5 Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods

Fermented foods have a number of health benefits that are worth knowing about. It's good to consume them on a daily basis. Learn more.
5 Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 01 January, 2023

Fermented foods have a number of health benefits when introduced to the diet on a regular basis. Especially the dairy type. This series of products is recommended by almost all nutritionists, so it’s a good idea to ensure their presence in the daily diet.

Dairy products aren’t inflammatory or harmful to the body, as has been stated in recent years. There’s solid evidence that the intake of these foods doesn’t alter the markers related to inflammation and they’re a good source of essential minerals and other elements that we’ll discuss further in this article.

The benefits of eating fermented foods

Next, we’re going to discuss the main benefits of eating fermented foods. There are several types that can be consumed, such as dairy products, cabbage, certain infusions… But really, those that have the most support from the scientific literature are yogurt and kefir.

1. They improve intestinal function

Fermented foods are a source of probiotics. These are live microorganisms capable of selectively colonizing the digestive tract, exerting a benefit on the host. Thanks to these microorganisms, the development of chronic and complex diseases can be prevented and intestinal function is improved.

This is because they’re necessary for the activation of bile acids and the subsequent digestion of fats. Otherwise, vitamin deficiencies could develop, among other compounds and elements.

According to a study by Autoimmunity Reviews, the profile of the microbiota will be decisive in avoiding alterations in the proper functioning of the gallbladder and liver.

In this way, physiological alterations that end with the genesis of stones or other types of more serious diseases can be prevented. In addition, thanks to the microorganisms in the intestine, digestion and the use of nutrients are greatly improved.

However, it must be borne in mind that not all bacteria found in the intestine are beneficial. For this reason, the consumption of fermented foods is also essential. Thanks to them, the space available for pathogens is reduced, thus avoiding their growth, which could cause intestinal discomfort or alterations in the inflammation profile in the internal environment.

2. They prevent constipation

A woman sitting on a toilet holding a roll of toilet paper.
Among the options that people with constipation have to improve their condition is the consumption of fermented foods on a regular basis.

Studies have shown that microbiota also has a determining role in the process of intestinal transit. It can be essential in controlling disorders such as diarrhea or constipation. In this regard, the administration of probiotics is usually considered together with the consumption of antibiotics in order to alleviate the side effects of the latter on the intestine.

Thanks to the beneficial microorganisms that colonize the intestine, many digestive and intestinal symptoms that cause discomfort can be prevented. Gas production will also be modulated, reducing the feeling of bloating after a large or high-fiber meal. In fact, discomfort of this type is usually caused by an overgrowth of pathogens in the intestine.

But what’s clear is that for fermented foods to have a good effect on motility, it will be important to ensure a sufficient intake of fruits and vegetables. After all, fiber acts as the main energy substrate for bacteria. This will guarantee their growth and increase in density, which will cause greater benefits and avoid subsequent dysbiosis.

3. They help prevent complex diseases

The probiotics present in fermented foods are very important in limiting the inflammatory state in the internal environment. This is because the microorganisms synthesize a series of compounds from the fiber, short-chain fatty acids, with anti-inflammatory potential.

This is confirmed by research published in the journal Environmental Microbiology. These elements will help prevent the development of diseases that affect the intestine, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s crucial to take into account that this class of autoimmune diseases is considered chronic, so there’s no known cure for them. Once they appear, the most that can be done is proper symptomatological control.

For this reason, it’ll be necessary to take advantage of prevention mechanisms. Although on many occasions, there’s some determination at the genetic level, environmental conditions will be able to make a difference.

Research is currently showing that the administration of fermented foods and probiotics can reduce the symptoms of these complex problems. Whether or not stool transplantation achieves good results is even being investigated, with promising evidence in rodents.

However, researchers must still correctly identify all the strains that produce the benefit in order to isolate them and include them in the diet in the form of supplements later.

4. They improve sports performance

People exercising.
Being competent in sports is largely based on having a good diet.

The regular practice of high-intensity physical exercise produces changes in the microbiota that are presumed to be positive. In fact, it appears that these modifications may be closely related to sports performance.

Even in regard to the subsequent recovery capacity, causing an effective modulation of inflammation levels. Thanks to this, the formation of free radicals is neutralized and markers of muscle damage are reduced.

As evidenced by research published in the journal Nutrients, more trials will be necessary in order to demonstrate the effects of different bacterial strains on the performance of athletes. Even so, everything indicates that the frequent administration of probiotics or fermented foods will generate a benefit in athletes.

Above all, they could be decisive during preseason periods, when it comes after a period of inactivity that will cause a change in the microbiota.

5. They boost immune function

The microbiota functions as one of the main entry barriers to the bloodstream. Thanks to this, many toxins and pathogens are prevented from reaching systemic circulation, which could be tremendously negative for human health.

In fact, there’s solid evidence that maintaining a competent microbiota reduces the incidence of infectious diseases. For this reason, the consumption of probiotics through the diet is recommended.

However, there are many other elements that can enhance the function of the defense system. An example would be vitamin C. This improves the innate and acquired lines of immunity. It even allows much more efficient symptom control when a disease has developed. For this reason, high doses of this nutrient are one of the main treatments for this type of problem.

When to include fermented foods in the diet?

The most appropriate thing is for fermented foods to appear in the diet on a daily basis. As we’ve mentioned, the best alternatives are yogurt and kefir. They’re the most studied and have positive effects demonstrated in scientific literature. After all, the bacterial strains that are concentrated inside them and the subsequent physiological interactions are known with precision.

But the truth is that they’re not only good in regard to probiotics. They’re also a source of other essential nutrients such as proteins of high biological value, calcium, and vitamin A. All of them will contribute to maintaining a state of homeostasis in the internal environment, which will be considered decisive in avoiding the genesis of chronic and complex diseases over the years.

Likewise, there are several options to combine fermented foods and get even more out of them. For example, they can be mixed with nuts. This way, a much more complete lipid profile is achieved, with a greater quantity of antioxidant phytochemicals.

These last elements are essential in order to neutralize the formation of free radicals and their subsequent accumulation in the body’s tissues. We’re talking about a primary effect in order to combat aging.

Cocoa can also be added to fermented milk, although it must always be as pure as possible. It’s common for an excessive amount of sugar to be added to improve its flavor, which is considered dangerous for the functioning of the metabolism in the medium term.

It’s clear that this element is crucial for athletes, as it’s their main energy substrate. However, it’s not so good for sedentary people.

Look at the labels of fermented foods

Added sugar is a health concern in many foods. It’s also present in the case of fermented foods, on many occasions. Yogurts are a good example of this. For this reason, the most appropriate thing will be to carefully review the labeling to ensure that the products don’t contain these elements. Otherwise, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be increased in the medium term.

Also, you have to be careful with artificial sweeteners. It’s clear that they contain fewer calories than regular sugar, but they have a negative impact on the microbiota profile. For this reason, their presence in the diet must be limited so as not to experience changes that could be harmful over the years. Science still has many doubts regarding their use.

Fermented foods have many benefits

Fermented foods have several health benefits, so it’s very good for them to appear in the diet frequently. In this way, diversity at the microbiota level will be ensured, something that will improve digestion and the use of nutrients. Of course, this doesn’t mean that supplementation with probiotics has positive effects on the elderly.

Finally, keep in mind that when the objective is to maintain a good state of health, eating well isn’t enough. You’ll also need to ensure a series of good habits as a whole. For example, it’s crucial to rest well every night. This can also impact the density and diversity of the bacteria that inhabit the intestine, achieving greater efficiency in the assimilation of nutrients.

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