The rise of this ancient food trend is well worth adding to your nutrition plan, advises Elite Trainer, Andy Vincent
Forget the avolatte, smoothie bowl and cloud egg. While these food trends may win you likes on Instagram, their science-backed health benefits are, well, underwhelming. Not so with fermented foods. They’re a 2017 trend that has earned its place atop the podium through health-enhancing graft and little else. (Try putting a gherkin on social media and watch the post fall flat.)
To call them a trend, however, is to ignore the fact that most have been around for years and have been eaten by many different cultures all over the world. But until recently, they have, criminally, been excluded from British menus all too often. Foods like sauerkraut (German for “sour cabbage”) has been eaten in Germany for centuries, however it was first documented being eaten Chinese labourers building the Great Wall of China over 2,000 years ago. Clearly it’s time you and your nutrition plan got up to date.
What are fermented foods?
The fermentation process is when the natural bacteria in your food feeds on the sugar and starch creating lactic acid, which produces a sour flavour. This helps to preserve the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Sadly, with the advances in technology and faster food preparation, these time-honoured traditional foods have been largely lost in our society. The amount of enzyme rich foods available in the average diet has declined over the last few decades as pasteurised milk has replaced raw, pasteurised yogurt has replaced homemade, vinegar based pickles and sauerkraut have replaced traditional lacto-fermented versions.
What are the benefits?
How much time have you got? A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology states that “recent scientific investigation has supported the important role of probiotics as a part of a healthy diet for human”. Some of these benefits come from the microflora that live in fermented foods that create a protective lining in the intestine and help protect us against pathogens. Fermented foods can also help increase antibodies, making our immune system stronger, plus they can help regulate the appetite, reduce sugar cravings, boost your immune system and aid healthy digestion.
How do we get fermented foods?
You can ferment your own foods or there are plenty on the market that you can buy in supermarkets or restaurants. Here is a list of my eight favourites to try. Start with half a cup per day and build up from there to get maximum health from more of your nutrition plan.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink. It is a better source of probiotics than yogurt, and people with lactose intolerance can often eat kefir with no problems.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is claimed to have a wide range of health benefits like weightloss and more energy, but human evidence for these claims is still required.
Sauerkraut is finely cut, fermented cabbage. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Make sure to choose unpasteurised brands that contain live bacteria.
Miso is a fermented soybean paste and a popular Japanese seasoning. It is rich in several important nutrients and may reduce the risk of cancer and stroke, especially in women.
Kimchi is a spicy Korean side dish, usually made from fermented cabbage. It contains lactic acid bacteria, which improve digestive health.
Yogurt is the most common fermented dairy product. For the best quality I recommend it comes from goat or sheep milk and that it’s grass-fed and organic.
Pickles are cucumbers that have been pickled in salty water and fermented. They are low in calories and high in bone-strengthening vitamin K. However, pickles made using vinegar do not have probiotic effects.
Tempeh is a fermented soybean product. It is a popular, high-protein substitute for meat. It also contains fatigue-fighting vitamin B12, a nutrient found mainly in animal products