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What are the health benefits of fermented foods?

Tim Ferriss
Fitness
In the diets of near-disease-free indigenous communities around the globe it has been found that the one common element was fermented foods, which were consumed daily. Cultural mainstays varied but included cheese, Japanese natto, kefir, kimchi (also spelled "kimchee"), sauerkraut, and fermented fish. Unsweetened plain yogurt and fermented kombucha tea are two additional choices. Fermented foods contain high levels of healthy bacteria and should be viewed as a mandatory piece of your dietary puzzle. I consume five forkfuls of sauerkraut each morning before breakfast and also add kimchi to almost all home-cooked meals.
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

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Margaret Floyd
Nutrition & Dietetics
Fermentation, an age-old technique used to preserve food, has a long and rich history in the human diet. From the vast variety of cultured dairy products (cheeses, yogurts, sour cream, buttermilk, kefir), to fermented fruit and vegetables (pickles, sauerkrauts), to alcohols and breads, fermentation, souring, and culturing are a fundamental part of our food preparation and preservation strategies.

When a food is fermented, microorganisms transform sugars into alcohols (grapes into wine) or lactic acids (when milk becomes cheese or cabbage becomes sauerkraut), which prevents spoilage. In the case of dairy, fermentation can increase its digestibility to the point that those who are lactose intolerant or even allergic to the proteins in milk can tolerate it. This is because most of the lactose and casein have been broken down already through the fermentation process.

As with sprouting, fermentation increases the nutritional profile of the food, adding vitamin content and beneficial bacteria that are crucial to maintaining a healthy digestive tract and immune system. The process also neutralizes any potent antinutrients present in a food. The best example of this is soy, which is loaded with antinutrients and highly indigestible until it has been fermented. Even soaking and sprouting aren't enough for soy. I've noted this already several times, but it's worth repeating -- avoid all soy unless it has been fermented into tempeh, miso, tamari, or natto, a traditional Japanese dish you'll find in some Japanese restaurants.
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Elizabeth Boham, MD, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and kefir naturally have good bacteria in them, and eating them fights yeast overgrowth in the body. Watch functional medicine expert Elizabeth Boham, MD, explain the health benefits of fermented foods.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Fermented foods have been cultivated for centuries for their ability to clear out toxins, aid fat loss and boost your immune system. Dr. Oz explains how to get these superfoods into your diet!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.