I believe that one of this year’s health food buzzwords is going to be “probiotics.” With everyone from Michael Pollan to NPR jumping on the gut bacteria bandwagon, the discussion and science that is emerging on the importance of bacterial health is fascinating.
Most people know that a daily probiotic or the occasional yogurt is a good idea, but do they know why? And do they know the wealth of options that are out there when it comes to getting their daily dose of healthy bacteria? Check out the webisode Dr. Pedram Shojai and I just produced on the topic:
Here are some rock-solid reasons to add fabulous fermented foods to your diet:
Why do you want to eat foods full of bacteria in the first place? Good question. In most cases, eating food that’s so old it’s fermented would be a big no-no. But in the case of a these traditional recipes, fermentation yields major bonuses for your health.
Traditional fermented foods like sauerkraut are surprisingly effective as part of a weight loss plan. Fermented foods are typically low in sugar and calories, but high in fiber, which makes them wonderfully filling. Made from fermented cabbage and occasionally other vegetables, sauerkraut is not only extremely rich in healthy live cultures, but might also help with reducing allergy symptoms. Sauerkraut is also rich in vitamins B, A, E and C. Want one more reason to add fermented foods to your diet? Some, such as kimchi, have high levels of beta carotene and after undergoing three weeks of fermentation the levels of B1, B2, and B12 double.
Fermented foods also help stabilize your blood sugar; this reduces food cravings, keeps insulin sensitivity high, and aids weight loss. In a new study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, subjects who ate the fermented cabbage dish daily saw drops in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol), and fasting blood glucose levels after just one week.
Studies done on kimchi have shown that this Korean staple develops helpful bacteria that fight bad bacteria for the prevention of conditions such as yeast infections, urinary tract infections, obesity, diabetes, and gastrointestinal cancers.
Plus, the more you eat, the more benefits you reap! A study from Pusan National University in Korea included 100 young men, some of whom ate huge amounts of kimchi daily, and some who ate just half an ounce. The subjects who ate a huge amount of kimchi (about half a pound) daily saw much greater drops in cholesterol levels than those who ate a small amount every day for a week. Both groups still saw a drop in total and LDL cholesterol levels over the course of the study.
If you want to take a preventative approach to your health management (and I strongly encourage everyone to do so), adding probiotic-rich foods to your weekly diet is a wonderful place to start. Not only are they delicious, but fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir help weight loss, are full of vitamins and fiber, and deliver a much-needed serving of disease-fighting bacteria to your gut with each mouthful. Lastly, they boost your immunity more than any powder you can get mixed into a smoothie at Jamba Juice.
Now, where is my fork?