A couple months ago our Katie’s Plates intern did a fantastic post on how our gut is at the center of our overall health- which you should 100% check out before you read this post.
A healthy gut = a healthy life.
I wanted to talk a bit more about fermented foods as they can play an important role in improving our gut health! I know, something about the word “fermented” isn’t immediately appealing. But there are some common foods that you are probably already eating that you may not realize are fermented!
Alcohol (beer, wine, hard cider)
Why Ferment Foods?
Through the process of fermentation (sometimes referred to as culturing) foods are broken down with the help of bacteria, yeast, or fungi. This can help preserve food as well as provide us with health benefits. The common substrates that undergo this process are gluten (a protein found in wheat) and sugars.
Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
- Fermented foods contain large amounts of probiotics, or good bacteria, and can potentially eliminate the need for buying probiotic supplements!
- Immune health. We know about 80% of our immune system is located in the gut, so creating a healthy gut environment is key for defending against disease. Probiotics in fermented foods aid in the development of the gut lining and the production of antibodies.
- Fermented foods can act as chelators, which mean they can bind to toxins and heavy metals in the body and help eliminate them.
- Increased bioavailability of nutrients. By culturing foods, a certain amount of pre-digestion helps break down the food for easier assimilation of nutrients in the body. Less energy is then needed so there is less stress on the gut. Additionally, fermented foods provide an extra dose of B vitamins and vitamin K from bacterial production.
Looking to step up you fermented foods game?
Lucky for us consumers, an emerging food trend of 2017 is fermented foods. Now more than ever is it easy to get your hands on products with fermented-benefits.
(Note: While I will be mentioning companies and promoting products, I am not in any way sponsored or compensated to do so. These picks are based on personal experience and my knowledge of credible fermented food products.)
Top Picks for Fermented Fun:
With a variety of flavors (my favorite being Ginger Beet!), these puckery shots will provide you with 110 Billion CFUs of lactic acid bacteria (aka live probiotics) and a spring in your step. Due to the slightly brine-y taste, I find that taking a shot first thing in the morning completely removes any early morning cravings for something sweet- just a little insider tip from me to you!
While not the most photogenic, tempeh is made from naturally fermented soy beans and has a bit of a nutty flavor to it. And, because it has all the essential amino acids, it’s a complete protein source for vegetarians. Unlike tofu, the soybeans in tempeh remain intact which provides a higher amount of protein, fiber, and vitamins. Tempeh can be gently fried (my favorite! It reminds me of chicken nuggets), added to soups, salads, sandwiches, or a stir-fry.
This is a staple in Korean cuisine. Kimchi is made with salt and fermented vegetables like napa cabbage, radishes, scallions, garlic, and ginger. Often served as a side dish, kimchi can be paired with rice or made into a stew or soup- or eaten as a spicy snack. Be forewarned! It traditionally packs a spicy punch, so it is not for the faint of heart.
The image of sauerkraut painted in most people's minds probably isn't very appealing. Now, however, there are plenty of new and exciting flavors of sauerkraut on the market, so even if you think you aren't a fan, it's worth another try! Smoked Jalapeno, Horseradish Leek, and Spicy Wakame Ginger are several unique flavors you can find. Eat as a side dish or as a great probiotic-packed,simple-ingredient snack!
Though fifth on this list, kombucha is by far my favorite way to incorporate fermented foods. Kombucha is a made from black tea and sugar with a colony of bacteria and yeast which initiate the fermentation process. After fermentation occurs, the resulting product is carbonated and has vinegar, b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and various acids. There are endless brands and flavors to choose from so consider adding this beverage into your day for a great pick me up- and a replacement for soda if you’re still unable to break the addiction.
Ready to incorporate fermented foods (and drinks) into your diet? You've got 5 new great ways to up your probiotic intake and help heal your gut! Happy eating:)