May 23, 2017

Our guest blogger Anita Kyle is the managing director of The Kefir Company, an Auckland-based business producing coconut water kefir. Here she makes a case for adding fermented foods to your diet.

Open a health magazine or head to a food show and you are bound to see something about fermented foods. With all the publicity they are getting, it would be tempting to think this is a new trend.

But fermented foods have been a dietary staple for thousands of years. The Romans reportedly used sauerkraut to treat and prevent intestinal infections, lactic acid-fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, buttermilk and borscht are a popular part of many European diets, the Japanese have pickled vegetables and the Koreans have their kimchi.

In New Zealand, however, we have tended to favour freezing and canning to preserve food and we’ve begun importing fruit and vegetables, giving us a bigger variety of fresh produce available all year and less reason to opt for fermented foods.

So why are they making a comeback? Because we realised we were missing out on these health benefits our ancestors and Asian neighbours enjoyed from adding fermented foods to their diets.

Better gut health
Fermented foods improve the balance of bacteria in your digestive system, which helps you better absorb nutrients from the foods you eat, reduces intestinal discomfort and aids bowel function. Kefir, a fermented drink, can actually introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and colonise the intestinal tract.

Improved immunity
Fermented foods act as a probiotic – approximately 80 per cent of your immune system is located in your gut. So not only can they help you stop getting winter colds and flus or other viruses, probiotics have been shown to slow or reverse some diseases. Coconut water kefir is one of the natural therapies my husband and I use to manage our children’s autism.

More nutrients
Some fermented foods are outstanding sources of essential nutrients such as vitamin K2, which help prevent heart disease. At The Kefir Company, we use coconut water straight from the coconut for our kefir because it is full of minerals and enzymes such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium which you don’t get from bottled coconut water as it has been pasteurised.

Reduced cravings
Many people who add fermented foods to their diets report a decrease in cravings for sugar or carbs, so they can help with weight management.

Better skin
Fermented foods are great at removing toxins from the body so can help with clearer skin. Some people also find their hair is healthier and their nails are stronger when they consume these types of food.

Fewer mood swings
Fermented foods can support the cleansing of the endocrine system (adrenals, thyroid, pituitary, ovaries) so they help balance hormones. And scientists have proven the link between gut health and the brain, so by improving your digestion, you could help prevent depression and anxiety.

One of the great things about fermented foods is that they last and you don’t need a lot of them to reap the health benefits. We recommend adults only need to drink between 60 and 80 mls of The Kefir Company coconut kefir a day. And it’s not hard to add a forkful of sauerkraut to your scrambled eggs at breakfast or your salad at lunch, or grab a cup of miso with your sushi.

So you haven’t tried fermented foods, give them a go. Your body will thank you for it.

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