealthy skin and hair, poor digestion and bathroom problems, irritability, cramping, bloating, gas, tiredness and more… sound familiar?
Fermented foods you can prepare at home
We have the opportunity to purchase ready-made options of fermented foods; however, cultivating your own versions at home can be a satisfying way of taking healing into your own hands.
Create an area in your kitchen for some happy bacteria fermenting and get the family to help out, too! Soon you will be a master fermenter and you will explore different taste examples and ways to get the most out of your fermenting.
Here are the common fermented foods available for you to try. Incorporating a couple of varieties into your daily meals is a great way to build health from the gut:
Kefir is a fermented milk product (cow, goat or sheep milk) that tastes like drinkable yoghurt. Kefir benefits include high levels of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes, and probiotics. It boosts immunity, heals irritable bowel disease, builds bone density, fights allergies, kills candida and improves digestion.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage of black tea and sugar (from various sources like cane sugar, fruit or honey). There are many reasons to consume kombucha. For starters, it contains a colony of bacteria and yeast that are responsible for initiating the fermentation process once combined with sugar. After being fermented, kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, B-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic and lactic). It is advisable to drink kombucha every day because it improves digestion, helps with weight loss, increases energy, detoxes the body, supports the immune system, reduces joint pain and prevents cancer.
Sauerkraut is one of the oldest traditional foods. Made from fermented cabbage, it’s high in dietary fibre and vitamins A, C, K and B complex. It’s also a great source of iron, copper, calcium, sodium, manganese, and magnesium. Sauerkraut has a variety of beneficial effects on human health: it boosts digestive health, aids circulation, fights inflammation, strengthens bones and reduces cholesterol levels. Make sure you choose freshly made sauerkraut and not a tinned option—better still make your own from cabbage, carrots, beetroot, etc.
Pickles contain a ton of vitamins and minerals, plus antioxidants and gut-friendly bacteria. When choosing a jar of pickles, go with a food manufacturer that uses organic products. If you can find a local maker, you’ll be getting some of the best probiotics for your health. Better still, create your own and share them with your friends!
Miso (Japanese miso paste) is created by fermenting soybean, barley or brown rice with koji, a fungus. Miso has anti-ageing properties and helps to maintain healthy skin. It also boosts the immune system, lowers the risk of cancer, improves bone health and promotes a healthy nervous system.
Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that is created by adding a tempeh starter (which is a mix of live mould). When it sits for a day or two, it becomes a cake-like product. Tempeh reduces cholesterol, increases bone density, reduces menopausal symptoms, promotes muscle recovery and has the same protein quality as meat. It contains high levels of vitamins B5, B6, B3 and B2.
Natto is a popular dish in Japan consisting of fermented soybeans. It contains the extremely powerful probiotic Bacillus subtilis, which has been proven to support the immune system and cardiovascular health. Natto also enhances the digestion of vitamin K2. In addition to these benefits, it contains nattokinase, a powerful anti-inflammatory enzyme that has been proven to fight cancer.
Kimchi is a traditional delicacy and spicy, fermented Korean dish made from vegetables (primarily cabbage), spices and seasoning. It’s known to improve cardiovascular and digestive health. It has high levels of antioxidants that reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, and gastric ulcers. It is beneficial to both your digestive tract and immune system. Traditionally (dates back to the 7th century) it was produced by leaving glass jars of vegetables to ferment underground for months at a time.
Raw cheeses are made with milk that hasn’t been pasteurised. Soft cheeses made from goat, sheep or A2 cow's milk are particularly high in probiotics, including thermophillus, bifidus, bulgaricus, and acidophilus. The benefits of probiotics include healing digestive issues, neurological disorders, and mental health problems; plus, probiotics boost the immune system and destroy harmful bacteria.
Yoghurt (the probiotic variety) is the most consumed fermented dairy product in many countries. Yoghurt intake is directly associated with better overall diet quality, healthier metabolic profiles, healthier blood pressure, and improved triglyceride levels. It's recommended when buying yoghurt to look for three things: first, that it comes from goat or sheep milk; second, that it’s grass-fed; and third, that it’s organic and sugar-free.
- A good addition to fermented foods is our Happy Greens and/or Happy Turmeric which are fermented during the manufacturing process to activate the therapeutic ingredients. As a nice by-product, the liquid contains LIVE probiotics that are used instantly by your system, rather than the many hours it can take to activate powdered probiotics.
Generously use fermented foods and drinks as one of the best tools for your health. Your body will thank you and your health will respond accordingly. When you give the body the correct environment it will heal itself.
The Happy Hormones Program actively encourages the use of ferments. In combination with Happy Hormones, you can expect to see dramatic changes in your hormonal and overall health by introducing these foods to your daily regime.