Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
By Paul Rothbart
Fermentation is generally associated with alcoholic beverages. It is a process by which yeast and bacteria break down sugars. Sometimes, alcohol is a byproduct. But there are also foods that are fermented. They are very tasty and are a staple in a number of cultures. They contain healthy bacteria or probiotics that have a number of health benefits, especially for digestion. Here are some fermented foods and their associated health benefits.
Kimchi, made from fermented cabbage or sometimes other vegetables, is a very common side dish in Korea. It has a tangy flavor and is a very healthy food. Kimchi has been shown to lower insulin resistance and blood sugar which helps prevent diabetes. It also lowers cholesterol. A study of 21 people with prediabetes had them eat kimchi for eight weeks. At the end of that period, they all lost weight, had lower blood pressure, and lower insulin resistance.
Miso is a staple of Japanese cuisine. Made primarily of fermented soybeans, it makes a very tasty broth for soup. It can also be used as a vegetable glaze or a marinade. Science has found a number of health benefits. A 2003 study of Japanese women, showed that eating miso soup was linked to lower breast cancer risk. Other research has found that miso may lower blood pressure and aid heart health.
Kefir is a dairy product, similar in taste and texture to yogurt. Kefir grains are added to milk and allowed to ferment. This tangy beverage has several health benefits. Research conducted on people with lactose intolerance showed that kefir was able to improve their ability to digest lactose. Kefir also has less lactose than milk and is a good substitute for those with the intolerance. Another study found the kefir can lower inflammation, improving heart health and lowering cancer risk. Kefir may also improve bone density and help prevent osteoporosis.
Made of fermented shredded cabbage, the popular hot dog topping is low in calories but high in fiber and nutrients. Sauerkraut contains both Vitamin C and Vitamin K. It also is loaded with the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote eye health. These antioxidants also aid in cancer prevention. A study showed that cabbage juice decreased the activity of enzymes that form breast cancer cells.
Fermented foods have a tangy, sometimes pungent flavor that adds zing to meals. Popular in many parts of the world, these foods have many benefits for your health and are well worth including in the diet.
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