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Believe it or not, when you chow down on a meal, you’re not the only one eating. Your gastrointestinal system is home to trillions of microbes that help break down food (an average of 60 tons over your lifetime), but the beneficial bacteria among them are picky eaters—and they only flourish if they’re fed certain nutrients.
When you consume sugary, processed, and packaged foods, your good gut bacteria don’t have the fuel they need to prevent the bad guys from overpopulating, which can wreak havoc and cause digestive issues, illness, and more.
But, when your gut is populated with good bacteria, these microscopic organisms work day in and day out to benefit your health—and you can increase their productivity by eating fermented foods.
What exactly are fermented foods?
“Fermentation has been a staple of the human foodways for centuries and was initially used as a way to preserve foods,” explains registered dietitian Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Maya Feller Nutrition. It’s a process where natural organisms (like bacteria and yeast) break down sugars and starches in food to create alcohols, gas, or acids. “Fermented foods and beverages are produced through controlled microbial growth and enzymatic action—which gives fermented foods their distinctive tart taste,” says Feller.
While yogurt, cheese, and other fermented dairy products may be among the most popular, the list of tasty fermented foods doesn’t stop there. Here are 14 fermented foods to fit into your diet—and be sure to avoid these unhealthy options.
One thing to note: there are many benefits to eating fermented foods, but “for people with a sensitive stomach, it’s helpful to be mindful of the quantity consumed as there could be some intestinal upset,” says Feller, who suggests having one serving a day.
1. You can take fewer probiotic pills.
2. Your digestion will be enhanced.
3. Your skin health will get a boost.
4. Your immune system will be optimized.
5. Inflammation may be lowered.
6. Your heart can get healthier.
7. Your blood sugar levels will be more balanced.
8. You can lose excess weight.
9. You’ll absorb nutrients more easily.
10. You may be able to think more clearly.
11. Your mood could get a lift.
For reading more indepth information about these benefits, Read the original article on Eat This, Not That!