Better gut better health this is what you can have when you incorporate probiotics with some of the best-fermented foods around.
Science is starting to catch up and agree with what many people of days gone by already knew.
Incorporating fermented foods into your diet can do wonders for your gut and as a result, improve your health in more ways than one.
Why is this so?
Modern researchers have found that many fermented foods contain good gut bacteria?
Yes, there are good bacteria as well as the bad.
The term probiotics became more in use around the 1970’s.
In simple terms, probiotics are the good bacteria while the bad ones are normally known as pathogens.
For more detailed information regarding probiotics, this article can be of further benefit “What are Probiotics for?”
What is fermentation?
Fermentation is a process which helps to break down certain compounds in another form.
Such examples are:
• Acetobacter bacteria can turn alcohol through fermentation into acetic acid this acid is added to water and other flavourings help make vinegar.
• Yeast can convert sugars into alcohol
• With regard to this article bacteria such as lactobacilli bacteria break down sugars and also starch into lactic acid.
Lactic acid (without getting too technical) creates a more acidic nature.
In turn, this acidic nature stops and even helps destroy the pathogens (bad bacteria) as they favour a more alkaline nature to thrive and produce the damage it wants.
Two of the most well-known foods (more listed further below) that contain lactic acid are Yogurt and Sauerkraut.
The breakdown into Lactic acid is the main reason that gives that slightly sour or tangy taste.
The probiotics keep the pathogens in check which is why it is so important for the need to maintain a healthy gut flora.
Why ferment foods?
Before refrigeration, in order to preserve life as well as to save wastage, many foods need to be preserved. Such examples are wine, cheeses, pickled vegetables.
Apart from the above, on fermentation and its breakdown, here are some reasons of what fermentation can do for you.
• Certain good bacteria (for ease of use we will stick with the name probiotic) helps to synthesize certain vitamins, in particular, B12 and Vitamin K
• The probiotics found in Fermented foods increases the vital balance of gut flora which helps to maintain a healthy balance within the body.
• Products such as yoghurt and certain cheeses can help those who are lactose intolerant. This is because the lactose found in milk is broken down thus aiding in easier digestion.
The Best Fermented Foods
Yogurt is one of the most well-known probiotic foods available.
Generally made from fermented milk, proper yoghurt contains live cultures such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles being the most common.
Taking yoghurt can aid in helping to balance the gut flora particularly after taking antibiotics which can destroy both the good and bad bacteria and also bring on diarrhoea.
Yogurt can help stop diarrhoea especially in children, just don’t take too much in one go.
Taking too much in one go can create added diarrhoea so have smaller portions at the start then slowly increase the amount.
Basically, use common sense with the portion as you would with any other food types.
Lactose formally found in milk is broken down into lactic acid.
It is this lactic acid which gives that tangy or sour taste.
Not all yoghurts are good for your gut flora as the flavoured types which contain some fruit also contain added sugars.
The added sugar can counteract the purpose of taking yoghurt as a probiotic food.
It is also a great idea to check the labels to see if the above-mentioned cultures have been included along with it being lactose-free as some companies don’t state what is contained.
Some companies can be a bit vague or tricky in what is included or some are not even stated, so always double check.
The best type of yoghurt contains probiotics is the plain and natural Greek Yogurt.
If in doubt don’t buy the product within the commercialised stores and perhaps go to a local health food store which might be the better choice.
Always refrigerate your yoghurt preferably in the colder section rather than on the side door.
As with many other Fermented foods, Sauerkraut contains many benefits via it’s’ probiotic qualities.
Generally made from White Cabbage there has been an increase in the use of Red Cabbage which also has many health benefits.
Being low in calories makes it a great choice for those needing a low-calorie intake.
It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidants properties along being a great source of dietary fibre.
Cabbage contains many great benefits such as Vitamin K, Vitamin C along with phosphorus and potassium.
As cabbage is fermented, the lactobacilli it produces help further benefit the body with its probiotic benefits.
The reason being is that the increased probiotics strengthen not only the internal flora of the gut but aids in helping to increase the digestibility and efficiency in the better absorption of the various vitamins within the body.
Although Sauerkraut is high in probiotics along with the many other benefits mentioned above, as part of the fermentation process it can be high in sodium.
Therefore it is best to have smaller daily portions due to the sodium intake.
So allow for this if you are watching your sodium intake along with any other foods you may be taking.
