The Benefits of Ferments

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021) and taken from Happy Gut, Happy Mind: How to Feel Good From Within by Eve Kalinik.

As research into fermented foods gains traction, Eve Kalinik explains how to easily include them in our diet and reap the healthful rewards.

Some might say the benefits of fermented foods are anecdotal, but they have been eaten for millennia for their health-giving properties. You could look at them as a demonstration of a long-standing give-and-take relationship with our microbial world. We feed microbes their preferred food, depending on the ferment, and they reciprocate by producing positive substances. These include compounds such as organic acids that can help us by supporting energy, detoxification and the production of neurotransmitter chemicals that benefit both gut and brain.

Fermented foods are also higher in both concentration and absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, biotin, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. The fermentation process also means that proteins are, to varying degrees, ‘pre-digested’, including casein in milk and gluten in bread, which can make them easier to digest and absorb. This is why fermented dairy in cheese and yoghurt can often be better tolerated if someone has issues with straight-up milk, and why sourdough can be easier on the gut than non-fermented bread. Fermented foods also contain prebiotics, which has a positive feeding effect on our existing gut microbiota.

Probiotics a la carte

The other, more obvious benefit of eating fermented foods is the ingestion of a high source of gut-boosting microbes. Think of them as probiotics in food form. In addition, fermentation increases lactic acid production, which makes it tricky for many other microbes to thrive, therefore the beneficial acid-loving bugs win out, which is a quid pro quo for our resident gut microbiota.

Last, but by no means least, there is a depth of flavour in fermented foods, derived from their natural umami. Once you foray into fermentation, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner, and how the simple addition of a spoonful of sauerkraut or kimchi can elevate the simplest of sarnies.

Sourdough depends on a live culture starter. Baking destroys most of these, but transforms the bread into a prebiotic, feeding microbes in our gut.

Kim-cheese toastie

Turn lunch into a main event with this easy recipe taken from the book ‘Happy Gut’ by Eve Kalinik.

Ingredients :
2 slices sourdough bread
Organic butter, to spread
Few slices hard cheese, such as Cheddar or Manchego (try to get unpasteurised if you can); 2 tblsp kimchi

  • Toast the bread on both sides. Spread with butter.
  • Lay the cheese on one slice (don’t melt it), top with kimchi and the second slice of toast. Cut into quarters and crunch into the goodness.

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