Call me crazy, but in the past when I heard the word fermentation, the three things that always sprung into my head were alcohol, aged cheese, and yogurt. Although it is rather embarrassing to admit, I bet that I was not alone in thinking this. Fast forward to the present day, and there is suddenly a fermented foods hype. You can imagine my confusion when I discovered that fermented foods were trending. I knew that excessive drinking is one of the main culprits when it comes to depressing the immune system, and while yogurt and cheese have their health benefits, I still didn’t understand the sudden popularity of fermented foods?
This was all before I discovered sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir, kombucha, miso, and tempeh. As I started connecting the dots, I figured that fermentation has a long history but its recent prominence is a result of research into the potential benefits of fermented foods. Fast forward to the present; I now know that fermented foods are excellent for gut health. This is probably the most talked-about reason for eating fermented foods, but here are some more compelling reasons to consider these foods beyond the hype.
- Heart Health
Two common causes of heart disease are high levels of LDL cholesterol and obesity. Evidence shows that obesity lowers HDL cholesterol and increases LDL cholesterol, which in turn increases the chances of suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Not all fermented foods contain probiotics, but most of them do contain large amounts of them, and these probiotics can lower LDL cholesterol.
Probiotics can play a large role in combating heart disease, and the two most common strains are bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. These and other probiotics are capable of producing propionic acid which reduces the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol. The liver is also responsible for producing bile. On its own, the liver can recycle bile, but probiotics break down bile which forces the liver to produce more in a process that uses up and lowers cholesterol.
Studies show that having good gut health promotes heart health because the bacteria in the intestinal tract plays a role in improving cardiovascular health. Another plus is the probiotics’ ability to lower triglycerides, an action which reduces the risk of suffering from heart disease.
- Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is responsible for a significant number of heart failures, strokes, and disabilities. Studies have shown that probiotics in fermented foods can lower high blood pressure. Common causes of high blood pressure include high LDL cholesterol levels, imbalanced sexual hormones, and diabetes. Besides lowering cholesterol, fermented foods can help curb insulin resistance and improve its effectiveness, and they can help replace sexual hormones.
Hypertension is a silent killer and although the number of deaths attributed to it are declining as awareness increases, throwing in some fermented foods into your eating plan can go a long way in beating this disease.
Cancer has become one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide and its prevalence continues to increase. Fermented foods have properties that make them good candidates for combating cancer. Gastrointestinal cancer is perhaps the most obvious type of cancer that can be potentially prevented with fermented foods due to their work in improving overall gut health. Besides gut health, fermented foods also have anti-cancer properties which are known to boost immunity and reduce inflammation, both common problems with any type of cancer.
Fermented foods cannot prevent cancer on their own, but they are known to improve general well-being in both cancer patients and non-patients. Probiotics present in fermented foods have the potential to destroy cancer cells and they can help detoxify the body. Whether you would like to prevent cancer or you are a survivor, including some fermented foods in your diet can go a long way in protecting your health.
There is no way fermented foods can solve any health problem or boost immunity all on their own. As with most things, fermented foods should be taken as part of both a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle for them to be effective. Familiarize yourself with your fermented foods and make sure you know enough about preparing and storing them. It is also important to keep overall nutritional value in mind because some fermented foods like miso and kimchi may come with a high salt content which is detrimental to health.
Rather than taking a collective approach to the fermented foods you choose to consume, take time to familiarize yourself with what you will get from each food. Try to mix up the different foods to create the ultimate winning combo that will provide the most health benefits. There is still a lot more to be learned about fermented foods, but there is no harm in trying them out as a healthy addition to your diet.