Enjoy the Benefits of Friendly Fermentation

Mango lassi with cardamom
Mango lassi with cardamom

Did you know you are a walking habitat? Your body, both in your gut and on your skin, is home to billions of beneficial bacteria. While many bacteria have negative reputations, there are whole hosts that serve many purposes and, for the most part, live in synergy with us. For example, did you know approximately 80% of your immune system stems from your gut? Our food choices impact the bacteria in our gut. Not only can we feed our bacteria by eating “prebiotic” foods, such as root vegetables, onions, hearty greens, nuts and other high-fiber foods, but we can also introduce more beneficial bacteria by consuming fermented foods.

Fermentation is the process by which bacteria eat the sugars in foods, and then release lactic acid as a product. This is also known as lactofermentation. Lactofermentation has been used throughout history to ease digestion, preserve foods and enhance flavor. We now know that fermented foods provide vitamin k2 along with various b-vitamins.

How can you bolster your beneficial bacteria? Here are some nourishing foods to try.

  • Like yogurt? Try lassi. Lassi is a popular, yogurt-based fermented drink from South Asian countries. Often it is mixed with spices like cardamom or turmeric, but can also be found blended with fruit. Some health food stores will stock lassi drinks or you can make them yourself.
  • Traditional crème fraîche is cream and butterfat fermented with bacterial cultures. Yum.
  • Many types of pickled vegetables such as kimchi or sauerkraut use lactofermentaion as a means of preservation. Both kimchi and sauerkraut are available at most health food stores and some grocery stores (make sure to purchase in the refrigerated section to ensure live bacterial cultures).
  • Seasonings such as miso, fish sauce, traditional soy sauce and Tabasco sauce all use fermentation and therefore are great additions to your diet.

Adding fermented foods to one meal each day may increase the health of your gut, and in turn enhance the health of your entire system!

— By Alyssa Neill, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Amy Frasieur, MS, RD, core faculty in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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