Are Fermented Foods Good for You?

During January, we like to look at the trends that will be growing throughout the year. We want to know what to look forward to and help you get a handle on food fads. Today’s Dietitian “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey has shown that fermented food is continuing to interest people and take up and larger and larger space in the supermarket. But is it worth the hype?
 
Fermented foods, said to promote gut health, aren’t new. Pickling and fermenting are ancient ways of preserving food for hard times. Fermented foods are ones that were altered by bacteria. The category includes sauerkraut, yogurt, pickles, beer, cheese, some sausages, sourdough bread and so many more. The bacteria is what might aid your digestive health.
 
Foods that are further treated with smoking, baking pasteurization and so on lose their live cultures. So, sourdough bread may be delicious, but it won’t aid guy health.  
 
Fermented foods produce bacteria … and when you eat that, it adds to the healthy bacteria in your gut,” said Torey Armul, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Fermenting foods can also change the nutritional content a little bit. It can increase the B vitamins in a food. That has been linked to bowel regularity, even improvements in blood pressure, blood sugar control. There’s a lot of things that happen when a food is fermented – the probiotics, the nutritional value of things and (it’s) easier to break down – that can lead to benefits to your gut health.”
 
Fermented tea, or kombucha, is praised for its probiotic content. However, no evidence has been found to back up the probiotic claims of kombucha drinks. Kombucha also contains antioxidants that appear to aid liver health. The drink has been linked to lower heart disease risks and lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol and higher levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. Most importantly, for those of us with blood sugar concerns, kombucha can slow the digestion of carbs.
 
Clinical studies focused on the benefits of fermented dairy products such as yogurt show improvements in bone health, blood pressure and reduced risks of colon cancer and heart disease,” said Prof. Robert Hutkins, from the Univ. of Nebraska.
 
Poorly fermented foods can cause you health problems. If food is over-fermented or contaminated with other bacteria, it can become high in alcohol and things that can make you sick. We advise caution when trying homemade fermented foods.
 
If you haven’t tried kombucha, kefir, kimchi (seen in the banner image) or any of the other fermented products that are growing in popularity, you can feel free to give them a whirl. Commercially produced products are unlikely to cause you any medical problems. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about how they might impact your health.
 
More studies are needed to prove the health benefits of fermented foods. But, people like them and properly fermented food hasn’t been shown to cause any harm. Small amounts of research have also linked foods that have been fermented to improved mental health and weight loss. More research is needed to confirm any of the claims. If you want to try them out, go for it. You may see improvements in your digestive health, or you might just find something new that you like!
January 15, 2020
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