What’s the fuss about fermented foods and their benefits for your gut health? Did you know that so many aspects of your overall health, can be influenced by the health of your gut? The bacteria in your gut is called your microbiome – and it is made up of all different types of bacteria. Some bacteria can have a positive impact on your health. We can increase this good bacteria with a varied diet which includes fermented foods.We look at the types of fermented foods available in the Mediterranean diet, and why they’re so great.
What is fermentation?
Fermentation is a method for preserving foods which has been used by different cultures for centuries. Fermented foods have gone through a process called lactofermentation, where the natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food and create lactic acid. The fermentation process not only helps food to last longer and taste better, but also increases healthy bacteria. Fermented foods are a large part of the Mediterranean diet.
Common fermented foods in the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet naturally includes a good range of fermented foods which are beneficial for health. Some common servings of fermented foods include:
- 30g of reduced fat feta
- 200g (3/4 cup) of low fat natural Greek Yoghurt
- 250mL (1 cup) of low fat milk
- 30g of reduced fat cheese
- 4 greek olives (not pickled, fermented in brine)
Most sources of calcium in the Mediterranean Lifestyle come from sources of fermented cheese and yoghurt. Yoghurt is a natural probiotic and contains live bacteria which can increase the immunity of the gut to fight bacteria and infections. Feta cheese is made from sheep or goats milk (and often cow’s milk in Australia) that has been fermented in brine. Feta cheese is the staple in the Greek diet, served as a meze or used to enhance the flavour of many main meals including the traditional Greek salad or the well-known Spanakopita (spinach and feta pie).
So why the fuss on fermented foods?
The large intake of fermented foods in the Mediterranean Diet boosts individuals’ health outcomes more than many realise. Different methods of fermentation are used in food production. For example, wine uses yeast for fermentation and is essential in converting the sugar to alcohol whereas the good bacteria found in Greek yoghurt is fundamental for fermentation. Good bacteria utilised in these methods of fermentation are referred to as probiotics and have tremendous benefits for gut health which is why they are also called ‘friendly bacteria’.
Prebiotics and Probiotics were derived from antibiotics due to their effects on increasing resistance to various diseases. Prebiotics are fibre-like forms of carbohydrates that support the growth of the probiotics. This explains why these both go hand-in-hand to keep your gut happy. Pre/probiotics have been associated with important benefits such as the prevention and treatment of diarrhoea and other infections in the gastrointestinal tract including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Prebiotic Food Sources
- Vegetables (especially artichokes, garlic, onion, leek, asparagus)
- Bread/cereals (barley, rye bread, pasta, couscous, wheat bread, oats)
- Nuts and seeds
Probiotic Food Sources
- Fermented or aged milk and milk products
The combination of both prebiotic and probiotic foods in the Mediterranean diet contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. Another reason why the time-honoured Mediterranean diet is so amazing for your health.
Get help to incorporate eating fermented foods
Would you like to know more about the microbiome, and eating for gut health? Or perhaps you’d like to know how to incorporate fermented foods from the Mediterranean Diet into your life? On October 27 Two Greek Girls Cooking and friends will be bringing to Australia a world-first Mediterranean Diet Expo. Held in Brisbane, we pass on the many health benefits of the diet, and show you some easy recipes and endless tips about how to COOK-EAT-LIVE a healthy Mediterranean diet. We will also feature stalls showcasing great local fermented food such as Bunnyconnellen Olives; Olympus Cheese and Chobani Yoghurt.
See our webpage for more details.MEDITERRANEAN DIET EXPO
What are the guidelines for Mediterranean Eating?
Two Greek Girls have assembled our ground rules for dietitian-approved Mediterranean Eating, in a handy free reference guide you can refer back to. Understand what types of food you might eat and how much, when following a healthy and delicious Mediterranean eating plan.
Grab your FREE copy of our ground rules.