The process of fermenting food in order to preserve it has been practised for centuries. By allowing food to ferment in the absence of oxygen, huge numbers of living bacterial cultures – probiotics – are created. These contribute to a healthy intestinal flora and thus strengthen the immune system. Many fermented foods are particularly digestible and low in sugar and calories.
Our intestinal flora consists of billions of bacteria, viruses and fungi, referred to as microorganisms. The microbiota of each person is unique, and varies according to diet, environment and lifestyle.
That the intestine helps digestion, absorbs nutrients and plays an important role in immune defence is already well known – but the influence of our intestinal flora goes well beyond this. Researchers now see a correlation between an imbalanced intestinal flora and diseases such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, dementia and chronic inflammatory bowel disease. A person’s intestinal flora can even affect their appetite, hormone balance and mood.
Are all fermented foods especially good for us?
Production, processing and storage all have an influence on the probiotic content of a food. But there is also controversy as to whether microorganisms can even survive the journey to the intestine and colonise it – study results on this subject vary.
Either way, it is worth building fermented foods into your diet as they provide vitamins and other valuable nutrients and are easy to digest. But be careful: some fermented foods are high in sugar, saturated fat or alcohol and should only be consumed in moderation.
The following foods can be excellently integrated into your diet
1 | 7
Prebiotics are not the same as probiotics – but both are good for your intestinal flora
Fibre-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits and wholemeal cereals contain prebiotics. They consist of certain fibres and sugars that reach the large intestine undigested, where they boost the growth of microorganisms. These microorganisms are important for the intestinal flora to function properly. But microorganisms alone are not enough: sufficient exercise, sleep and good stress management are also required to ensure a healthy intestinal flora.