What are the Health benefits of consuming ferments?
Recently fermenting foods has gained popularity for its health benefits. This is certainly why I got into fermenting.
What are the health benefits?
1) Pre-digestion. During the course of fermentation nutrients in the food are being digested by the microbes. Dense nutrients that are hard for us to digest or access on our own become more bio-available through fermentation. For example Soy beans. It is the plant food with the most concentrated protein in it. However apart from the very young edamame beans once they are older and dry our bodies are unable to break them down making the protein inaccessible to us. This led to them being fermented and now we have miso, tempeh, Natto and Soy sauce. The protein has been broken down into amino acids which are the building blocks for protein in our body. Lactose gets broken down during the fermentation of milk. Gluten (to an extent) gets broken down during the fermentation of sourdough.
2) De-toxification. Fermentation can breakdown toxins in some foods that would otherwise make us sick or kill us. For instance the cassava plant contains cyanide. Soaking the plant in water initiates fermentation which breaks down the cyanide. Phytic acid present in grains, seeds and legumes binds with minerals and makes them inaccessible. This means that we do not absorb a lot of the minerals in these foods. Again, fermenting these foods breaks down the phytic acid allowing us to absorb the minerals.
3) Nutrient enhancement. Many foods once fermented are actually higher in B vitamins than if you ate them raw. They have unique micro-nutrients in them too. My main reason I got into fermented foods was for the huge and varied amounts of good live bacteria they contain. However you must remember not all fermented foods contain these bacteria. Modern beer, wine and bread use a pure yeast and do not contain the good bacteria.
4) Diversifies and replenishes gut bacteria. Previously we had very few threats to the good bacteria in our guts. No antibiotics, no sterilising of everything, no anti-bacterial hand wash, household disinfectants etc. No chlorine in the water. While some of these things have certainly helped to fight disease the overuse of them is now causing new illnesses and disease. There is a war on bacteria. Fermented foods can contain up to 50 different beneficial strain of bacteria.
It is becoming increasingly clear how important good and to an extent bad bacteria is for us. The bacteria in our gut enables us to digest food and get the nutrients from our food. It synthesises the nutrients. The immune system resides mainly in the gut and this fact has been long overlooked. It has now been discovered that bacteria actually looks after our immune system. Another more recent discovery is that we have neuro-transmitters in the gut. Long thought to only exist in the brain. It has been established that 95% of the serotonin e produce is produced in the gut. The same for dopamine. These, as you are probably aware are our “Happy” chemicals. Balancing our moods and mental health. No wonder many of us have felt so depressed when facing issues with our digestive health.
We cannot live without bacteria!