Is fer­mented food healthy?

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR HEALTH - WITH AU­THOR AND NU­TRI­TIONAL BIO­CHEMIST DR LIBBY

What’s all the fuss with fer­mented foods at the mo­ment, in par­tic­u­lar kom­bucha? Is it any good for you? Thanks for your time, Sean.

Hi Sean. When it comes to un­der­stand­ing the role of bac­te­ria in our health, con­sider this – we are ac­tu­ally more bac­te­ria than we are hu­man. A healthy bal­ance of the bac­te­ria in our gut gov­erns the func­tion­ing of many sys­tems in­clud­ing the im­mune sys­tem and me­tab­o­lism. It plays a crit­i­cal role in our mood and brain func­tion – and it helps us main­tain our body size.

The health of the gut is cen­tral to ev­ery as­pect of health. It is through our di­ges­tive sys­tem that we ab­sorb all of the good­ness from our food, a process that is essen­tial for life.

Yet today, many peo­ple suf­fer with an ar­ray of gut-based ill­nesses or dys­func­tion, which can have a broad im­pact on many other ar­eas of our health.

Fer­mented foods are like a big hug for your gut and a won­der­fully nour­ish­ing ad­di­tion to your diet, whether you have ex­pe­ri­enced gut dys­func­tion or not. Fer­mented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofer­men­ta­tion in which nat­u­ral bac­te­ria feed on the sug­ars and starches in the food creat­ing cer­tain acids. The fer­men­ta­tion of foods may also pre­serve the nu­tri­ent con­tent of the food and as­sist in mak­ing the food eas­ier to digest. It’s this along with the acids such as acetic acid – thought to help stim­u­late stom­ach acid pro­duc­tion – cre­ated dur­ing the fer­men­ta­tion process that ex­plains the link be­tween con­sump­tion of fer­mented foods and im­proved di­ges­tion.

Kom­bucha is a fizzy fer­mented tea that has a good mix of dif­fer­ent strains of bac­te­ria. The fer­men­ta­tion process pro­duces

Kom­bucha is a fizzy fer­mented tea that has a good mix of dif­fer­ent strains of bac­te­ria.

vine­gar and sev­eral other acidic com­pounds, trace lev­els of al­co­hol and gases that make it car­bon­ated. A large amount of pro­bi­otic bac­te­ria is also pro­duced dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion. It cer­tainly works won­ders for a num­ber of peo­ple’s di­ges­tive sys­tems. How­ever, it’s im­por­tant to read the la­bel when buy­ing com­mer­cial brands as some can have a high sugar con­tent.

I know sugar is bad for us and I try to avoid it when­ever pos­si­ble but I’m hav­ing trou­ble re­mov­ing it from tea and cof­fee. Any sug­ges­tions as to how I can wean of it? Thanks, Michelle.

Hi Michelle. Adding a tea­spoon of sugar to your cof­fee or tea (I’m as­sum­ing this is how much you

are adding) will ac­tu­ally be a very small pro­por­tion of the sugar you con­sume on a daily ba­sis. So al­though it’s cer­tainly wise to re­move this and to start to re­train your taste buds, you must also look at all the hid­den sources of re­fined sug­ars in your diet.

We con­sume these mainly in pack­aged or pro­cessed goods such as sauces, chips, crack­ers, bis­cuits, muesli bars, yo­ghurt and ice-cream, to name a few. Also to ap­pre­ci­ate that sugar is hid­den by a num­ber of dif­fer­ent names such as cane sugar, mal­todex­trin, dex­trose, mal­tose and fruit juice con­cen­trate (to name only a few).

With many pa­tients when it comes to the sugar they add to their food I have asked them to slowly re­duce the sugar they add, for ex­am­ple drop­ping down to a 1⁄

2 tea­spoon, 1⁄ tea­spoon and then

4 re­mov­ing it al­to­gether.

Af­ter a lit­tle while of re­train­ing your taste buds you will no­tice that if you do con­sume ‘‘sug­ary’’ foods they taste sickly sweet.

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