Monday, November 26, 2012

Why You Should be Eating Fermented Foods

You can keep your gut happy by eating foods full of healthy bacteria, including sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir.

A bowl of yogurt with granola, strawberries and blueberries.
Yogurt contains healthy bacteria that can help keep your gut balanced.

It’s hard to imagine that anything numbers into the trillions in your intestinal tract. But in healthy adults, your lower intestine is full of trillions of happy, healthy beneficial bacteria known as probiotics that help your body digest food and stay healthy.

However, your gut bacteria can sometimes get out of balance, which allows harmful bacteria to overpopulate and can lead to illness and disease.

Eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut help keep your helpful gut bacteria happy and strong. When these bacteria are in a good balance, they work hard to keep YOU happy and strong.

Here is a quick list of what your gut bacteria, and the fermented foods you eat, do for your body:

  • Fermentation improves absorption of vitamins and minerals in food, including B vitamins, iron, vitamin C and calcium.
  • Bacteria in fermented foods crowd out other bacteria in your lower intestine that can cause infection, thereby protecting you. In addition, fermented foods create byproducts that make your gut a hostile environment for harmful gut bacteria to live.
  • Eating fermented or soaked grains decreases gas and bloating often associated with these foods.
  • Probiotics have been shown to be beneficial with diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and eczema, and with preventing urinary tract infections.

Scientists are learning more all the time about the value and benefit of maintaining a healthy gut bacteria environment and population. Getting all the benefits of these foods is as easy as adding yogurt to your breakfast, sauerkraut to your sandwich or tempeh to your dinner, so go out and populate your gut with these foods and feel the difference in your vitality!

— Elisha Rain, MS, CN, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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