Functional foods are defined as those that have positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. We make a big deal about probiotic pickles since these live friendly bacteria are the key health benefit of fermented pickles. But there are many other reasons that make pickles a functional food.
Top 5 fermented food health benefits:
- Enhanced Nutrients: Fermentation creates new and enhanced nutrients through its metabolic process. Thiamin (B1) increases during fermentation and contributes to a healthy nervous system and cardiovascular system. Riboflavin (B2) plays a major role in the body’s energy production and niacin (B3) is known to lower and stabilize cholesterol levels. Folic acid is a B vitamin that increases during fermentation and and helps your body produce and maintain new cells. It also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer.
- Fermentation pre-digests food, breaking down components into more elemental forms and making them easier to digest. This also allows the nutrients to be more absorbable and therefore bioavailable to the body.
- Removal of toxins: The fermentation process actually removes toxins and eliminates bad bacteria. In addition, it has been shown to biodegrade the pesticide residue on vegetables.
- Fiber and prebiotics: Fermented vegetables including pickles, sauerkraut and KimChi are fibrous foods that are known to have numerous health benefits. We discuss the relationship between prebiotics and probiotics in our article Why Eating Prebiotics and Probiotics Are Necessary for Gut Health (And is Easier Than You Think).
- Taste: Is taste a health benefit? Arguably yes, since the pleasure of eating delicious food is good for the mind and soul. The fermentation process creates a unique and strong taste in fermented vegetables that is extremely pleasant and satisfying.
It’s amazing that the ancient food preservation process borne of necessity and survival possessed so many incredible fermented food health benefits. The functional food properties of fermented pickles were an unknown by-product to our ancestors for millennia as they went about preserving their vegetables in salt water so they could eat in wintertime. Incredible.
Continue your pickle awareness journey and learn the answers to the 7 Common Questions About Lacto-Fermentation.