Jars of kimchi sitting on a table

The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Health food experts have been talking about the health benefits of good bacteria for many years. As we become more aware of the benefits of fermented foods, such as better gut health, an improved immune system, and fewer colds, grocery stores are selling more and more foods that are bursting with probiotics.

As a result, fermented foods are becoming more popular. Fermented foods have been used in many cultures throughout the world for thousands of years. They are packed full of probiotics; fermented foods can improve our health in many ways.

The Fermentation Technique

A food is classed as fermented if it has undergone the process of controlled microbial growth (when yeast and bacteria break down sugars). Once broken down these sugars change into acids and alcohol that have a rich and pleasant taste.

The majority of fermented foods originate from foods that are generally good for our health before the fermentation process, such as vegetables, seeds, and grains. Once they are fermented, these foods become rich in nutrients and probiotics.

Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the most common probiotics and act as good bacteria to combat bad bacteria that invades our body.

Benefits of Fermented Foods

Nutrient-rich fermented foods improve a person’s health in many ways due to its anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antibiotic properties. The fermenting process releases a variety of acids including lactic, acetic, usnic, oxalic, gluconic, and butyric. Some other benefits of fermented foods include:

  • Boosts your immune system
  • Assists blood circulation
  • Encourages self productivity
  • Improves gut health
  • Promotes digestion
  • Can reduce bloating
  • Improves mood
  • Increases energy levels
  • Reduces allergic reactions
  • Lessens occurrences of colds and coughs
  • Eases stress and anxiety
  • Detoxes the liver
  • Improves concentration

Popular Fermented Foods

There are many fermented foods available in grocery and health food stores, ranging from basic live yogurt to tempeh (a fermented soy bean-based product similar to tofu). Some of the most popular fermented foods include the following.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut was once known simply as a traditional German topping for sausages, but is now being recognized for its health benefits. It’s simple to make at home and cheap to buy in a store.

Sauerkraut is cabbage-based dish that is a great source of iron and calcium. Packed full of vitamins K, E, and C as well as fiber, it is easy to see why it is a popular health food choice.

Kimchi

Similar to sauerkraut, kimchi is a Japanese based product that is rich, spicy, and very tasty. Made up of fermented cabbage and vegetables, kimchi is rich in selenium and can help prevent memory loss and thyroid problems. Kimchi tastes great with sandwiches, burgers, salads, and tacos if you fancy a little bit of spice with your meal.

Miso

Another Japanese favorite, miso, is a fermented paste made from soybeans (sometimes rice or barley) with salt and a fungus called koji. The finished product has a bold flavor that packs a punch, and is commonly used in Japanese soups and broth.

Miso is great for the gut and can help reduce bloating and stomach problems. You can buy sachets of the paste in most grocery stores or Asian supermarkets.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from mixing black tea with sugars. A culture, known as a scoby, is also added to the mixture. While this tea may not sound appealing it actually tastes like a sparkling fruit drink or iced tea, and is pleasant on the palate.

At under 40 calories per cup kombucha is an easy low-calorie way to boost your immune system. Kombucha can be found in ready-made drinks, and there is also a tablet form if you are not keen on the taste. In addition to being high in probiotics, kombucha is also packed full of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that help to cleanse the liver and provide us with more energy.

Kefir

Kefir comes in milk and water varieties, and is a cultured drink packed full of antibiotics. For some, kefir is an acquired taste, but others cannot get enough of it.

One reason this drink has become popular is that it is easy to digest for those who are lactose intolerant. If you cannot stomach the taste of kefir on its own you can add it to smoothies, or you can grow your own culture and add flavors in during the fermentation process.

Expanding Your Diet

Other popular fermented foods include sourdough bread, cultured milk, cider, wine, and beer. Adding these to your diet is easier than you think.

If you are experiencing health conditions relating to a poor immune system, or you simply want to improve your overall health, adding fermented foods to your diet will give you the boost that you need.