What are the Top 10 Benefits of Fermented Fare?
Fermentation is on fire and for good reason! The more scientists unravel the science behind the microbiota, the clearer it is that it’s time to take a closer look at fermented foods and supplements. Today’s fermentation is about ancient art meeting modern science.
Thousands of years ago, fermentation happened by chance. Now scientists and fermentation enthusiasts understand much more about the dynamic process. This helps them control fermentation conditions and get consistent products with specific flavor characteristics and health benefits, such as supporting gut health and providing deep nourishment.*
Here are the top 10 benefits of going fermented:
1. Helps reduce anti-nutrients.
“Fermentation is key for breaking down anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid, cyanoglucosides and lectins,” says Dr. Kate Rhéaume, ND. “These anti-nutrients are natural substances found in plant materials, but can hinder mineral absorption. “Scientists have compared fermented rice and legumes with nonfermented, and the fermented versions have much higher levels of iron, zinc and other minerals.*
2. Increases vitamin and mineral levels.
“In the process of fermenting foods, certain microbes produce small amounts of some B vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin and niacin,” says Robert Hutkins, PhD, a fermentation expert at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. “In some cases vitamin B12 may be produced, which could be relevant to vegans and vegetarians who are more likely to fall short on B12.” Fermentation also increases levels of vitamins A, C and K in some foods and improves mineral bioaccessibility.*
3. Improves phytonutrient content and absorption, while supporting healthy inflammatory responses.
“By nature, many greens and other vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants and other beneficial phytonutrients,” says Kalidas Shetty, PhD, a plant science expert at North Dakota State University in Fargo. “When these foods are fermented, the phytonutrients are better retained.”*
For example, scientists have shown that fermenting fruit and herbal smoothies with Lactobacillus plantarum and other bacteria helps preserve their polyphenols, as well as antioxidant vitamin C. Therefore fermentation helps to support healthy inflammation response by helping to tackle clear free radicals. Fermentation can also help improve potency of phytonutrients.*
4. Makes carbs easier to digest.
Fermented carbs are often easier to digest than unfermented ones. In part, that’s because some microbes can produce enzymes, such as cellulases and pectinases, that people don’t have. Such microbial enzymes help break down fibers in greens and other vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains.*
5. Enhances quality and absorbability of plant protein.
Fermentation may increase availability of certain amino acids. For example, when scientists fermented quinoa with L. plantarum, they found that the amounts of nearly all amino acids initially present in quinoa doubled in concentration. That included the essential amino acids lysine and phenylalanine, which are ones we have to get from food. Fermentation has been found to increase protein absorption by up to 40 percent. Combining fermented grains with fermented legumes further enhances the quality of plant proteins, providing all essential amino acids.*
6. Promotes gut health and strengthens gut barrier.
“The fiber in vegetables and fruits act as prebiotics, nourishing the gut microbiota,” says Hutkins. “But, there are also other components, such as polyphenols and B vitamins (such as riboflavin), in these foods that may promote a healthy microbiota in other ways.” This is especially important today as factors such as stress and Western style diets promote increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut.”*
“More than thirty years ago, in one of the first studies looking at traditional dietary patterns, researchers found that rural Japanese people who had a high-fiber diet rich in fermented foods, vegetables and fish had higher counts of beneficial Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species compared to North American urbanites,” says Dr. Rhéaume. Consuming fermented products can also decrease the likelihood that you’ll experience gas and bloating.*
7. Supports healthy blood sugar levels.
“Fermenting legumes and grains, which have resistant starch, can help decrease their blood sugar impact,” Shetty says. Additionally, studies suggest that some fermented foods, such as kimchi and vinegar, may help support insulin function, which is important for keeping blood sugar levels in check.*
8. Promotes heart health.
Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, have been reported to support healthy cholesterol levels. They are also a rich source of potassium and magnesium, which are minerals that support healthy blood pressure levels. Studies suggest fermenting the greens can boost their quota of these minerals. That’s not all. “Fermenting protein-rich foods, such as dairy products, can transform peptides into compounds such as ACE inhibitors, which have blood pressure lowering effects,” Shetty says.*
9. Supports emotional and cognitive (brain) health.
“When foods are fermented, new kinds of helpful compounds are created, including ones that have mental health benefits,” Shetty says. Additionally, scientists know that our gut microbiota is tied to brain functions, such as our response to stress. Research suggests probiotic-rich diets may have positive effects on stress relief, as well as memory. Preliminary studies also suggest some fermented medicinal mushrooms may support cognitive function.*
10. Guards against harmful bacteria and aids in detoxification.
During food fermentation, certain microbes produce natural antimicrobial agents such as bacteriocins. These small, heat-stable proteins (peptides) inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. “These tiny, heat-stable peptides are very helpful to have in your system as they inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria,” says Dr. Rhéaume.*
You’re probably already eating some fermented foods and are possibly taking probiotics, but have you tried fermented supplements? Organically produced whole foods, such as quinoa, carrots and kale, are now fermented and concentrated in powdered supplements, such as Whole Earth & Sea 100% Fermented Organic Greens and Protein & Greens. These make it easy to get the nutritional benefits of a wide range of organic fermented greens and other vegetables, fruits, herbs, legumes and cereal (grain) grasses in a single scoop on a daily basis.
If you’re not thinking “fermented” at meal and snack time, you could be missing out on the many health benefits of fermentation!