Including fermented foods as part of your diet has many health benefits. There are so many delicious options to enjoy besides the most common one -- yogurt.
Traditionally fermented foods are overflowing with probiotics. Regularly consuming probiotic-rich foods helps to restore a healthy balance of good vs. bad bacteria in the intestines.
Did you know that you have 10 times more bacteria in your body than human cells? Feeding your good bacteria helps to improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and create a strong immune system, which are all key for good health.
Fermentation is a traditional way of preparing foods that has been used by people around the world for thousands of years. This process not only preserves food so it lasts longer, but it also makes the food more digestible since the fermentation process breaks down nutrients into more digestible forms.
This is why the fermented forms of soy (miso, tempeh, and natto, and tamari) and dairy (yogurt, kefir) are easier to digest than unfermented soy beans or milk. The fermentation process is like a form of pre-digestion before you even take a bite!
If you’ve taken antibiotics (which wipe out your beneficial microorganisms as well as the bad guys), have digestive issues, or want to boost your immune system, eating probiotic foods regularly is a must. They help with digestive problems like gas and diarrhea and help to control inflammation.
Eating fermented foods regularly will also help to regulate appetite and reduce cravings for sugar and refined carbs – which sure is helpful as the holiday season approaches!
Here are 8 healthy fermented foods to include in your diet to boost healthy gut flora and support digestion:
This is one of my favorites and is very easy to make. It’s high in fiber, full of vitamins and minerals and is great for supporting digestive health and reducing inflammation.
Make sure you buy pickles that are traditionally fermented in a salt water bring using a lacto-fermentation process. They should be in the refrigerator section and say “contains live cultures” on the jar. The pickles you find on the shelf that are made with vinegar and sugar and then pasteurized don’t contain probiotics. Similarly, if the preservative sodium benzoate is added to prolong shelf-life, it will kill the beneficial bacteria.
Kimchi is a dietary staple in Korea. It’s made from fermented vegetables and is great for those who enjoy spicy food.
Skip the soda and instead grab a bubbly kombucha, which is fermented from black tea and sugar. This energizing drink improves digestion.
Miso, a traditional Japanese ferment, is usually made with soybeans and a cultured grain, but there are also soy-free varieties made with chickpeas and adzuki beans. My favorite ways to enjoy miso are in miso soup and homemade salad dressings. Did you know it can take up to three years to produce a good miso?
TIP: when making miso soup (or preparing other fermented dishes), don’t add the miso until the end because heat will destroy the probiotic benefit.
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian patty made from fermented soybeans. It is very high in protein and full of B vitamins.
Yogurt is the most popular fermented food in the U.S. and is widely known for its probiotic benefit. It can be good to include for those who tolerate dairy well. Be sure to buy organic yogurt to avoid the harmful anti-biotics, chemicals, and hormones found in conventional dairy products. Also, look for yogurt that says, “Contains live cultures” on the label; otherwise, it probably has been pasteurized after culturing, killing the bacteria.
Kefir is a fermented milk product that is similar to yogurt, but more liquid. It is made from cow, sheep, or goat milk, but you can also find non-dairy versions made from coconut. Thanks to the beneficial bacteria which break down the milk protein, kefir is easier to digest that milk.
Making your own at home...
The problem with a lot of commercially available brands of fermented foods is that they have been pasteurized so the beneficial as well as harmful bacteria have been killed. It is easy to make your own fermented foods at home.
Come learn how easy it is to make your own sauerkraut and kimchi (and try delicious samples!). Join me for my upcoming Fun with Fermentation class on December 1.
Learn more and register here.