9 Fermented Foods to Improve Digestive and Immune Health


Do you include fermented foods in your diet weekly?

Not only are these probiotic superfoods full of beneficial bacteria, but they’re also versatile and full of flavor.

Making a conscious effort to include only a few servings in your diet each week can have a huge impact on gut health, weight management, blood sugar levels, and more.

Ready to learn more? Keep reading for a full list of fermented foods, as well as some simple and delicious ways to add them to your diet.

What are fermented foods?

Fermentation is a process in which microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast break down molecules such as sugar. This process leads to a number of different chemical changes. However, most importantly, it extends the shelf life of the final product and increases the number of beneficial bacteria in your food.

Probiotics and their benefits

“Bacteria” and “food” are not two words you really expect – or want – to hear in the same sentence, but this type of bacteria is very important to your overall health. Also known as probiotics, these healthy strains of bacteria live in your digestive system and boost everything from Digestive health for immune function and beyond (1).

More specifically, the probiotics in fermented foods have been shown to provide antioxidant, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-atherosclerotic (prevent cholesterol buildup within artery walls) (2). When taken regularly, the potential to reap the mentioned benefits is sure to increase!

Takes probiotic It is one easy way to increase your intake of good gut bacteria. However, you do not need to spend a lot of money on expensive products to get more probiotics in your diet. In fact, incorporating a few fermented foods into your weekly meal plan can be just as effective, and may also provide other health benefits.

Top 9 Fermented Foods

From pickled vegetables to farmed dairy products, there are lots of different ways to introduce more fermented foods into your diet. Here are some fermented foods you might want to add to your next grocery list.

1. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from either black or green tea. It is usually sparkling and sharp, with a flavor that can range from sour to sweet depending on the method of production and the ingredients to which it is added.

Although research is limited in humans, animal and test-tube models show that kombucha can help lower blood sugar. reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, preventing the spread of cancer cells in vitro (3And 4).

Not only that, but kombucha is incredibly versatile. It makes a great alternative to soda or other sugary drinks and can even be brewed at home with tea, sugar, and brew – also known as a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.”

2. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a delicious fermented food with a long history of health benefits. Although it originated in ancient China over 2,000 years ago, sauerkraut has since become a popular side dish that has popped up all over the world.

Traditionally, fermented sauerkraut is made from raw cabbage with lactic acid bacteria. In some regions, it is also flavored with ingredients such as caraway seeds, juniper berries, ginger, beets, dill, or fennel.

In addition to providing the same health benefits as other fermented foods, sauerkraut also provides a hearty dose of vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and manganese (5). Plus, making sauerkraut is easy and can be done right from the comfort of your kitchen.

To make homemade sauerkraut, simply combine shredded cabbage, salt, and your choice of other vegetables like beets, carrots, and ginger. Place in a sterilized jar and set at room temperature for 2-3 weeks to allow fermentation to occur.

3. Kefir

Kefir is a type of fermented milk drink that has been linked to a long list of benefits. This cultured dairy product is made by combining kefir grains and milk to produce a creamy, delicious drink full of probiotics.

Kefir is a great source of many important nutrients, including protein, phosphorous, calcium, and vitamin B12, all of which play a key role in overall health (6). In addition, kefir is low in lactose, which means that kefir is likely to be more tolerable than regular milk for those with lactose intolerance (7). In animal studies, kefir has also been shown to reduce inflammation and possess anti-allergic properties, suggesting that it may be useful in treating conditions such as asthma (8).

Aside from milk kefir, there are plenty of other options to enjoy this delicious and gut-friendly drink. Goat’s milk kefir, kefir cheese, and kefir milk, for example, are widely available as an alternative to traditional dairy products. Meanwhile, coconut milk or watery kefir are popular alternatives for those following dairy-free or dairy-free milk. vegan diet.

4. Tempeh

tempeh It is a popular fermented soybean product that is often considered a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets alike. It consists of fermented soybeans that have been pressed into a dense, pressed bun that is rich in proteins, probiotics and important micronutrients such as iron, calcium and riboflavin (9).

