It seems that everywhere you look these days people are eating some kind of fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, and miso are popular types of fermented foods that you often see on menus worldwide. So what is the deal with eating fermented foods? Let’s take a look at what fermented foods actually are and why they may be beneficial to your gut health.
What Are Fermented Foods?
For thousands of years, cultures around the world have been fermenting foods as a way to help preserve them. Fermentation promotes the growth of gut-healthy bacteria that can transform the flavors of vegetables, grains, dairy, nuts, and seeds as well as help to preserve them. Vegetables naturally have lactobacillus (good bacteria which are known as probiotics) on their skins and when the vegetables are mixed with salt, it creates a brine. In the brine itself, the lactobacillus multiples and starts to break down the natural sugars of the foods and turns them into lactic acid which has a tart taste and creates a sour environment.
Fermentation promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria and probiotics and the “sour” environment keeps bad bacteria away. When you consume fermented foods that contain probiotics, good bacteria are allowed to multiply and keep your microbiomes balanced and doing their job of keeping your gut for optimum digestive health.
Fermented foods are full of vitamin C, K, B6 as well as trace minerals. Fermented vegetables provide fiber, and fermented nuts, beans, and dairy products also provide protein and polyunsaturated oil, which is considered heart-healthy.
Here are some of the most common fermented foods available to eat. Try adding these foods to your diet and get your gut in good health!
You may be familiar with sauerkraut as a topping for hot dogs, or as a popular side dish with Eastern European-focused foods. But, did you know that sauerkraut (sour cabbage) is chock full of nutrients? It contains large amounts of vitamin C and was eaten by sailors to help prevent scurvy on long sea voyages. It is full of vitamin K, vitamin B6, and many trace minerals as well.
Sauerkraut contains a large amount of fiber and is filled with the probiotic lactobacillus. When shopping for sauerkraut, make sure you buy fresh, not canned sauerkraut as the pasteurization process will kill the gut-healthy probiotics.
Pickles are a favorite snack and condiment in many cultures. Any vegetable can go through a fermentation process, but one of the most beloved, are cucumbers that have been pickled. Cucumber pickles can be made quite sour, or just a touch on the sweet side. They are crunchy and very satisfying as well. A few tablespoons of the juice of pickles is a great electrolyte replacement and many athletes are embracing the salty taste and mineral replenishment that pickle juice provides.
In addition, cucumber pickles are full of vitamin C, K, B6, and have a bit of probiotic activity for good gut health. Pickles are easy to make or you can find lots of different companies that make really tasty pickles.
Many people are familiar with miso from having a small bowl of miso soup when dining at a Japanese or sushi restaurant. Miso is made by fermenting soybeans and has been used in Asian cuisine for centuries. The savory, umami flavor profile brings a richness to foods that have miso paste added to it and miso is a nutrient powerhouse.
Because it is derived from protein-rich soybeans, there is a significant amount of protein in the miso paste. It is full of B vitamins, trace and essential minerals, and is high in amino acids as well. Because soybeans are about 20% oil, miso paste also is a good source of polyunsaturated fats which is good fat!
As like other fermented foods, miso does contain lactobacillus probiotic and the isoflavin Genistein which may help in the inhibition of cancer cell growth. Miso paste is easy to use and can be used in soups, to make gravy with, and is even tasty spread thinly on bread as a condiment for sandwiches.
Different types and brands of yogurt fill the shelves of grocery stores. From natural Greek yogurt to Icelandic yogurt, you are sure to find one that pleases your taste buds. Unfortunately, many yogurts are full of sugar and are so pasteurized that the natural probiotics that are created from the fermentation process are lost. Be sure to look for yogurt that has no added sugar and is as natural as can be.
Yogurt is made by fermenting milk: cow, goat, or sheep milk. Yogurt is full of protein, B vitamins and minerals, and is chock full of gut-healthy probiotics. Yogurt can be eaten plain, served with fruit and granola, and is an excellent low-fat substitute for sour cream.
Kimchi is not as well known of fermented food like sauerkraut, but it is widely eaten in Asian cultures and Korean kimchi is unbelievable tasty and often has a nice spicy kick to it. Kimchi also uses cabbage as the base for the fermented vegetables but has the addition of radish, carrots, scallions, garlic, and spicy red pepper flakes or chili paste. Kimchi is full of vitamin C, K, and B6, as well as trace minerals and, are full of probiotics as well. Kimchi makes a delicious side dish and is also great for a low-calorie, nutrient-dense snack. Look for kimchi that has the addition of sea vegetables for even more minerals and vitamins.
Kombucha has been gaining popularity for several years now as a refreshing and healthy beverage to drink. Some people enjoy the slightly fizzy, fermented taste of Kombucha, while others are not that thrilled with drinking it. Kombucha is sometimes referred to as kombucha mushroom tea, but it is not made with a mushroom at all, but with a colony of yeast and bacteria known as a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, or SCOBY. Tea (either black or herbal) is added as well as sugar and the combination is allowed to ferment.
Due to the fermentation process, kombucha is rich with live microbiomes, minerals, and vitamins and because it is fermented with yeast, one of the by-products is alcohol. Although most kombucha has very small amounts of measurable alcohol, it is wise to note if you do not want to consume any alcohol. According to the British Colombia Centre for Disease Control, they recommend no more than 1/2 cup of kombucha per day.
Diversify Your Source of Probiotics
While eating fermented foods is great for your gut-health and gives you loads of vitamins and minerals, do note that in order to have a really healthy amount of live beneficial microorganisms living in your gastrointestinal tract, it is wise to diversify the fermented foods you eat. Fermented foods do contain a fair amount of probiotics but not necessarily the diverse range of microbiomes that may be necessary for optimal gut health.
The Isagenix IsaBiome Digestive Health System is a two-part system that is comprised of probiotics as well as digestive enzymes, that when taken on a daily basis, may help to improve your overall gut health.
Add fermented foods to your diet, try intermittent fasting, and take Isagenix IsaBiome Digestive Health probiotics and enzymes daily and you will be on your way to a healthy digestive system!