Is eating fermented foods in the evening healthy?

From improving digestion to boosting immunity, the benefits of fermented foods are known around the world. They can even help manage stress. A 2022 study by members of APC Microbiome Ireland showed that eating more fermented foods and fiber every day for just four weeks had a major effect on reducing stress levels. But it may not be a good idea to eat fermented foods at all times of the day! Let’s find out what the experts think about eating fermented foods before bed.

Gut health expert and Ayurvedic expert Dr. Dimple Jangda recently took to Instagram to explain all about fermented foods. Health Shots also dug in and consulted with Anju Mohan, Senior Dietitian, Department of Clinical Nutrition, Amrita Hospital, Kochi.

Fermented foods are generally healthy. Image provided by: Shutterstock

What is a fermented food?

Sometimes our meals are incomplete without fermented foods. Imagine eating paratha without curds! People in northeast India would also experience a lack in their meals if they did not eat fermented fish. Even dishes like dosa and idly have a strong connection to fermentation. First, you need to soak the rice and lentils to prepare the South Indian delicacies. You need to grind them into a paste and then leave the mixture to ferment overnight before you can start cooking.

Fermentation is a natural process in which microorganisms like yeast, molds and bacteria break down sugars and starches in food, Mohan explains. These microorganisms consume sugars and starches and produce various by-products such as acids or gases. These by-products cause many changes in the composition of the food, altering its taste, texture and nutritional content. Fermented foods are generally considered healthy because they contain probiotics, which are beneficial live bacteria that support a balanced gut microbiome.

Eat fermented foods at night

Dr. Jangda says in his Instagram post that the best time to eat fermented foods is in the morning or afternoon. Avoid taking it late at night as it can lead to symptoms of dehydration. In addition, when the bacteria in fermented foods come into contact with the stomach, the heat continues to multiply. It’s something you don’t want to happen overnight. She says it will affect your sleep cycles.

Mohan shares that there is no solid evidence, but some people might even experience bloating and intestinal discomfort after consuming fermented foods. To avoid possible discomfort during sleep, it would be better to avoid consuming large amounts of fermented foods before bedtime. Ultimately, it’s about paying attention to your body and noticing how you feel after eating fermented foods at different times of the day.

Who should avoid consuming fermented foods?

Although fermented foods are generally safe and beneficial for most people, there are specific situations where people may need to avoid or limit their intake. Here are a few –

1. People with food allergies or intolerances

Some fermented foods can contain allergens that can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive people, Mohan says. If you have known allergies or intolerances to certain fermented foods, it’s best to avoid them.

2. Histamine intolerance

Some fermented foods may contain high levels of histamine. People with symptoms of histamine intolerance, such as headaches, hives, or digestive problems after consuming foods high in histamine, should be careful when consuming fermented foods.

3. Excess sodium intake

Some fermented foods like pickles can be high in sodium. If you’re on a low-sodium diet or have high blood pressure or other health conditions that require restriction of your sodium intake, it’s a good idea to eat these foods in moderation, says Mohan.

4. Gastrointestinal Disorders

People with specific gastrointestinal conditions, such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, may experience discomfort or worsening of their symptoms when consuming fermented foods.

stomach ache
People with gastrointestinal disorders should avoid eating fermented foods. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

5. Pregnant and breastfeeding women

Pregnant women should exercise caution, although you can consume miso, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt to some extent, says Dr. Jangda. Nursing mothers should also avoid fermented foods, as this can lead to stomach upsets in the child.

And if you’re out of shape and don’t have any particular health issues, you can enjoy fermented foods as part of a healthy diet.

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