You have probably heard about taking a probiotic for your overall health of your gut. What exactly is a probiotic? According to Mary Jo DiLonardo of WebMD, “Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system.” We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
Probiotics are naturally found in your body. You can also find them in some foods and supplements.
Most people take a probiotic supplement or add yogurt to their diet to obtain the good bacteria necessary for good gut health. However, there has been a growing trend towards foods that were traditionally used by our grandparents and great-grandparents. Fermented foods are making a comeback!
Fermentation was a method, used by our ancestors, to preserve foods using salt and/or whey. Do you remember the cellar filled with bottles of “canned” foods? Some of those jars may have been filled with fermented foods as well.
Fermented foods have gone through a natural process called “lacto-fermentation.” This simply means that natural bacteria feeds on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. “Lacto,” in lacto-fermentation, refers to lactic-acid bacteria or lactobacillus. Lactic acid is actually a natural preservative that maintains the nutritional value of fermented foods while inhibiting the “bad” microorganisms. The same process applies to all fermented foods made from dairy (kefir), grain, vegetables (sauerkraut) or fruit.
Food preservation isn’t the only benefit with fermentation. Beneficial enzymes are created such as B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. In her book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon stated, “Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms? If so, the cure for these diseases will be found not in vaccinations, drugs or antibiotics but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world.”
Since technology took over the food industry and food preparation took a back seat in homes across our nation, the time-honored tradition of fermented foods has also been ignored or has been totally forgotten. The average diet today consists mainly of sugary processed foods that lack any nutrients.
So what should you do? The more you can include a variety of fermented foods into diet the better health you will experience! Fermented foods will protect your gut with a large variety of “good” bacteria from microorganisms that help you absorb more nutrients. Traditional cultures from around the world have been eating fermented foods for hundreds of years. So even if this is a new idea for you, know this is not a new idea as far as history is concerned! Here are a few fermented foods you may want to give a try.
1. Kombucha – a fizzy, fermented tea
3. Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage.
4. Miso – paste made from fermented soybeans (make sure soybeans are non GMO and organic)
5. Kefir – fermented milk resulting in a type of drinkable yogurt. Look for brands that contain only cultures and milk, made from organic milk. Goat milk kefir is great too!
6. Pickles – fermented cucumbers
You can add some health benefits to your daily diet by incorporating fermented foods into your daily menu. Many of these foods can be made at home yourself or you can find them in your local health food store, food co-op, or farmer’s market.
Do you eat fermented foods? What is your favorite? Do you have a favorite recipe?