Fermented foods or fiber: Tackling the driving force behind disease

You may think of bacteria as tiny, disease-causing organisms

In fact, though, many bacteria are extremely important for your overall health.

Your gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria living in your intestine.

It’s important to have a diverse gut microbiome. In other words, you want to have a wide variety of bacteria living in your gut.

Why? For myriad reasons…

The bacteria you have in your gut plays a decisive role in whether or not you’re overweight. In fact, certain bacteria are downright resistant to weight loss.

A wide body of research has also shown that the makeup of your microbiome greatly affects your immune system.

There’s even some research that gut bacteria impact how we age.

But maybe the most compelling reason is that a diverse gut microbiome reduces inflammation. And if you didn’t know, chronic inflammation is the driving force behind heart disease, cancer, fatty liver disease and diabetes — just to name a few.

How do you diversify your gut microbiome?

It’s all in the foods you eat.

A new study has once again proven some things we already knew about which kinds of foods are best at promoting this diversity in your gut.

Fermented versus fiber

A new study by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine compared two well-known types of food, both of which are healthy, and found that one was far superior for producing diverse gut bacteria.

Fermented foods are foods produced through the controlled growth of microbes. It’s like they’ve been “intentionally spoiled” in order to produce a wide range of bacteria. We’re talking about things like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and miso.

You may be more familiar with high-fiber foods. Many fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts are high in fiber. These foods are best known for keeping your bowel healthy and helping you regulate your weight.

Is one better for your gut than the other?

In a clinical trial, 36 healthy adults were randomly assigned to a 10-week diet that included either fermented food or high-fiber foods.

Eating fermented foods including yogurt and fermented vegetables produced an overall increase in microbial diversity. And the more fermented food they ate, the greater the beneficial effects were.

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Also, levels of nineteen different inflammatory proteins in the blood decreased. One of these, interleukin 6, has been linked to hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

A high fiber diet, on the other hand, produced no changes in levels of these inflammatory proteins and did not diversify gut bacteria.

However, fiber is still a valuable must-have nutrient that should be part of a healthy balanced diet. One big reason is that microbes in the gut feed on fiber and use it to produce beneficial byproducts like short-chain fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation.

So, while fermented foods help your microbiome bloom with various types of beneficial bacterial, fiber feeds them.

Fiber also provides bulk, suppresses appetite, binds with cholesterol, lowers blood sugar and speeds removal of toxic wastes from the bowels, thereby reducing the risk of constipation and leaky gut.

Fermented foods that pack big benefits

The health benefits you can get from including fermented foods in your diet are not limited to your gut.

Eating fermented foods also means better skin, less chance of depression, and better calcium absorption.

The list of fermented foods is long, and some may surprise you:

  • Yogurt
  • Miso (a paste made of fermented soybeans)
  • Kimchi (a Korean pickle)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Beer
  • Kefir (a drink prepared with fermented milk)
  • Tempeh and natto (Japanese soybean cakes)
  • Kombucha (a fermented tea)

And in case you’re thinking you’ll need to gobble handfuls of sauerkraut or guzzle kimchi by the gallon to get these benefits, that is NOT the case.

Here are a few ways to “sneak” some fermented food into your daily diet.

  • Add a little sauerkraut or kimchi to a breakfast burrito or grilled cheese sandwich
  • Add fermented miso paste to homemade soups
  • Add sauerkraut to coleslaw or potato salad, salmon patties, or stir-fries

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Sources:

Fermented-food diet increases microbiome diversity, lowers inflammation — Integrative Practitioner

Gut-microbiota-targeted diets modulate human immune status Science Direct

Some common inflammatory diseases University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.