Fermentation is fast becoming a buzzword in both foodie and health circles, and for good reason. While those with adventurous taste buds appreciate the interesting flavor profiles and international origins of different fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, health buffs are attuned with studies suggesting the advantages of fermented foods.
But as with all other things, there are some down sides: First, not everyone likes the taste of fermented food—there is only so much yogurt that some people can take. Second, some commercially available fermented items are also full of components that aren’t great for health, like excessive amounts of sugar and sodium. And third, while making your own fermented food and drinks allows you to control the ingredients that go in, the process can be time-consuming and may be a hassle for most.
So what do you do if you would like to reap the benefits of fermented foods without the downsides? You can add fermented supplements to your diet.
What Are Fermented Supplements?
Fermentation is a process that uses bacteria and yeast to convert sugar and starch (carbohydrates) into other compounds like alcohol. Some of the fermented foods and drinks you may be familiar with are Japanese miso (fermented soybeans), kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage), cheese, and beer.
Other lesser-known fermented items are sourdough bread, kefir (a sour type of milk), and kombucha (fermented tea that is popular among millennials). Some fermented foods have good bacteria, called probiotics, that pre-digest fermented foods, thus making it easier for your gut to break down said foods.
Supplements are tablets, capsules, soft gels, gel caps, powders, and liquids that can supply the body with nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes) that may be lacking from your diet.
Thus, fermented supplements are vitamins and minerals in digestible forms whose components go through the fermentation process before they are dried and/or turned into capsules.
The Benefits of Fermented Supplements
Supplements are generally added to a diet for a nutrient boost, whether it’s for special needs (say, to manage iron-deficiency anemia) or to round out a diet. Taking fermented supplements may take it a step further and offer added benefits.
- Fermentation may supercharge your vitamins and minerals.
An article entitled published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition reported that naturally fermenting fenugreek leaves formed Vitamin B12, which was not available prior to fermentation. The results of the research are very encouraging and may indicate that fermented food supplements and fermented multivitamins may be more potent or increase nutritive components.
- Fermented supplements may be better absorbed by your body.
Some nutrients aren’t naturally bioavailable, meaning they aren’t easily used by your body and can even just pass through you. According to an article in the British Nutrition Foundation’s website, some research suggests that fermentation “can increase the iron bioavailability from cereals by reducing phytic acid content, which can stop your body absorbing iron” and also synthesize other compounds like Vitamin B.
- Fermented supplements may produce antioxidant action. A study published in the journal Food Chemistry looked into the antioxidant action of fermented grain food supplement. It found that the fermented supplement acted as a potent radical scavenger and oxidation suppressor. Free radicals and oxidation are believed to cause damage to our systems, which leads to aging and other degenerative conditions.
- They work wonders for your microbiome.
Your digestive tract is home to trillions of tiny organisms which make up a system called the microbiome. Some of these microorganisms are good bacteria while others are bad bacteria. Probiotics are some of the good bacteria that you may be familiar with and they may come from fermented foods and supplements.
By introducing plenty of good bacteria into your gut, you keep the bad bacteria in check, strengthen the gut lining, and help with detoxification. Because the good bacteria also predigest the food, there is less burden on your digestive tract.
Additionally, a study in the journal PLOS One, published by the Public Library of Science, suggests that probiotics “are generally beneficial in treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal diseases.” All of these mean a healthier digestive tract and, consequently, better overall health.
- Fermented supplements may aid in weight management.
Some research indicates that gut bacteria may have something to do with cravings. If your gut bacteria feeds on sugar, it may send signals to your brain to eat more sugar.
By introducing good bacteria into your system, you may be changing the signals being sent to your brain, possibly altering your cravings. It also stands to reason that a healthier digestive tract courtesy of fermented supplements can help your body more efficiently digest food and likewise aid in weight management.
While supplements should not take the place of nutrients from whole foods, the reality is that many of us probably don’t get all the nutrients we need from our diets. If you’re interested in giving food supplements a try, head to Healthy Options, which carries a whole range of fermented supplements and organic supplement brands.