Do fermented foods and the low carb diet go well together?
There are so many different diets advertised that it can be difficult to choose the right one for your needs. What works for one may not work for another. One of the most popular right now is the low carb diet. The aim of this is to restrict the number of carbs in the diet while increasing fat. This includes reducing the intake of foods such as pasta, bread and potatoes.
There is some evidence to suggest this can work for some people, but one of the problems can be selecting the right foods. In this article we’ll look at the possible role of fermented foods such as sauerkraut can play in a healthy diet with restricted carbohydrates. But first, let’s examine more closely the low carb diet and what it aims to achieve.
The general advice for people on a low carb diet is to avoid sugary and starchy foods. Both of which are high in carbohydrates. Specifically, those on a low carb diet are advised to reduce highly-processed foods, such as packaged meals, refined grains, such as white bread, breakfast cereal and pasta, trans fats, such as packaged cakes and biscuits and limit starchy vegetables such as potatoes.
The method is not new and a new book published by the CSIRO, The CSIRO Low Carb Diabetes Diet and Lifestyle Solution, uses it to help people manage diabetes.
Co-author Dr Pennie Taylor described the book as showing people how to combine foods at a meal to ensure that carbs didn’t overload the food.
“When you pair protein foods with a carb, it blunts that carbohydrate release response into the blood,” she says. “Then, if you pair that carb and protein with a healthy fat, it will lower the blood glucose response again.
“So the idea behind this diet is that if you have a meal with protein, the [right amount of the right carbohydrate] and a healthy fat, it will help to lower day-to-day blood glucose variations.”
While low carb diet may be helpful in managing diabetes, there is some question over its effect on gut health. If improperly managed, a very low carb diet may result in a severe reduction in gut flora. This means the good bacteria — that which has a positive effect on our physical and mental health — may be diminished.
While research is ongoing, a 2018 study has outlined the risk of a very low carb diet to gut health.
One of the study authors, Dr Oleg Paliy, associate professor at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, spoke of this finding in “is how macronutrient composition of a diet impacts the environment of the colon and the gut microbiota residing in that region.”
“Intestinal microbes mediate many dietary effects on human health,” he adds. “There, most of these compounds are fermented by gut bacteria.”
“This happens because a significant proportion of dietary carbohydrates, proteins, and fats escapes digestion in the small intestine, and reaches the colon, a section of the gut housing a dense population of microbes.”
While some studies suggest a poorly managed low carb can be detrimental to gut health, and therefore our wider health, it’s important to add that properly designed ones can still be beneficial. It underlines the need to seek professional help before embarking on any new diet. They will be able to design a dietary solution for your needs which will take into account the vital need to support the beneficial gut bacteria in our digestive tracts.
As with all diets, using common sense appears to be the key!
If you are concerned about the effect of low carb on your gut health, why not incorporate fermented foods into this diet? Properly fermented vegetables are actually lower in carbohydrates than fresh vegetables. This is because the good bacteria in, on and around the vegetables feed on the carbohydrates in the vegetables. Gutsy fermented vegetables have roughly half the number of carbohydrates as they did before they were fermented.
For people choosing a low carb diet, there’s a further benefit to eating fermented vegetables. Probiotic foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut are rich in bacteria that will help balance the gut flora. Importantly, they fit into a low carb diet because they can replace starchy foods with the good, fermented carbs from vegetables.
Made with sliced cabbage as its base, our sauerkraut at Gutsy Ferments is more than just teeming with probiotics. It is made from organically-grown, locally-produced ingredients. The sauerkraut is fermented in special oak barrels for 4-6 weeks to give you an unpasteurised probiotic treat.
The Korean version of sauerkraut, kimchi is usually spicier and more robust flavour. If you love the taste of Asia, try kimchi instead of sauerkraut.
At Gutsy Ferments we prefer eat a balanced diet of healthy, nutritious foods rather than advocate a particular diet. However, whichever you choose, make sure to keep in mind how it will affect gut health.
Please note this article is not intended to replace professional healthcare advice. Always consult a health professional before changing your diet.