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5 fermented drinks to improve your gut health, boost digestion

Chin Hui Shan on 19 Jan 2021

The Straits Times


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SINGAPORE - If you're looking to boost your gut health and improve your digestive system, fermented drinks might do the trick.


Such drinks are loaded with probiotics - commonly known as good bacteria - which help to promote gut health, says Dr Naras Lapsys, a consultant dietitian at The Wellness Clinic.


"These probiotics help to maintain the symbiotic relationships we have with the bacteria in our gut, where these relationships can be put out by factors such as restrictive diets and toxins," adds Dr Lapsys.


Fermented drinks also help to reduce constipation, relieve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and improve colon health, he says.


Besides aiding digestion, better gut health also strengthens our immune system and even improves our mental health, says Professor William Chen, director of the food and science technology programme at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).


Through fermentation, a process where big molecules are broken down into smaller forms, fermented drinks are rich in nutrients that are easier for our bodies to absorb, says Prof Chen, who is also the Michael Fam Chair Professor in food science and technology.


These drinks are also a source of vitamins and antioxidants, which cannot be naturally produced by our bodies, he adds.


While Prof Chen is all for incorporating fermented beverages into one's diet to increase nutrient intake, he stresses that these are not substitutes for a healthy diet and says people should not over-consume them.


Dr Lapsys recommends that those who want to start adding fermented drinks to their diets can take such a drink once a day, as our bodies take time to get used to it. It is also ideal to have the fermented drink during meals to maximise the intake of nutrients and good bacteria.


Fermented drinks may vary in how they can be beneficial depending on the bacterial strains found in them, he adds


Skip the probiotics capsules - here are five fermented drinks you can add to your diet:


1. Kombucha


A sweetened and fermented black or green tea, the fizzy drink has a sour tang to it. It is made mainly of sugar, tea and scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) - a rubbery, odd-looking mass where bacteria and yeast undergo fermentation to load the resultant kombucha with probiotics and nutrients.


Kombucha is packed with 20 to 30 strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast, antioxidants and B vitamins. They help to destroy harmful bacteria in your gut and aid digestion.


2. Milk Kefir


A fermented milk product that tastes like yoghurt, except that it is more watery. Tart and fizzy, milk kefir is made by fermenting milk kefir grains in milk, where these grains are actually tiny beads of bacteria and yeast.


Loaded with 20 to 60 strains of beneficial bacterial and yeast, milk kefir is rich in probiotics which boost gut health. It is also high in calcium which helps to promote bone density and growth. People who are lactose intolerant may have an easier time drinking this as most of the lactose in the drink has already been broken down during fermentation.


3. Beet Kvass


This drink, with a sour, salty, earthy tang, is made using mainly beets, water and salt. Not only is the drink said to be rich in probiotics, beets are also high in vitamins and minerals. Beets contain nitrates which help to improve cardiovascular and brain health. It also contains phytonutrients that can help to improve immune and eye health.


4. Apple Cider Vinegar


This fermented juice made from crushed apples has a wealth of healthy gut bacteria, as well as vitamins B and acetic acid. Acid cider vinegar is associated with many health benefits such as improved digestion and lowered blood sugar levels. However, Prof Chen warns that too much apple cider vinegar may not be beneficial for the digestive system because of its acidic nature.


5. Fermented Ginger Beer


In its simplest form,this naturally fizzy drink with a spicy bite can be made using ginger, sugar and lemon juice.


Fermented ginger beer contains gingerol and healthy bacteria which not only help to ease stomach discomfort but also relieve nausea. Gingerol is believed to have antioxidant properties, which can help to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart diseases.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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