Benefits of fermented foods you didn’t know

By: Bel Marra Health | Healthy Eating | Saturday, September 09, 2017 - 06:00 PM

The basic food groups include dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables, and meat and alternatives. But there’s a push to add a fifth food group, which consists of foods that can work wonders for your health.

A researcher at Western University, Gregory Reid, is pushing for Health Canada to add fermented foods as the fifth food group to Canada’s Food Guide. Reid suggests that fermented foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut provide numerous health benefits, which is why these types of foods deserve their own special spot in the Canadian Food Guide.

Reid explained, “There have been studies showing a delay in onset of type II diabetes,” and studies showing “longer life,” with increased consumption of these types of foods. Other studies have shown that fermented foods help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of bladder cancer, and increase brain activity. He continued, “The probiotic bacteria starts in the gut, but it spreads to other parts of the body in a good way.”

There are some fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir, which are already in the dairy category. But Reid believes that when people think of the dairy category, they often reach for milk or cheese rather than fermented dairy products.

The same can be said for sauerkraut. Although many of us may already consume cabbage, we don’t think to have the fermented version of it—sauerkraut—because we believe that having cabbage is enough. However, in actuality, sauerkraut is even better for you than cabbage alone.

Reid suggests that singling out fermented foods as a separate category will give people more options and open their minds to such food items. “I’m not saying everyone should eat yogurt. Maybe people don’t like yogurt, maybe they don’t like sauerkraut,” he said. “But maybe they like kombucha or kimchi or fermented soya.”

It’s only recently that probiotic-rich foods have really been on the rise in the food market. With top yogurt brands promoting the probiotic content of their products now, more people are aware of them—even though yogurt and probiotics are not new by any means.

The same goes for other fermented foods. Although these foods have been around for ages, their health benefits are really only becoming public knowledge now.

Unfortunately, our tastes have steered away from wholesome foods and shifted to processed foods. “We used to eat more fermented foods,” Reid said. “Maybe we should go back to that.”

It may be a good idea to make the change. There have recently been bigger jumps in cases of diabetes, obesity, and even heart disease; all of which can be attributed to a poor diet.

Top 10 fermented foods

1. Kefir
2. Kombucha
3. Sauerkraut
4. Pickles
5. Miso
6. Tempeh
7. Natto
8. Kimchi
9. Raw cheese
10. Yogurt

Some of these foods you may have never heard of, and that’s because they are of Asian origin. The good news is that most grocery stores now carry a variety of cultural foods, so finding these items is easier than ever.

The Canadian Food Guide is expected to be updated in 2019, so it will still be a couple more years before we know if fermented foods will have their place to shine in it. In the meantime, we hope that we have raised your awareness of some other healthy food options worth trying in order to improve your health.

Related: Decreased social anxiety among adults who eat fermented foods

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