Besides being high in disease-fighting antioxidants, tempeh is also packed with soy isoflavones. These powerful compounds have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, fight oxidative stress, and promote bone health (10And 11And 12).

Tempeh is also incredibly versatile and makes a great addition to wraps, sandwiches, French fries, salads, and more.

5. Natto

Although it has not reached the peak of its popularity in the Western world, natto beans are ranked as one of the best fermented foods in Asian countries such as Japan. Like tempeh, natto is made from fermented soybeans and is a great source of several key nutrients, including protein, manganese, iron and copper (13).

While many are unfamiliar with its unique aroma, taste, texture and smell, natto has been associated with many wonderful health benefits. In particular, natto contains an enzyme called nattokinase, which has been shown to be lowering blood pressure It protects against blood clots14And 15th).

6. Pickle

As one of the most common fermented vegetables, pickles are available on supermarket shelves across the country. Pickles consist of cucumbers soaked in a marinade, allowing them to ferment and boosting their gut-friendly probiotic content.

Keep in mind that kosher pickled dill Soaked in vinegar in most grocery stores doesn’t carry the same probiotic benefits as fermented pickles soaked in brine. Try making your own at home or look for pickles without vinegar at your local health food store to maximize the potential health benefits.

7. Kimchi

Serves as a staple in Korean cuisine, vegan kimchi It is preferred for its delicious flavor and versatility. It’s made with pickled, fermented vegetables seasoned with herbs and spices like garlic, ginger, and green onions. There are also many different types available, including cucumber, carrot, cabbage, and radish kimchi.

In addition to bringing a spicy touch to dishes, kimchi has also been linked to many health benefits. For example, a study by Pusan ​​National University in Korea found that eating kimchi for seven days significantly reduced cholesterol and blood sugar levels (16). Other research suggests that it can also help with weight control and help boost insulin sensitivity (17).

8. Miso

Miso is a type of fermented soybean paste that is used to make popular dishes such as miso soup. It can also be made from other legumes, including black beans, chickpeas, or lentils. It is also sometimes mixed with rice, barley, or seaweed.

Miso has an impressive nutritional profile and is packed with vitamins and minerals such as manganese, vitamin K, copper and zinc (18). Keep in mind that it is also high in sodium, so keep it in moderation and pair it with plenty of other fermented foods for best results.

9. Probiotic Yogurt

Good news for yogurt lovers: You can easily increase your intake of probiotics by simply switching up your shopping list. Next time you’re at the grocery store, look for a brand of yogurt that’s grown with probiotics. This type of yogurt is produced using fermented milk and usually contains lactic acid bacteria to increase the concentration of probiotics.

If you have high blood pressure, probiotic yogurt may be especially helpful. According to one review in British Journal of NutritionConsuming fermented milk in foods such as yogurt may be effective in lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure, especially in those who already have high blood pressure (19).

How to include more fermented foods in your diet

Need some ideas on how to add more fermented foods to your daily routine? Here are some simple strategies that make enjoying these nutritious and delicious ingredients easier than ever:

  • Replace plain yogurt with probiotic yogurt as a nutrient-dense snack or breakfast option.
  • Replace sweetened tea, soda, or juice with a serving of kombucha.
  • Implement “meat-free Monday” by switching the animal proteins in your meal plan to organic tempeh or natto.
  • Top your burgers, wraps, tacos, or rice bowls with kimchi, pickles, or sauerkraut instead.
  • Enjoy miso soup as a simple side dish to squeeze in an extra serving of probiotics during your day.

Adding more fermented foods to your diet is a great way to boost your gut health. In addition to their probiotic content, these healthy ingredients also provide a steady flow of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs.

If you are looking for more support and ways to improve your digestion, reach out to someone Registered Dietitians and Health Coaches. We offer appointments by default and all of our NS health coaches are professionally trained to give you expert guidance and practical plans for long-term health!

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