Fermented foods are staples in the traditional cuisines of Europe, throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East, and in Asia, where the fermented tea kombucha is a common drink and fermented soy products such as soy sauce, shoyu, miso, tamari and tempeh are eaten every day.
These cultured foods all contain living microorganisms that enhance the food’s flavor, digestibility, and nutritional value, as well as acting as a preservative. Beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast or fungi chemically help to break down more complicated, difficult to digest nutrients like gluten, sugars, raw vegetables and legumes, to make them more digestible.
A Rich Source of Enzymes
Many fermented foods are also rich sources of enzymes that enhance digestive function. Fermented foods eaten in our culture include yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir (a beverage made from cow’s milk), olives, pickles, pickled raw vegetables, beer, wine, vinegar, sourdough bread, cheese, cottage cheese, crème fraiche and buttermilk. Nondairy cultured yogurts are available in health food stores like Whole Food including soy, coconut and almond based yogurts which are made with live probiotic cultures to assist in healthy digestion. Currently available brands include Wildwood Soy Yogurt, So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk and Almond Dream Almond Non–Dairy Yogurt.
However, when fermented foods are commercially processed so that they have a longer shelf life, the enzymes can be destroyed. For the enzyme-rich, homemade version, it’s best to shop in natural-food stores, which usually carry items such as freshly made sauerkraut, cured olives, and natural probiotic rich yogurts.
Benefits for Women’s Health
Using fermented foods in your diet have significant benefits for women’s health and the use of these cultured foods should be included in every woman’s diet. Based on medical research, they have been linked to a decreased risk of breast cancer, vaginal and urinary tract health, improved bowel function, better nutrient absorption and healthier immunity. The probiotics found in cultured foods like yogurt also assist in regulating and keeping estrogen levels in healthy balance in the intestinal tract after estrogen passes through and is metabolized by the liver. Probiotics contained in these in these foods also benefit the health of your children.
A recent study found that Polish women who traditionally ate real sauerkraut on a regular basis had a significant increase in the incidence of breast cancer when they moved to America and abandoned their traditional diets. Their relatives in Poland, who continued to frequently eat real sauerkraut, suffered no such increase, and continued to enjoy greater protection from breast cancer. In addition to the anti-cancer compounds, researchers found that extracts from real sauerkraut contained anti-estrogenic agents that were different from any they had seen before.
Vaginal and Urinary Tracts
Beneficial lactobacilli strains are actually essential for the health of the vagina and urinary tracts. These healthy bacteria strains normally keep this environment acidic so that harmful pathogens cannot survive. However, a number of factors can throw these systems out of balance. These include the use of antibiotics to treat infections, birth control pills and spermicidal jelly and foam. In addition, the overconsumption of alcohol or sugar and a high-fat diet can reduce the population of beneficial lactobacilli and predispose the body to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and fungi. Pathogenic organisms like candida may flourish in this environment.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Susan’s Healthy Diet and Nutrition for Women.
For more information about the benefits of cultured foods for women’s health see Dr. Susan’s Healthy Diet and Nutrition for Women book available on Amazon