Probiotics are living microorganisms (mainly yeasts and bacteria) that provide health benefits when taken in the right proportion. Many studies done on probiotics have revealed they help:
- Eliminate waste and toxins from the colon
- Manage gastrointestinal issues
- Enhance skin health
- Improve nutrient absorption
- Regulate the immune system thereby reducing inflammation
- Improve mood and reduce stress
Due to these advantages, probiotics are tagged the good bacteria and more people are turning to them to maintain optimal health. When sourcing for probiotics, there are two options in the market – supplements vs. fermented foods and drinks.
Although probiotic supplements help you choose which specific strain of bacterial or multi-strain blend you want to take, their food counterparts have the upper hand.
With probiotic foods, you’ll get natural, denser and more varied probiotic nutrients unlike when you opt for the artificial probiotic capsules which only have a few strains of probiotic bacteria. Research suggests that one serving of sauerkraut may have up to 28 distinctly different strains of probiotic bacteria, unlike the 2 or 3 strains one might find in many probiotic pills.
Learn more about why probiotic foods make the best choice.
Fermented foods and drinks contain more nutrients than what you get from capsules. What even makes these foods better is that the nutrients they offer are easier to absorb due to fermentation.
Let’s break this down some more:
Many seeds, legumes, and grains contain a compound called phytic acid which binds important minerals like iron. This binding makes most of the iron content in a food unavailable for absorption.
But when the food is cultured, fermentation breaks down the phytic acid therefore making it easier for your body to absorb sufficient iron from your meal.
Increased Digestibility of Food
Yeasts and bacteria growth promoted during fermentation makes you get more bang for the buck when you take cultured meals and drinks. And if the live microbes in your fermented food die before you consume the food, you still benefit.
The reason is that even when microbes die, they still release digestive enzymes into their host food, further helping the digestive process. For example, Fermentation breaks down difficult-to-digest food compounds such as oligosaccharides and lactose.
That’s why some lactose-intolerant individuals can tolerate fermented dairy products containing lactose. It’s also the same reason why people struggling with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can sometimes tolerate cultured grains containing oligosaccharides.
Other nutrients like proteins and fats are also made more digestible by fermentation. While protein is partially pre-digested from fermentation, fats are converted into free fatty acids which aid absorption.
Which ferment is the best? While we often wish for a silver bullet, the reality is we need to be consuming a variety. It's through variety that we achieve optimum gut health.
So, which ferment is next on your radar?