Fermented foods are good for your heart

Why fermented foods are so healthy

The intestinal flora is increasingly becoming the focus of health research. A trend that is also good for the intestinal flora is fermented foods such as yogurt or sauerkraut. Fermentation is a natural fermentation process that is carried out with the help of bacteria, molds or yeast. These are either already in the food or have to be added by hand. The healthy thing about these specially pickled foods is the lactic acid bacteria. These not only keep the intestines fit, they also support digestion and strengthen the entire digestive tract. This, in turn, is important so that the metabolism runs smoothly and all of the nutrients that are important for the body can be absorbed.

Fermented foods have an impact on the immune system

However, why this is so has so far been largely unexplored. Scientists at the University of Leipzig have now discovered that bacteria from fermented nutrition interact directly with the immune system. Humans and great apes are the only mammals to have their own receptor for lactic acid bacteria. The scientists have recently published their results in the research magazine “Plos Genetics”.

Important receptor discovered

Lactic acid bacteria are either ingested with fermented food (for example in yoghurt or sauerkraut) or permanently colonize the intestine. The Leipzig scientists are now proving for the first time the molecular mechanisms by which lactic acid bacteria interact with our bodies.

First, the researchers examined proteins on the surface of cells, the so-called hydroxycarboxylic acid (HCA) receptors. Most mammals have two types of this receptor, only humans and great apes have a third, HCA3. "We combined evolutionary, pharmacological, immunological and analytical methods and investigated why this receptor was retained during evolution," says study director Dr. Claudia Stäubert from the Rudolf Schönheimer Institute for Biochemistry at the Medical Faculty.

The explanation of the researchers: Our human ancestors lived on earth at a time of great changes, which also influenced their habitat and thus the food supply. These led to a new lifestyle characterized by the fact that less fresh fruit was available and more fallen fermented fruit had to be consumed. In this scenario, the HCA3 receptor might represent a decisive advantage. "In the course of this study, we discovered that a substance that occurs in high concentrations in fermented food such as sauerkraut activates the HCA3 receptor and thus influences the function of the human immune system." , says Staubert.

Fermented foods promote health

With their study, the scientists led by Stäuerert prove that after consuming sauerkraut, concentrations of a substance called D-phenyllactic acid can be detected in the blood that are sufficient to stimulate the HCA3 receptor. “Our evolutionary and functional analyzes support the hypothesis that this receptor was retained in humans and great apes during evolution as a new signaling system to address functions of the immune system,” summarizes Stäuber.

The newly discovered substance D-phenyllactic acid informs the immune system and fat cells via the receptor that on the one hand foreign substances and on the other hand energy have entered the body. “Countless studies show positive effects that are mediated by lactic acid bacteria and fermented foods. We are convinced that the HCA3 must be responsible for some of these effects, ”says Stäubert.

Examples of fermented foods

These fermented foods can strengthen the intestinal flora:

  • Kombucha: The fermented tea is made from green or black tea and sugar, which are mixed with a special mushroom.
  • Yoghurt: The probiotic food is made from thickened milk that is mixed with lactic acid bacteria.
  • Tempeh is based on fermented soybeans, which are pressed into rolls or blocks. The mushrooms that are used to ferment the beans make them particularly easy to digest. Tempeh is considered a valuable vegetable source of protein.
  • Sauerkraut: To make sauerkraft from white cabbage, it is cut into small pieces, salted and packed airtight. The lactic acid bacteria set in motion a fermentation process that can take a few weeks.
  • Kefir: For kefir, cultures from the kefir mushroom are added to cow's milk. The drink contains carbon dioxide, which is produced during the fermentation process.
  • Miso: Similar to tempeh, miso is made from soybeans that are made into a paste.
  • Kimchi: Kimchi is made from Chinese cabbage that is fermented along with garlic, ginger, and other vegetables.

Photo: © Electrography - Fotolia.com

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