While microbes in fermented foods don’t have probiotics designation, these microscopic organisms are health-promoting. Microbes interact with immune cells in the gastrointestinal tract to strengthen immunity. A healthy dose of microbes from a variety of fermented foods also enhances gut barrier to reduce permeability of foreign compounds across the intestinal wall. This means greater protection from harmful bacteria and viruses, and overall better health.
Raw food before it’s fermented contains a wonderful array of nutrients. Even better, fermenting microbes create new nutrients that were not present in food prior to fermenting – a dietitian’s dream food! Lactic acid bacteria, for example, produce vitamin B1, B2, B3, B9, and K2 as vegetables ferment.
Raw foods contain various anti-nutrients that bind to minerals. This reduces the amount of nutrients from food that are available for absorption. Iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium are common minerals that are affected by anti-nutrients. Fermentation of grains, vegetables, and legumes substantially enhances nutrient bioavailability.
Nutrients are essential for health, without which disease from deficiencies develop. Bioactive compounds are not essential for health, though these compounds ward off disease, reduce inflammation, reduce degeneration and aging.
Obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer share a common etiology (disease cause) – oxidative stress, inflammation, and changes in metabolism. Fermented foods are rich in bioactive compounds, and are helpful in preventing chronic disease by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation and restoring normal metabolism.
Fermented vegetables are safer than eating vegetables raw. When done properly, observing the four hurdles to spoilage bacteria, fermentation extends shelf-life well past harvest without mounting food safety concerns. Populations with poor water safety rely on fermentation to enhance food safety, especially for foods served to babies and children or other people with weak immunity.