Recently I covered the importance of eating cultured foods in my weekly newspaper column. Cultured foods may very well be one of the most important foods you can add to your diet. In this day and age of high sugar content and extremely processed foods our digestive tracts are under siege with every meal and snack.
One of the best ways to avoid autoimmune concerns, leaky gut, IBS and many other health issues is adding cultured foods to at least one meal each day. By adding these cultured foods, you allow your body to maintain a healthy ratio of bacteria and yeasts within your body and digestive tract.
When you talk about cultured foods, it is in reference to the fact that these foods are fermented. Fermented foods have been through the lacto-fermentation process and have beneficial microorganism or “probiotic” properties. Bacteria and yeasts create a chemical process, breaking down sugar and starch during fermentation and creating beneficial enzymes and good bacteria. This makes fermented foods a good source of essential nutrients and immune system support.
Once the bacteria breaks down the sugars and starches, it enhances the availability of key enzymes and bacterial balance in your gut. The so-called “good bacteria” in your digestive tract is where the largest benefit occurs from cultured fermented foods. Since your gut flora is fed by what you eat, it becomes extremely important to consume an assortment of fermented foods to promote greater microbial biodiversity in your body, thus maintaining a stable probiotic microbial ecosystem.
The need for fermented foods starts with the fact that your gastrointestinal system plays a critical role in your immune system and immune response. When you eat and breathe, you ingest pathogens and toxins every day. Your gastrointestinal system becomes a primary contact point for bacteria, viruses and toxic substances. Because of this internal exposure to the environment, your digestive tract has huge amount of immune cells that reside within it. I can’t stress enough how your gastrointestinal system makes up almost 70 percent of the entire immune system. Your immune response in your digestive track uses the immune cells as part of the innate immune system. It is thought that a diverse bacterial environment in your gut also boosts your adaptive immune system, creating and supporting specific immune cells to fight known antigens. Therefore, a balanced and healthy digestive track fortifies your ability to fight off illness and efficiently dispose of toxins.
Another positive aspect to eating cultured foods is its ability to help you absorb food better. When you have a proper balance of gut bacteria and an abundance of digestive enzymes, you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat. Fermented foods can also help your body stay in good ph balance. When you eat, the residue left behind by food is either acidic or alkaline. Fermented foods support an alkaline ph and help keep you in balance. Processed foods, sugars and meat tend to keep your ph more acidic and unhealthy. Other very interesting research suggests a strong link between healthy diverse gut bacteria in children and a positive influence on their behavior. Additionally, new research has also found a link between certain good microorganisms helping to prevent children from developing asthma.
Here are a few great cultured foods you should include into your daily nutrition:
• Greek Yogurt
Specifically, greek yogurt low in sugars with active cultures can deliver towards 100 million probiotic cultures per gram. High in protein and low in carbs, it makes a perfect food to add to your nutrition.
Organic sauerkraut is made from cabbage and salt, fermented cabbage is a another good way to get probiotics and fiber into your diet. It is gluten-free and tastes great.
The common kimchi is found in the form of fermented cabbage which is spicy, and great when mixed with scrambled eggs. However, there are hundreds of different types of kimchi, made with everything from cucumbers to radish and onions. It can be eaten as a small side with each meal. Kimchi can be found in most supermarkets or in Asian markets.
A very healthy fermented milk product with a tart yogurt taste. Kefir is an ancient cultured food loaded with amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. You can find lactose-free kefir which is also full of calcium and probiotics. Kefir also promotes better digestion of fats, proteins and carbs.
A fermented paste made from barley, rice or soybeans using the bacteria Aspergillus. Miso paste and miso soup is another great addition to your diet. A little goes a long way and it is high in sodium. Miso can be mixed and used in a number of dishes, so experiment, it adds great taste.
One of my favorite drinks is kombucha. Kombucha is brewed with tea — typically black or green — using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY. You can buy kombucha at most grocery stores or brew your own. Local health food stores sell the SCOBY’s in the refrigerated section by the yogurt. Kombucha is often flavored with ginger, herbs or fruit, and is very tangy and refreshing.
There are so many success stories around dramatic shifts happening to unhealthy and sick people who started to get their gastrointestinal system in balance with cultured foods and good bacteria. Humans have been eating cultured foods for thousands of years, so it is pretty clear, fermented foods and drinks have many benefits for your overall health.
If you are already getting cultured foods each day in your diet, great. If you’re just getting started, go slow, try different fermented foods. Keep in mind, it is possible to get too much of any good thing too quickly, so pace yourself. Bottom line, a balanced gut loaded with good bacteria has wide-ranging health benefits beyond what even science has been able to identify so far.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.