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Benefits of fermented products: Nutritionist-recommended foods

Benefits of fermented products: Nutritionist-recommended foods Foods that strengthen immunity and improve digestion (photo: Freepik)

Fermented foods enrich the human microbiome, thereby improving digestion. They also play an important role in strengthening immunity and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, according to nutritionist Anastasia Holoborodko.

What is fermentation and how is it useful for us

"Fermentation is an ancient technique for preserving food products. The process is still used in the production of wine, cider, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha. In the past, people couldn't store products for long periods, so they had to process them using microbes: milk was made into cheese or sour milk, grapes into wine, cabbage was fermented, and the meat was dried," says the nutritionist.

Fermentation takes place in which yeast and bacteria convert carbohydrates such as starch and sugar into alcohol or acids. Alcohol or acids act as a natural preservative and give fermented products a distinctive taste and astringency.

"Fermentation promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics. Most often, these are bifidobacteria or Lactobacillus bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria are practically the only ones that can survive in the highly acidic environment created during fermentation, so the process acts as a natural preservative, protecting vegetables from spoilage. Probiotics improve immune function, as well as digestive system and heart health," explains Holoborodko.

She names the main advantages of fermented products.

Monitoring health of digestive organs

Probiotics produced during fermentation can help restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut and alleviate some digestive problems.

"The microbiome is a whole ecosystem inside us, about 3-4 kg of bacteria that directly influence a range of processes inside us: from mood and craving control to the division and multiplication of immune cells. Probiotics reduce unpleasant symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome - a common digestive disorder of modern times, including bloating and frequency of bowel movements," says the nutritionist.

Unlike animal products (yogurt, kefir), plant-based probiotics have been shown to be much more effective in studies.

Microbiome control

Microbes play a fundamental role in the supply system of nutrients that we cannot synthesize ourselves or extract from food. They "extract" vitamins and minerals from food.

Prebiotics in food create favorable conditions for the life of colonies of beneficial microbes. Accordingly, metabolism improves as a result.

"In the penultimate section of the gastrointestinal tract, there are approximately 10 times more microbes than our own cells. They produce some compounds similar to neurotransmitters that regulate our behavior: joy, a sense of harmony, aggression, or discomfort. That is, bacteria influence our behavior," notes Holoborodko.

Control of immunity, heart health, and mental balance

Bacteria living in the intestines significantly influence the immune system. In addition to friendly bacteria, many fermented products are rich in vitamin C and zinc, which form the fundamental basis of immunity.

"A number of studies link the probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum with reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Both probiotics are found in fermented products. And finally, fermented products are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. Probiotics can slightly lower blood pressure and promote a reduction in total and low-density lipoprotein ('bad') cholesterol," emphasizes the nutritionist.

Top useful fermented foods

Among the most beneficial fermented products are:

  • sourdough bread

  • natural yogurt and kefir

  • cheeses

  • fermented cabbage

  • other fermented vegetables and olives

  • soy tempeh cheese

  • fermented soy natto

  • miso paste (miso soup)

  • kimchi

  • kombucha (symbiotic culture of live yeast and bacteria)

  • vegan kefir (vegetable probiotic based on a symbiotic culture of tibikos bacteria)

Who should avoid eating fermented products

Fermented products are contraindicated in cases of inadequately managed acute conditions of the gastrointestinal tract - both the stomach, intestines, and abdominal organs. They should not be consumed in cases of bacterial overgrowth syndrome and fermentative disorders.

Fermented products may cause some side effects, most commonly increased gas and bloating, which are exacerbated by high fiber intake: kimchi, sauerkraut. Or when combined with sugar-sweetened kombucha, sugared sauerkraut.

Read also about the product that may provoke stroke.

Also, earlier we wrote about products that support heart health.