Fermented foods seem to be the new healthy eating craze. But what are they? What are the benefits of fermented foods? And can they help with weight loss?
What are fermented foods?
In fact, fermented foods are far from a new thing. Most traditional food cultures include some form of fermented food, and science is beginning to discover the multitude of benefits that come from having “good” bacteria in our digestive tracts. Fermented foods are foods that have been exposed to bacteria and yeasts, either by purposefully introducing those bacteria or yeasts to the food, or by allowing them to be exposed to the naturally-occurring variety in the air. This process allows micro-organisms that are beneficial to humans to multiply, and reduces the number of harmful micro-organisms present in the food. Before people had fridges, fermenting was the only way to extend the shelf-life of perishable foods like vegetables, meat and dairy. Some common fermented foods include sourdough bread, yoghurt, creme fraiche, kefir, pickles and sauerkraut.
What benefits do fermented foods have?
Fermented foods are hugely beneficial for our digestive systems. Eating fermented foods encourage the growth of helpful flora in our guts, which has a positive effect not just on digestion, but also on our immune and nervous systems. This is because the process of fermenting enriches foods with essential amino acids, vitamins, mineral and bioactive compounds — essentially, it adds nutritional value to the food. This additional goodness is great news for our digestive system, but it also means the rest of our bodies (including our immune and nervous systems) has access to a broader range of nutrients. It’s been shown that fermented foods can be helpful in the treatment of people with AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, liver disease, mild depression, allergies, and even cancer. And, you guessed right, it’s been shown that fermented foods can help with weight loss.
How do they help me lose weight?
Fermented foods help to restore your digestive system to its best condition, and this can help you retrain yourself to want to eat the foods that your body really benefits most from, rather than the highly processed foods that we all know are best avoided. Additionally, you’re likely to eat less if you’re eating fermented foods because they increase the nutritional content of all your food, which means you’ll feel full quicker and for longer.
Fermented foods help balance out the hormones associated with cravings for sugary or otherwise not-so-great foods. Studies also show a link between eating fermented foods and an improved overall mood. Feeling glum or stressed can encourage us to over eat or to reach for processed junk food, so eating fermented foods might help to avoid those situations by improving our overall mood.
Where do I find fermented foods?
It is possible to make your own fermented vegetables simply by soaking them in salty water and whey (the watery by-product of yogurt often found in the top of the tub) for a period of several days in a jar with a lid. But if you’re not comfortable making your own fermented foods just yet, you might try including store-bought foods like yogurt, sourdough bread or pickles in your everyday diet.
Author Bio: Guest post by Jessica Josh who is a freelancer that writes about health, nutrition, medical weight loss and ways to improve your lifestyle.