It’s highly likely fermented foods are already in your diet, especially if you enjoy aged cheese, yogurt and wine – just to name a few. The practice of fermentation traces back to the old days and it’s essentially a way to preserve food. As such, fermented foods don’t lose nutrients and they don’t spoil all too easy. Foods of this nature usually have strong, pungent flavors. While fermented foods do offer certain health benefits, they do have some downsides.
List of Advantages of Fermented Foods
1. It helps restore proper bacteria balance in the intestines.
Probiotics are mostly part of a group of bacteria that produces lactic acid and are found in fermented milk, yogurt and other foods that have undergone the fermentation process. According to the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Applied Microbiology, the health of intestinal tracts can be improved through the consumption of food that has lactic acid bacteria. Not only that, consuming such foods can also improve the bioavailability of nutrients, minimize the symptoms of lactose intolerance and reduce the prevalence of allergy in those who are susceptible.
2. It improves heart health.
The consumption of dairy is associated with the risk of coronary heart disease. However, there are certain milk products that have undergone fermentation considered good for the heart. There is evidence to prove that fermented milk products can mildly decrease really high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), according to the February 2006 issue of Current Opinion in Lipidology.
3. It improves the immune system.
Eating foods that have been fermented can make the intestine stronger and thus less at risk for intestinal illnesses. The consumption of fermented foods can also boost the immune system as seen with kefir, an acidic beverage made by fermenting milk with grains. Kefir is easily digested but it also colonizes the intestines with microorganisms that help maintain a healthy immune response. Kefir has been used to treat tuberculosis and cancer, according to the United Nations University.
List of Disadvantages of Fermented Foods
1. It is linked with the development of gastric cancer.
A study was published in Cancer Science in January 2011 showing a connection between the consumption of fermented foods and the risk of developing gastric cancer. The study was a meta-analysis of reports showing the effects of fermented and non-fermented soy food consumption on the risk of gastric cancer development. The study indicated that a high intake of fermented soy foods increased the risk of gastric cancer while a diet that was high in non-fermented soy foods reduced the risk of gastric cancer.
2. Store-bought items lose beneficial bacteria.
Fermented foods sold in many stores are processed differently than those that are traditionally fermented. They have too much acid and have been pasteurized so they don’t spoil right away. Research has also shown that fermented cheese products contain way too much salt than water.
While eating fermented foods certainly has some disadvantages, this doesn’t mean you have to shy away from it. As they say, always eat a balanced diet and everything should be in moderation.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.