Hippocrates, a Greek physician once said that “all disease starts in the gut”, if this is true then we need to pay attention to our digestive system and the food we eat that supports good gut health. Recent studies are showing that fermented foods contain probiotics, antioxidants, and other healthy compounds that our bodies need to stay healthy (1).
What are fermented foods?
Common fermented foods include kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, miso, kimchi, and sourdough bread.
Cultures are used to ferment some fermented foods. During fermentation, these cultures together with enzymes change the composition of the foods to produce probiotics, antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and bioactive peptides (1,2).
Probiotics found in fermented foods
The probiotics in fermented foods positively influence the microbiome (beneficial bacteria that we have in our gut) to produce short-chain fatty acids which have cholesterol-lowering effects (1).
Our gut bacteria also have a positive effect on our blood sugar levels, brain function, and immunity (1, 3).
Antioxidants found in fermented foods
Antioxidants play an important role in protecting the body from oxidative damage.
Oxidative damage happens daily when our bodies produce energy or when inflammation is triggered.
Antioxidants found in fermented foods help to support both brain and heart health (4).
Other benefits of fermented foods
During fermentation, the microorganisms and enzymes break-down the cell walls of the foods we eat making them easier to digest (1).
This may explain why people with irritable bowel syndrome are able to tolerate fermented dairy and sourdough bread better than non-fermented foods.
1. Melini et al. (2019) Health-promoting compound in fermented foods. Nutrients.
2. Dimidi et al. (2019) Fermented foods: Definitions and characteristics, impact on the gut microbiome, and effects on gastrointestinal health and disease. Nutrients.
3. Pimenta et al. (2018) Mechanism of action of kefir in chronic cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Cell Physio Biochem.
4. Carvalho et al. (2018) Fermented foods and beverages in the human diet and their influence on microbiota and health. Fermentation.