Fermented Foods & Herbs
Even people with the most mainstream or typical "Standard American Diet" have heard of fermented foods, although they may not realize it. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and wine are all examples of the wonders of fermentation. Natural fermentation of food and beverages has been utilized by nearly every civilization going back more than five thousand years. Fermentation naturally preserves foods and this was most likely the main reason for ancient peoples devising these methods. Cultured (fermented) vegetables can last unrefrigerated for up to eight months.
What is Fermentation?
Simply put, fermentation is "pre-digestion" of a food, with a complete transformation taking place in the end product. Friendly bacteria naturally present in the foods or in the air environment reproduce and convert sugars and starches into lactic acid bacteria (very friendly critters), yeasts, enzymes, and vitamins. The result is a substance dramatically more nutritious and also easier to digest than the original. These foods enhance digestion and assimilation of other foods eaten with them, and thanks to the presence of the lactobacilli, protect against unfriendly, or pathogenic, bacteria which may cause food-borne illness. This was another bonus for ancient peoples. It is not an exaggeration to state that the more friendly bacteria in your gut the healthier on multiple levels you will be. (See our three-part series on probiotics: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.) Some examples of traditional fermented foods include kimchi (Korea), natto and miso (Japan), yogurt and sauerkraut (various European cultures). Nearly any food can be fermented, and many beverages also. Kvass, kefir, lassi, and kombucha are latter examples.
Not only food can be fermented. Savvy supplement shoppers may be familiar with companies such as New Chapter and Megafood who use fermentation methods to create their multivitamins and other supplements. These products not only have superior absorption and utilization in the body, but thanks to the culturing process using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a beneficial yeast, they contain naturally-occurring nutrients such as immune-enhancing beta-glucans and superoxide dismutase. Several companies are now producing herbal products using fermentation to create increased bioavailability dynamo versions of popular herbs and formulas. Dr. Mercola has a line of fermented herb products including Fermented Ginseng for energy and overall well-being, Fermented Ginger for healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract function and inflammatory response, and Fermented Beets with Red Spinach for cardiovascular health and exercise performance. Mercola's products offer improved absorption, reduced digestive issues, ingredients with greater benefits and strength, and prebiotics for a healthy digestive system.
"Traditional" Booster Powders & More
New Chapter has taken some of their previous herbal products and released new fermented versions using their clinically studied strains of probiotics and whole foods. Fermented Maca Booster Powder contains, in addition to maca, an energizing blend of schizandra and cardamom. This product is touted for endurance and recovery support. Fermented Aloe Booster Powder contains a detoxifying and digestive support blend including peppermint and coriander. Fermented Turmeric Booster Powder contains only the revered super-herb turmeric, touted for inflammation, brain, and heart support.
Genuine Health is another company that strongly believes in fermented products. They offer several kinds of fermented protein powders, which are 25%-40% better absorbed than unfermented proteins. Fermentation also eliminates allergens and anti-nutrients (compounds in some foods — especially grains, beans, legumes and nuts — that interfere with nutrient absorption), making a much more nutritious and digestible product. New from Genuine Health is an addition to their joint health line featuring natural eggshell membrane. They have added fermented turmeric to their fast joint+care to create a truly effective anti-inflammatory with tremendous testimonials from users.
Let fermented foods and supplements help make a healthier you!
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The information provided here is for educational purposes only. None of the research or evidence presented here is intended as a substitute for consulting an appropriate healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you believe that you may have a disease condition, please consult your healthcare practitioner before using this or any other dietary supplement.
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