Read on to learn how fermentation works, the benefits of fermented foods, plus the top 10 fermented foods that you should include in your diet for better gut health.
Fermented foods have been a part of human diets for thousands of years, with evidence of fermentation dating back to ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians and the Chinese.
Research on the link between health and fermented foods has exploded in recent years. Fermented foods containing friendly bacteria have been linked to improved digestion, detoxification, and overall health.
Our modern food culture reflects these findings through the popularization of “probiotic” products. Probiotic food is food that contains friendly bacteria. While many store-bought products have these friendly bacteria added during food processing, they occur naturally in many fermented foods.
How Does Fermentation Work?
Fermented foods have been through lacto-fermentation, which involves using beneficial bacteria and yeasts to convert sugars and starches into lactic acid.
The lacto-fermentation process not only preserves the food but also creates a host of beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, and probiotics that can have powerful effects on your gut health. Since gut health is linked to many other aspects of our health, a healthier gut microbiome makes for a healthier mind and body.
Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods
Researchers have found that the most critical component of microbiome health is diversity – in other words, hosting as many different species of microbes as possible in your gut.
Stanford School of Medicine researchers discovered that a 10-week diet high in fermented foods boosts microbiome diversity and improves immune responses.
Here are some other benefits of adding fermented foods to your diet:
1. Fermented foods reduce inflammation. Inflammation in the gut can damage the intestinal lining, causing leaky gut syndrome. Fermented foods contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the gut and promote healing.
2. Fermented foods help restore the gut microbiome. Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria that can help restore the balance of gut microbes. This can be especially helpful for people who have taken antibiotics, which can kill off both harmful and beneficial gut bacteria.
3. Fermented foods improve nutrient absorption. When the gut is inflamed or damaged, it may not be able to absorb nutrients properly. Fermented foods can help break down nutrients, making them easier to absorb.
4. Fermented foods support the immune system. The gut is a crucial player in the immune system. Fermented foods support the immune system by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Top 10 Fermented Foods to Try
While there are many different fermented foods to choose from, here are my top 10 fermented foods to try:
1. Kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea that contains beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Want to make your own? The best tea for kombucha is typically pure black tea, but you can also use a blend of black and green teas.
2. Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage rich in fiber, vitamins C and K, and beneficial bacteria. The best sauerkraut for gut health is one that has been naturally fermented and has not been pasteurized.
3. Kimchi. Kimchi is a Korean dish of fermented vegetables containing beneficial bacteria and vitamin C. What does kimchi taste like? It’s a blend of sweet, sour, and spicy!
4. Yogurt. Yogurt is a fermented dairy product that contains beneficial bacteria, calcium, and protein.
5. Kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product that contains beneficial bacteria and yeasts, as well as calcium, protein, and B vitamins.
6. Miso. Miso is made by fermenting soybeans, barley, or brown rice with koji fungus. It’s a staple in Chinese and Japanese diets.
7. Tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented food made with soybeans. It contains both probiotics and protein.
8. Natto. Natto is a popular Japanese food consisting of fermented soybeans.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar that is raw and contains the bacteria used during fermentation contains probiotics.
10. Coconut Kefir. If you can’t tolerate dairy, coconut kefir is a great alternative. It is made with coconut milk and kefir grains.
Getting the Most Out of Fermented Foods
To make fermented foods even more beneficial for gut healing, here are some steps you can take:
1. Choose high-quality fermented foods.
2. Look for raw and unpasteurized fermented foods.
3. Eat a variety of different fermented foods.
4. Consider fermenting your own foods.
5. Start slowly (this will help your body adjust to the new bacteria introduced into the gut).
6. Combine fermented foods with prebiotic foods (prebiotic foods like garlic, onions, chicory root, whole oats, apple and asparagus to name a few) to help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Interested in learning more about how to get the most out of fermented foods? Check out my podcast episode about the benefits of fermented foods for gut health.
Whether you choose to make your own fermented foods at home or explore some of the many store-bought options available, the benefits of fermented foods for gut health and overall well-being are truly remarkable.
If you’re struggling with gut health and are looking for ways to incorporate more of the top 10 fermented foods into your diet, my gut healing program includes unique ways to include fermented foods in your daily diet for better gut health. Click here to get in touch and book a complimentary 15-minute health discovery call to learn about how my gut healing program can help you.