Can Eating Fermented Foods Help You Lose Weight? Find Out More About the Benefits of Fermentation
Years ago, before I knew anything about fermentation and the benefits of eating raw fermented foods, one of my friends told me that drinking this mysterious drink called Kombucha would help me lose some weight. Being the skeptic that I was, I leerily tried this pricey drink found only in expensive health food places at that time.
Hmmmm.....I don't know if it actually helped me lose any weight, because I was doing lots of things back then....BUT I do know I felt better when I drank it. Kombucha was my gateway into learning more about and creating my own fermented foods and drinks.
But that question still remains: Does eating or drinking raw fermented foods help with weight loss? I decided to do some digging and find out the answer!
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this article, and if you click through and make any kind of purchase I may receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you--Heidi
Does Eating Fermented Foods Help With Weight Loss?
It turns out, the evidence is inconclusive. But don't lose hope! I personally think it does, and so do many others, among them researchers.
Turns out, there are many studies that do link the daily consumption of fermented foods to a slimmer and healthier body. This is because fermented foods contain beneficial micro-organisms that help balance the body, support organ health, and even help detoxification.
What Happens to Food During Fermentation?
First of all, let's talk about the changes fermentation makes to the food itself. Fermentation is actually an ancient method of preserving foods without refrigeration that cultures the world over have used for thousands of years.
Essentially, fermentation is the first part of the decomposition process, as the bacteria and yeasts begin the process of breaking down the foods. During a healthy fermentation process, enzymes and nutrients are preserved in the foods, and there is actually evidence that the nutritional value of the food is enhanced through fermentation too.
Why Does Eating Fermented Foods Help With Weight Loss?
Fermented Foods Balance Your Micro-biome:
The earth has many different ecosystems the world over, and when one becomes unbalanced, then problems begin to occur. In unhealthy ecosystems, plants and animals become unbalanced, and there are only negative ramifications from this.
For example, here in our area of the Mojave Desert, we have large herds of mustangs, or wild horses. These horses are not indigenous to the area--they were brought to our country by the Spaniards several centuries ago and have proliferated. In some areas of the United States, they can thrive because the environment supports them.
That is not the case in our area, however. These wild horses have no natural predators in the Mojave Desert, at least not enough to make a difference...so they continue to reproduce, increasing the numbers in the herd.
Now this all sounds fine and good....but here in the Mojave, there is just not enough food to support all these horses. So, every few years, we have literally hundreds of starving, diseased and dying horses begging people to help from the roadways. It's a tragedy.
Once the BLM rounds up large numbers of these horses and removes them, well, the ecosystem has a chance to recover. The remaining horses are healthier, and the plant life is able to start getting back to normal too.
Our bodies are the same way.
We all have our own ecosystem in our guts. This is our micro-biome, and the balance of the micro-organisms in this personal ecosystem each of us has is crucial to our health and some insist, our weight.
The key is in keeping the good bacteria and yeasts that live inside us stronger than the bad bacteria and yeasts. This is a pretty simplistic way of looking at our micro-biome, but really, that's about it. It's all about balance.
Weight gain and obesity may be symptoms of an unhealthy gut imbalance, researchers are discovering. Studies have shown that there are significant differences in the gut bacteria between people who are overweight and those who are thin.
One study even showed that overweight people had 20% more of the bad bacteria while also having up to 90% less of the good bacteria needed for balance. This seems like a pretty compelling argument to me!
So...eat those fermented foods!
Do All Fermented Foods Work the Same Way to Help Us Lose Weight?
Raw vs. Processed:
Unfortunately, not all fermentation is equal. First of all, the fermented foods you find in the grocery stores have probably been pasteurized or processed in some way. This is BAD because these processed fermented foods are dead. They contain absolutely no live bacteria and yeast to help your body system.
The kinds of fermented foods you want to ideally eat are raw and unprocessed. They are SO easy to make, too; although I hear arguments all the time about "not having enough time," or "fermentation makes me nervous," or "I just am not into all that DIY."
Well, then, that's fine. If you are not into making your own fermented foods, easy as it is, then just be sure you are purchasing RAW fermented foods such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt (no sugar), milk kefir, etc. in the store. These will ALWAYS be in a refrigerated section, by the way.
Good vs. Bad:
There are some fermented foods that are just better for us than others. Lacto-fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut or kimchi, are the best for us. Other types of fermented foods that have different kinds of good bacteria cultures, like yogurt are also great!
Other fermented foods are not so good for us, though. Beer, wine, sweetened fermented food, miso or tempeh made with soy, and sour dough breads are just not the greatest choices---for obvious reasons.
A NOTE about sour dough bread: Sour dough bread is actually quite good for you IF it is truly fermented and made with organic whole wheat (best if it's non-GMO, but laws don't require manufacturers in our country to say).
The sour taste of the sour dough comes from a "starter" containing millions of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. However, the sour dough found in most bakeries (except possibly the artisan ones) are not truly made with a starter. If you check the ingredients, you may just see vinegar as an additive. Yep. NOT fermented.
Here is a short list of fermented foods that are GOOD for you:
** Unsweetened cultured yogurt
** Unsweetened organic milk kefir from grass-fed cows
** Kombucha tea
** Kvass, like this Beet Kvass
** Any lacto-fermented raw vegetable, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and many others. Here are some recipes for fermented foods you can try if you like: How to Make Perfect Sauerkraut, How to Make Fermented Jalapeno Rings, How to Make Fermented Zucchini Pickles, How to Make Fermented Eggplant, and there are a TON more on the blog, too.
And it's not only a great idea to add fermented foods to your diet every day, but also to eat a variety of different types if you can.
Final Thoughts on Whether or Not Fermented Foods Can Help You Lose Weight
Here's the deal: You can be overweight, even if you add fermented foods to your diet. There are so many factors that play a part in our weight and health. BUT.....can eating raw fermented foods help? ABSOLUTELY.
In my own experience, I feel better when I eat different fermented foods. I know I'm getting the most nutritional value out of the tomatoes in my Fermented Russian Tomatoes, for example, than I would a can of tomatoes. It's just a fact.
After reading about the bacteria and yeasts found in healthy research animals as opposed to the types of micro-organisms in overweight research animals....well, my thinking is that fermentation does benefit weight loss. Does it cause it? Probably not. But it sure helps.
At my age, I am constantly vigilant about my blood pressure, my cholesterol, and therefore, my weight. You can read about Herbs to Use for Your Heart Health, Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy, and How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally in these articles.
I know I need to lose a few pounds after the holidays, especially, and fermented foods will absolutely be a part of my plan. I eat them every day anyway, but I'll be adding more in the coming months! Are they the be-all, end-all for my weight loss? No. But they will certainly be intentionally and thoughtfully included!
Oh! You might be interested in learning more about fermentation from the Traditional Cooking School. Wardeh Harmon is the founder of the Trim Healthy Mama series, and she has tons of short courses on how to ferment foods, trim down, among other ways to cook and create traditional foods. She is where I first learned about fermentation! Here is a link for her free kombucha guidebook!
Another valuable course I took recently is from the Herbal Academy of New England on The Art of Herbal Fermentation. It covers all the basics, as well as provides some excellent herbal knowledge too! I highly recommend it!
Do you ferment your own foods? What are your thoughts on this topic? Share in the Comments!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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P.S.S. I forgot to tell you about another amazing fermentation resource! My friend, Corina Sahlin from Marblemount Homestead, has an incredible Cheesemaking eCourse! I'm taking it now, and I've learned a ton and made some great fermented cheeses! Yum!