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7 health-boosting benefits of fermented foods


sauerkraut
Photo by: marija Ivkovic

Sarah got us all hooked on fermented foods a few months back. One whiff of her homemade sauerkraut (it’s an acquired smell) and a spiel about it’s countless gut benefits and before we knew it we were stocking up on mason jars.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 9.40.43 AM

What is fermenting?

The art of fermenting food is deeply rooted in tradition. Countless cultures around the world ferment in part as a preservation technique but also as a way to enhance the nutritional profile of ingredients.

Sarah has posted about it here, here and here, and yesterday shared how she makes her (almost sugar-free) fermented kombucha (give it a go, it’s so good for you).

For the science-y folk among us who want to know the “nerdy” nitty-gritty stuff:

Fermenting converts sugars – glucose, fructose and sucrose – into cellular energy and a metabolic byproduct (lactic acid),which in turn produces fantastic digestive enzymes and healthy gut flora and cuts the sugar content of a food… all in one!

Lactic acid fermentation enhances the micronutrient profile of foods and which means they’re full of probiotics, enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

Here is a list of some of the health benefits you can expect from chowing down on some fermented fare:

  1. It restores gut health: We talked about the importance of good gut bacteria in Monday’s post . The lactic acid produced during fermentation promotes the growth of healthy flora in the intestine.
  2. It increases Vitamin A and Vitamin C levels: Lactic acid enhances a foods digestibility and increases vitamin C and vitamin A levels.
  3. It helps remove toxins from the body: Fermentation breaks down the nutrients in foods by the action of beneficial microorganisms and create natural chelators that are available to bind toxins and remove them from the body (more science lingo – sorry!).
  4. Fermentation cuts the sugar content of foods dramatically: In fact, it’s the sugar that starts the fermentation.
  5. It has cancer-fighting properties: Fermented foods are rich in Vitamin K2 and studies have shown that increased intake of Vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
  6. It helps you absorb nutrients better: When your gut flora is out of whack you don’t absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat. So no matter how much kale you munch on you won’t be reaping any of the benefits. Fermented foods produce the digestive enzymes which ensure you get the most nutrients out of all foods you ingest.
  7. It supports our immune function: Some experts consider the gut to be the largest immune organ in the body. The chronic inflammation linked to diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes can begin with dysfunctional gut microbiota.

Stay tuned next week when delve deeper into fermented foods with a spotlight on Kombucha.

Do you ferment? We’d love to hear all about your fermenting adventures in the comments below. 

Please be respectful of other participants in the conversation. We'd love you to keep your comments respectful, friendly and relevant. Differences of opinion are welcome, but trolling and abuse of other commentators and the IQS editorial team is not and will result in blacklisting.

  • Simona

    Had great success with fermented cucumbers so trying cabbage today!

  • A Coco Life

    I love making sauerkraut with home-made whey as per the I Quit Sugar book, it makes the best testing kraut every time! I’ve started adding my kraut through the juicer in the morning to give my green juice and gut a bit of a kick first thing, it’s yummy! Thanks for spreading the fermenting love Sarah, I hope it will become more mainstream soon!

  • A Coco Life

    I love making sauerkraut with home-made whey as per the I Quit Sugar book, it makes the best tasting kraut every time! I’ve started adding my kraut through the juicer in the morning to give my green juice and gut a bit of a kick first thing, it’s yummy! Thanks for spreading the fermenting love Sarah, I hope it will become more mainstream soon! Erin xxx

  • Harley

    I’m super loyal to Peace, Love & Vegetables’ Kim Chi. So, so good!

  • Shell

    i make a few different fermented veggies, carrot sticks with some cumin seeds, small cauliflower florets with curry powder and also dilly beans. so fresh and versatile. shell :)

  • Stacey

    Just thought I’d chime in with another yummy fermenting suggestion! Achar is a spicy fermented pickle that is delish! The version I make is a Malaysian not Indian one with carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, garlic, salt, chilli, vinegar with a spicy paste. Google nonya achar if you’re interested!

  • k

    I tried the sauerkraut with home made whey – worked well, and is very tasty, except the lid kept popping off the top when i was trying to ferment it. also – i found it hard to keep 2cm water/juices on top (recommended to stop mold growing) – as the cabbage kept rising up, any suggestions? i will definitely
    have another crack at it : )

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