If you are making your own fermented sauerkraut using Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, for example, would be more beneficial than using the regular table salt.
Kefir can look and taste similar to Yogurt just in a more drinkable form.
Dairy products used during fermentation can be Goat, Cow, or Sheep’s milk.
Making Kefir with Coconut water or coconut milk can be a great alternative for those with dairy issues.
The probiotic benefits from Kefir can also be greater than yoghurt as there are many more strains of good gut bacteria than those found in yoghurt.
Kefir is also high in various Vitamins and Minerals such as Vitamin B2, C, D, E and Niacin, along with minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorous.
There are other vitamins and minerals but in smaller qualities.
Some of the benefits of taking Kefir can be;
• Such as helping to kill Candida
• Improve digestion
• Help to fight and heal IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease) with its high Vitamin C content this is another great source to help with build bone density.
You can find Kefir in many supermarkets, health food stores or you can even make your own.
For store-bought types take care in buying Kefir with fruits added to them or flavoured types this is because added sugar or flavoured additives are added in order to sweeten the Kefirs which for some can be a great marketing ploy but not so great for your body due to the added sugars.
4. Kombucha Tea
To make Kombucha requires Tea (usually black or green) along with sugar plus a starter culture and a week or so.
The starter culture is a culture of bacteria (the good kind with yeast) known as a Scoby or The Mother Culture.
The yeast within the SCOBY helps converts the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide while the bacterium converts this newly formed alcohol into acetic acid.
It is this acetic acid like most of the fermented foods mentioned gives that sour, tangy taste.
Now Kombucha can be purchased both as pasteurized and unpasteurized.
However during the pasteurizing process probiotics are generally destroyed.
So the point of taking probiotics with Kombucha tea would be a waste of money and time with any pasteurized product.
In my opinion, selling pasteurised Kombucha tea is just a marketing ploy and if they state it contains probiotics I would think twice about purchasing that product.
The health benefits of Kombucha Tea are reportedly many.
• Aids the digestive process this being due to the probiotics contained within Kombucha
• Helps to boost the immune system
• Assists and beneficial to weight loss.
• Helps in fighting the harmful yeast that causes candida.
There have been reports of Kombucha Tea that can be dangerous and many people have fallen ill.
This is most likely due to unhealthy procedures that can result in contamination of the equipment and ingredients used in the preparation and improper care during the fermentation process.
This can be as simple as not sterilising the jars (e.g. boil the glass jars and lids as well) along with the utensils used.
Also, ensure that your hands are washed properly not just wet under the tap.
Remember this is about your health, so you owe it yourself to ensure you keep and maintain a healthy state.
Another great food that has been made with fermented cabbage is Kimchi.
This spicy dish is a Korean delicacy but also a wonder food rich in probiotics.
Using Fermented cabbage is just one form of making Kimchi.
There are hundreds of ways to make Kimchi and fermented cabbage is just one of them.
Fermented vegetables can also be in making Kimchi.
Depending on the ingredients used some forms of Kimchi are not spicy at all yet still provide many health benefits.
Such benefits can be:
• Better and improved digestion
• Helps in fighting colds and flu as it boosts the immune system.
• Ranging from Better digestion to helping fight various cancers
• Flavonoids found in Cabbage are known to inhibit growth if cancer cells.
• Helps to regulate fat absorption which is great for weight loss and diabetics.
• Rich in vitamins A, B, B2 Calcium along with Iron.
• Great source of dietary fibre
Those who are not used to eating fermented foods may find added unwanted issues.
Such can be bloating, excess gas, diarrhoea, stomach pains but these are only temporary.
The reasons for this is most likely having too much of a good thing in one go.
In fact, due to the large sudden increase in probiotics, this does kill off many of the pathogens (bad Bacteria) unfortunately, as the pathogens are killed off they release toxins which soon disappear as the intestinal flora becomes healthy again.
It is generally this increase of toxins that will create many of the issues mentioned above.
So don’t feel that the fermented foods are creating this but known that the pathogens are trying to leave its mark.
The best remedy for this is to have smaller portions of fermented foods and slowly increase the intake over a period of time.
There are many other fermented foods that are beneficial to your health (in particular your Gut flora), however, I have found the above-mentioned foods to be the best of the best.
You may beg to differ so please let me know what fermented foods have you tried?
Which do you feel worked best for you?
Your comments and input can help and support many others who may be struggling with various issues mentioned above and beyond.