By Carrie Murphy for Blisstree.com
If you’re at all interested in health or nutrition, you’ve probably heard people raving about the benefits of fermented foods. Though I’m a fan of ferments (things like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, pickles and miso), I’ve never felt like I had a good, thorough understanding why fermented foods are so good for you. Sure, they contain probiotics, which are good for the immune system—but what does that really mean? How, exactly, do fermented foods benefit your health?
Fermented foods undergo a chemical process called (you guessed it!) fermentation. In this process, sugars and carbohydrates are converted into an acid or an alcohol. Fermentation naturally occurs in some foods and is a process that’s been used by humans for thousands of years; Early people used fermentation as a way to preserve food. Everyone is familiar with some fermented foods like beer, sauerkraut and pickles, but there’s been an increased interest in less common ferments, too, like kefir.
Most people have a general idea that ferments pack a healthy punch because they’re full of probiotics: good, living bacteria that support optimal function in our digestive tracts. It’s common to hear that probiotics supplements are important and that you should eat yogurt to replenish the healthy bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are thought to be important for all kinds of aspects of our health, including our immune system. Some scientists say up to 80% of our immune system is contained within our gut, so having a good balance of probiotics can help with everything from staving off illness to healing from infections.
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