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The Daily Tonic: Fermentation, Friend or Foe?

The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion.

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Chances are, you’ve had your share of fermented foods over the past few years. If you go back to 2018, the consumption of fermented foods was up a whopping 149% in that year alone. In the four years since then, the trend hasn’t slowed. 

Today, supermarket aisles are full of fermented food options. Walk into your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, and you’ll see everything from kimchi to sauerkraut to an entire section dedicated to different kombucha flavors.  

Even though fermentation might seem like just the latest crunchy health trend, it is a practice that dates far back in human history. We had fermented foods long before Cody Rigsby and Jess King had us sweating and dancing on an overpriced exercise bike. Fermentation was one of the processes we historically used to preserve our foods. 

So what are fermented foods exactly? Fermented foods are any foods that are produced through controlled microbial growth and enzymatic activity. Some of the most popular fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, kombucha, and yogurt.

Fermentation can help ease common gastro issues like heartburn for many eaters

According to anthropological research, it seems that our bodies have evolved to eat and obtain benefits from fermented foods. This makes sense, given our long history of access to these foods. 

Studies also show that specific fermented foods like kefir have significantly beneficial impacts on the gut microbiome. Even tempeh, a fermented soy product, has been shown to increase the population of healthy gut bacteria in some studies. 

There are also studies like this one that show that fermented foods can help with bowel regularity and digestion. All in all, the research backing fermented foods and their benefits is pretty substantial. This stuff works and is especially beneficial in promoting a healthy gut, which is closely tied to so many other aspects of our general health. 

The key takeaway? Fermented foods can and should be included as part of a healthy diet, but be careful. Given its popularity, some fermented foods have been commercialized to the point where the cons might start outweighing the pros. 

Some yogurt and kombucha products are loaded with added sugars, which is far from ideal. If you are going to incorporate fermented foods into your diet, look for options that are not heavily sweetened or flavored and err on the side of raw options over heavily processed options if you can.

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