“Preserving” Your Health
With Fermented Foods
You want a secret to preserving your health? It turns out that the traditional methods of preserving food is teeming with health benefits. People the world over have enjoyed fermented foods for its tangy flavour well before refrigeration kept food from spoiling. Being Ukrainian, I was raised watching my grandma making sauerkraut from scratch. Indians enjoy a pre-dinner yogurt drink called lassi. All of Asia enjoys pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots. Northern Europeans are known for their high consumption of yogurt and kefir and its effects on longevity.
Natural pickling may mean that you get more out of your food! There is a higher bioavailability and activity of nutrients in fermented foods. The digestibility of nutrients is improved thanks to the bacteria found in these foods. The fermentation of fibre-rich components produces active compounds that have a positive impact on your immune system, blood sugar levels, and are anti-inflammatory. A study has found that fermented homemade vegetable juices contain a higher mineral content (iron, zinc, manganese, copper), 16% more soluble iron, and a decrease in phytates (inhibits the absorption of iron). Among other nutrients critical for well-being found in fermented foods are B12 and folate. It also preserves and enhances vitamin C and the vitamin Bs.
Fermented foods can help ease anxiety and other mental health concerns. Yes, the bacteria in your gut can explain your mood due to the gut-microbiota-brain connection. Studies have shown that when you eat fermented food products regularly, you have a lower risk of anxiety and depression. In addition, it increases the available GABA content significantly (GABA is a messenger in the brain that helps to reduce anxiety).
Fermented foods can help reduce the risk of certain cancers. It does so through increasing beneficial bacteria (which in turn will detoxify carcinogens), producing compounds that are important for programmed cell death (aka apoptosis – really important in killing cells that are abnormal/cancerous), and increasing the immune system. Lactobacillus acidophilus is an important probiotic that has demonstrated the ability to decrease polyps (can be a precursor to cancers), adenomas, and colon cancers.
Introduction of beneficial bacteria from fermented foods will benefit your digestive and immune system. Since the GI tract is an important component of the immune system (because it contains the MALT — mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue — which is the largest part of the immune system), these two go hand-in-hand. Enhanced immunity and increased resistance to some infections are benefits of eating fermented foods. They can in fact reduce the incidence and duration of respiratory tract infections.
Fermented foods have an anti-inflammatory effect and can help decrease allergies. When the GI tract is inflamed, it can allow substances to cross the intestinal wall, leading to inflammatory conditions outside of the GI tract (for example arthritis). These food products have been shown to upregulate anti-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukine-10. A study using probiotic cereal has been shown to prevent early allergies through T-cell-mediated immune response (balanced TH1/TH2 ratio). Fermented foods can also help alleviate symptoms of a milk protein allergy through better lactose hydrolysis.
To make sure your diet contains fermented foods, here is a table with a list of different options:
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk RHN hosts the Healthy Gourmet show, which is aired in 78 countries worldwide on the ZLiving Network. She is the bestselling author of Meals That Heal Inflammation and Slimming Meals That Heal. Connect with Julie on Facebook at Julie Daniluk and on Instagram & Twitter @juliedaniluk