Fermented foods are trending right now, and for good reason. Research is uncovering the connection between the human microbiome, inflammation, and the chronic, persistent diseases that plague us in the 21st century. Persistent conditions such as allergies, autoimmune illnesses, and depression, have been linked to the role of the microbiome in the regulation of our bodies, and the ways they express health and illness.
Adding fermented foods to your daily diet is a practical way to boost your health. Naomi Whittel
New York Times Best Selling Author, Glow15
Fermented vegetables are a nutritional powerhouse that can produce myriad health benefits when consumed daily. Look for real, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. It’s usually stored in a glass jar. Sauerkraut found in the canned foods aisle is pasteurized; this heating process destroys the beneficial microorganisms that encourage optimal gut health.
One important advantage of fermented foods is the improved nutrient content that results from the fermentation process. B-vitamins increase as the bacteria breaks down the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in foods. Minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes become more bio-available in the intestinal tract after they’ve been “pre-digested” by the good bugs.
In addition to boosting the nutrient density of your diet, check out these five reasons why you’ll be saying “please pass the sauerkraut” at your next meal…
Better Digestive Health:
It’s true that health starts in your gut. The microbiome is highly vulnerable to the increasing prevalence of pesticides, trans-fats, and antibiotics in the medical and agricultural industries. With compromised digestive function, we can suffer from extensive inflammation and leaky gut which is related to a host of illnesses. We have more bacterial cells in our bodies than we do human cells, with the numbers reaching into the trillions. It’s critical that those bacteria are healthy and diverse in all species. When our gut microflora is fit and flourishing, we experience a balanced elimination function (no constipation or diarrhea), and say good-bye to the discomfort of bloating, gas and indigestion. The healthy bugs assist the body in digesting and absorbing nutrients more efficiently, so vitality and energy can be used for other bodily functions rather than just processing our food.
Reduce Sugar Cravings, Balance Your Blood Sugar:
A diet dense with nutrients found in fermented foods allows for lessened cravings and a lower likelihood of bingeing on foods like sugar and refined carbohydrates. When your body receives the proper amount of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins, it won’t look to quick sources of energy to satisfy a much deeper need. Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbs favor a microflora that is dysfunctional, unhealthy, and vulnerable to inflammation. Choose fermented vegetables to get your sugar cravings under control, as well as to encourage balanced blood sugar levels, while decreasing the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Boost Immune Health:
Did you know the bulk of our immune system is found in the gut? It’s true: upwards of 70 to 80% of our immunity stems from the gut, where microflora is in close communication with the cells of the immune system. They work together to decide which organisms will pass through the cells of the intestine into your bloodstream, and which ones must stay out. It’s extremely important that the cells of the immune system are partnering up with healthy, beneficial bacteria. An overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria can result in all sorts of harmful substances being absorbed into the body that will hinder your health, leading to ailments like arthritis, allergies, eczema, and diseases like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and fibromyalgia. Consuming fermented vegetables is one way you can ensure that your immune cells associate with “the good guys.”
Beautiful, Glowing Skin:
Radiant skin doesn’t just make you feel good and give you confidence, it also communicates messages about the state of your health. Research is shedding light on the connection between the health of the skin and the state of the microbiome. Skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis have all been connected to dysfunction of the gut microflora.
The term “gut-brain axis” has been coined to describe the incredibly sophisticated system that involves the brain, nervous system, and the gut. Called the enteric nervous system, and nicknamed the “second brain,” strong gut function is the cornerstone of a healthy brain and nervous system. Most of us associate neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that have profound effects on our moods and behavior, with the brain. More than 50% of dopamine and 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut! When your microbiome is in harmony, your moods are balanced, you feel better, and your brain is clearer.
If you’re new to fermented vegetables, start slow with one to three tablespoons a day and work your way up from there. Depending on the state of your intestinal health, there may be other important steps to take in healing your digestion. Working with a qualified functional medicine practitioner can help you uncover any challenges you may face in achieving optimal digestion, increased immunity, better moods and healthier skin.