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Back to Basics: Adding fermented foods to their diet may help Americans in a nutritious health journey

By Tracey True
Special to NKyTribune

The rates of chronic disease, like diabetes and heart disease, are rapidly increasing in the United States. With an estimated 45 percent of the population suffering from at least one chronic disease, Americans are feverishly exploring nutrition and wellness trends to regain control of their health.

Between fad diets, workout routines, and an ever-growing list of supplements, Americans are looking for a quick fix. However, adding certain foods to the diet may help Americans in their health journey.

According to registered dietitians surveyed in Today’s Dietitian magazine, fermented foods, including yogurt and kefir (a fermented milk drink), were the number one superfood trend in 2019. But fermented foods are not new, they have been around for centuries. Going back to basics with fermented foods can boost your health.

Yogurt, kefir, sourdough bread, buttermilk and kombucha are common examples of fermented foods Americans are incorporating into their diet. These foods are created by tiny, living organisms feeding on an initial food, like milk or sugar. Fermentation can change the taste and texture of the food, along with enhancing it in other ways like improving digestibility.

For example, yogurt and kefir are thicker and tangier than milk due to fermentation, and most people who are lactose intolerant can digest them better than regular dairy because of the changes made by the beneficial bacteria.

Research has shown that fermentation can create substances known to improve blood pressure control, as well as increase nutrients known for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are important for preventing certain chronic diseases.

By contributing beneficial bacteria to our digestive tracts, fermented foods also help support our immune systems. Because fermented foods provide potential benefits beyond basic nutrition, they can be classified as “functional foods.”

A perfect example of functional foods in action are fermented dairy foods. In addition to the immune-enhancing vitamin D provided by dairy foods, studies show an association between yogurt consumption and an improved gut immune response. Kefir has also been linked to several health benefits, including improved bone health, aiding digestion, and protecting against infections.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate fermented dairy foods into your daily routine. Add kefir or yogurt to your morning smoothie, enjoy a buttermilk dressing with your salad at lunch, or snack on probiotic-rich cheese varieties, like cottage cheese, mozzarella, or aged cheddar.

While more studies are needed to fully realize the impact of fermented foods on our health, a daily dose for digestion can do a body good. To find the right fermented food for you, work with a registered dietitian and try our recipes at TheDairyAlliance.com.

Tracey True is a registered dietitian with more than a decade of experience studying and working in food and nutrition sciences. She currently works as Manager of Food and Nutrition Outreach for The Dairy Alliance, a subsidiary of National Dairy Council. The Dairy Alliance is a regional nonprofit funded by dairy farm families of the Southeast that works diligently with dairy farmers, retailers, schools, sports teams, health professionals, local organizations, state leaders, the media and the public to promote the health benefits of dairy foods and knowledge about the dairy industry.

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