You may have heard of fermented foods and the hype surrounding them from nutrition experts and enthusiasts. By using microorganisms, the sugars and carbs in these foods are converted into compounds like lactic acid — a process known as fermentation.

"Fermentation is almost like the beginning of digestion," said registered dietitian Sheah L. Rarback of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

This is why fermented foods such as alcohol and bread can be consumed by people who are unable to digest certain enzymes.

More commonly, however, many people face difficulty in breaking down an enzyme called lactase, a sugar found in milk. This condition is referred to as lactose intolerance. Estimates suggested 25 percent of the American population has a reduced ability to digest lactose.

While affected people cannot consume milk easily, they will be able to digest fermented dairy products like hard cheese and probiotic yogurt. As you may know, probiotics are the "good bacteria" present in fermented foods.

These fermented milk products could help in promoting gastrointestinal well-being, according to a 2016 review conducted at the University of York, England.

Researchers compared two groups of women where the first consumed non-fermented dairy while the second consumed probiotic fermented milk with a specific mix of bacteria. Compared to their counterparts, the fermented milk group saw a reduction in symptoms of mild gastrointestinal discomfort — these included bloating, abdominal pain, rumbling, flatulence, etc.

As the probiotics can reduce bloating by eliminating harmful bacteria from your gastrointestinal tract, they might also strengthen your immune system by stimulating the production of antibodies.

If this was not all, heart health may also join the list, according to a new study from Finland. It was suggested men who consume fermented dairy products may have a lower likelihood of developing heart disease. The findings revealed a 26 percent lower risk in the highest consumption group when compared to the lowest consumption group.

Jyrki Virtanen from the University of Eastern Finland also noted how dietary trends were changing in the country.

"For instance, the consumption of milk and sour milk have declined, while many fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, quark, and cheeses, have gained in popularity." 

Another such product you may have heard of is a yogurt-like drink known as kefir. Being referred to as a superfood in recent years, kefir can also provide a nutritional boost in the form of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes, and probiotics.

For those who want to include the healthful drink in their everyday diet, experts recommend combining kefir with whole-grain cereal or even using it as an ingredient in your smoothies.