Have you ever wondered if you should be eating fermented foods or taking a probiotic? Or both? The nutrition world can be a confusing place sometimes. But I am here to try and explain why you would want to take a probiotic and the difference between taking that and eating fermented foods. Curious about fermented foods vs. probiotics? Let’s get to it!
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What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms—such as yeasts or bacteria—under anaerobic conditions (anaerobic meaning without oxygen). It can refer to foods and items such as wine, beer and cider. And it also can preserve sour foods with the production of lactic acid such as with sauerkraut and yogurt. Other fermented foods are olives, cheese and vinegar.
An example of fermentation is when you use yeast to leaven bread or lactic acid bacteria to preserve vegetables. Keep in mind that probiotics don’t remain active in items like wine and bread/beer unfortunately!
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), or lactobacilli, are naturally present on the surface of fruits and vegetables. They also happen to be naturally occurring on your skin and in your gastrointestinal, urinary and reproductive tracts. These bacteria, when present in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment, feed on the sugars and starches in the vegetables or fruits to produce lactic acid. This lactic acid then lowers the pH thereby killing off harmful or pathogenic bacteria and while preserving the food without the use of vinegar or preservatives.https://therealfoodrds.com/5-reasons-to-eat-fermented-foods-everyday/
Why Eat Fermented Foods?
When you preserve such foods, they actually become probiotic rich and produce their own enzymes which help you digest your food better. When the foods become probiotic rich, they are great for your gut and overall health. Here are some reasons to eat fermented foods:
Rich in beneficial bacteria: Also known as being probiotic rich, when you eat foods that have been fermented you are eating foods that contain beneficial bacteria. This beneficial bacteria is essential for the health of our gut, where over 70% of our immune system also lies. There is also a strong connection from our gut to our brain and ensuring that you are eating probiotic rich foods also ensures your brain health.
Improves digestion: All of that beneficial bacteria is great at helping our digestion as it helps to balance our gut flora. This is not only important for our digestion but also for helping us absorb the nutrients we are getting. Because we are more than just what we eat, we are also what we can absorb. The natural enzymes in fermented foods help us digest our food and break it down as well.
Easy to Find & To Make: Fermented foods are one of the easiest foods to find almost anywhere. They have been around for centuries and are part of many different cultures. And if you want to go the whole DIY route, you can also easily make your own fermented foods. I have personally made my own kombucha and enjoy the process of doing it. It really is quite simple and much more affordable than paying $5 a bottle.
You can find the recipe for homemade DIY coconut yogurt right here!
What are Probiotics:
Probiotics are the live bacteria and yeasts that are great for our health. Probiotics are usually thought of as the “good bacteria” that is necessary for overall health and wellness. You can usually find probiotics in supplement form at different dosages depending on your individual reason for taking them. They also contain different types of strains as well, depending on what the reasons are for taking a supplement.
Why Take Probiotics:
The reason for taking a probiotic is truly dependent on what issues you are seeking to address. Depending on your reason, you could look to a specific strain. For example, lactobacillus plantarum has been shown to improve symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain and bloating. Another strain, bacillus coagulins is great for constipation and digestion and has also been used to help treat those with IBS. It can also help with inflammation and has been used to help with symptoms associated with certain autoimmune disorders.
Fermented foods vs. probiotics:
So what does this all mean? Should you be eating fermented foods or taking a probiotic? Is one better than the other?
Here is the rundown- when you eat fermented foods they actually offer 100 times the amount of different bacteria strains over a probiotic. Probiotics offer a limited number of strains per capsule, usually anywhere from 3 to 5.
Further, when you eat fermented foods they also have digestive enzymes as well. This offers additional benefits for your digestion as well.
Some of my favourite fermented foods to eat include: kombucha, kefir, yogurt (check out my DIY coconut yogurt), kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and raw cheese. When it comes down to fermented foods vs. probiotics, my choice is always food first and then supplementation.
What about Probiotics:
The reason you would want to take a probiotic would be if you needed to take it for a specific health reason. Also, if you find that you don’t consume a lot of fermented foods, it would be a good idea to supplement with a high quality probiotic. Keep in mind, the goal should always be to get your nutrients, vitamins and probiotics from food sources first. Ideally, you want to look at taking a probiotic that contains at least 10-20 billion CFUs per day. It is best to take the probiotic first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach to ensure that it can reach your digestive system quickly.
When shopping for a probiotic, look for one that is high quality, contains different strains and contains live and active cultures.
I hope this post helps shed some light on fermented foods vs. probiotics. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below!