Photo by Gerolf Nikolay
“Anti-bacterial. Kills bacteria in one spray. Removes unseen bacteria, protecting you and your family.”
That’s what all those sterilizing cleaning products promise. But what if bacteria wasn’t something to be feared and squashed at every opportunity? What if your body’s relationship to bacteria was a symbiotic one instead.
Let’s explore this relationship we have with bacteria, and uncover the 7 misunderstood reasons why bacteria are actually good for you.
1. Bacteria and Fungi Lead to Fermentation
Microscopic bacteria and fungi are responsible for the fermentation of foods and drinks. They produce alcohol, lactic acid, and acetic acid that act as preservatives so that foods retain nutrients.
Our ancestors used fermentation, and thus bacteria, to preserve excess bounty for the long winter months. Fermented foods were also very useful during long voyages at sea because they retained nutrition for a long time.
2. Bacteria Make Foods Digestible
I talk a lot about eating foods that are easy to digest, and fermented foods are certainly more digestible.
Essentially, bacteria are acting as little helpers that work to pre-digest foods for us. This is incredible, since we often expend a lot of energy on digestion. So eating more fermented foods will lead to increased energy.
3. Fermentation Creates New Nutrients
How could it be possible that a little fermentation could increase the amount of nutrients in food? Well the interesting phenomenon of microbial cultures proliferating actually creates B vitamins and even antioxidants.
4. Toxic Foods Become Edible
Another surprising benefit to bacteria and fungi fermentation is the removal of certain toxic elements.
Grains contain a compound that blocks the absorption of minerals into the body. However, with a little bit of fermentation these grains are now neutralized and edible.
5. Eating Live Bacteria Is Good For Your Stomach
The term “live” in live foods refers to eating foods that have not been destroyed, and in this case the bacteria is still alive.
Eating fermented living foods gives your stomach the intestinal flora that is necessary for digesting foods and absorbing nutrients.
Watch out for pasteurized foods, since these do not contain any live microorganisms.
6. Healthy Bacteria Compete with Harmful Strains
By eating fermented foods, healthy bacteria like Lactobacillus compete with diarrhea-related bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli.
That’s like having your own army to fend off competing invaders, instead of leaving your body to fend for itself.
7. Fermented Foods Help Protect Us from Disease
There are tons of ideas on how to prevent disease, but how many of them use probiotic organisms to do the work for you?
The body is not an isolated test tube, it is an ecosystem with many different factors at play. That’s why supplying it with health-supporting bacteria is a sure way to give your immune system a hand.
Here’s to Fermenting!
In the book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz, there are literally 100 recipes on how to leverage healthy bacteria to make yummy fermented foods.
I highly suggest you pick it up to get an even deeper understanding on how simple and delicious fermented foods can be.
What’s your take on fermentation and bacteria?
Let me know in the comments, and share your favorite fermented foods with me!