Whole Food Vitamins and Fermented Foods

What are the Benefits?

My girlfriend keeps saying we should eat more fermented stuff and take “whole foods” vitamins. What exactly is a whole foods vitamin and what is the benefit of consuming fermented foods? -Neil, Mississauga.

In the refinement process the food is stripped of much of its value and nutritional content. Whole foods provide a complex and balanced fuel source that the body is designed to recognize and assimilate. The same argument can be made for whole foods supplements vs. synthetic isolated nutrients.  

Whole foods supplements are made with a base of concentrated foods like fruits, vegetables and nutritional yeast.  The vitamins and nutrients inside have not been isolated, refined or synthetically produced. By maintaining the integrity of the food source, we preserve its unique combination of naturally occurring enzymes, co-factors, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and many other factors synergistically working together. In turn, the body is provided with a more functional, recognizable, absorbable, and useable supplement.

The full benefits of each nutrient in a whole food complex are lost when they are removed from this balanced structure. Not unlike a car, all of its parts need to be present and working together to make it function. The engine is still an engine when removed, but it doesn’t hold as much value in isolation. In nature, we never find nutrients in isolation; there is always a beautiful synergy at work to make the product perfect. Mother nature is intelligent!

Fermented foods are foods that have gone through lactofermentation, where naturally occurring bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food producing lactic acid. In addition to this, the process generates enzymes, b-vitamins, various strains of probiotics (beneficial bacterial), and naturally preserves the food and nutrient content. Over the last few decades there has been a decline in the consumption of traditionally fermented foods as part of the  modern diet, due to advances in technology and modern food preparation like pasteurization and vinegar pickling.

What is the significance of consuming fermented foods?

1. They help introduce those ever so important good bacteria into your digestive tract to maintain a healthy intestinal ecosystem. Probiotics are a part of your immune system and are vital to proper digestion, assimilation of nutrients and bowel health.

2. Healthy intestinal bacteria require a specific pH range to thrive. Poor balance of intestinal pH makes it difficult for probiotics to sustain enzyme activity and allows for parasites, yeast and undesirable bacterial growth. The lactic acid produced in fermentation helps maintain a healthy pH balance.  

3. They are rich in enzymes that support digestion, absorption and use of nutrients in your foods.

Sources of fermented foods are kefir, kombucha, unpasteurized sauerkraut, miso, and kim chi to name a few. Some supplement companies provide fermented products in the forms of probiotic drinks, kefir botanicals and fermented whey, which also acts as a source of potassium and calcium.


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