Do you include fermented foods in your weekly diet? These probiotic-packed superfoods are full of beneficial bacteria and can be used in a variety of ways.
Making a conscious effort each week to include a few portions of probiotic-rich superfoods in your diet can make a big difference in gut health, weight management, and blood sugar levels.
Want to know more? Continue reading to find out more about fermented foods and how to incorporate them into your daily diet.
What are Fermented Foods?
Fermentation is the process by which microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria break down sugar molecules. This can trigger a variety of chemical changes. It increases the shelf-life and beneficial bacteria levels in food.
Probiotics And Their Benefits
“Bacteria” and “food” aren’t two words you would ever really expect-or want-to hear in the same sentence, but this type of bacteria is actually pretty important to your overall health. These healthy bacteria strains are also known as probiotics and they live in your digestive system and help promote digestive health, immune function, and other benefits (1).
More specifically, probiotics found in fermented foods have been proven to provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-inflammatory, antifungal, autoimmune, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic (aka prevents cholesterol buildup within the arteries) benefits (2). These benefits are more likely to be realized if you eat probiotics regularly.
Taking a probiotic can help increase your gut-healthy bacteria intake. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to increase your probiotic intake. In fact, you can incorporate a few top-fermented foods in your weekly meal plan to increase probiotic intake. This may also have other health benefits.
There are many ways to include more fermented foods in your diet, from pickled vegetables to cultured milk products. These are some of the best-fermented foods you might want to add to your next grocery shopping list.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from either black or green tea. Kombucha is a fermented beverage that tastes fizzy and sharp. The flavor can vary from sweet to sour depending on how it was made and what ingredients are used.
Although research in humans is limited, animal and tube models have shown that kombucha can help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and prevent the spread of cancer cells (3, 4).
Kombucha’s versatility is remarkable. Kombucha is a great choice for soda and other sugary drinks. It can also be made at home with tea, sugar and a Scoby–also known to be a “symbiotic cultivation of bacteria and yeast
Sauerkraut is tasty 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 popping up all over the globe.
Traditionally, fermented Sauerkraut is made of raw cabbage and lactic acid bacteria. It may also contain ingredients such as caraway seeds and juniperberries.
In addition to providing the same health benefits that other fermented foods provide, sauerkraut also contains a healthy dose of vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as iron and manganese ((5)). Sauerkraut can also be made in your own home.
To make your own sauerkraut, combine grated cabbage and salt with any other vegetables like carrots, beets, or ginger. To allow fermentation to take place, pack the mixture in a sterilized container and let it sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks.
The cultured dairy product is made from kefir grains and milk. It’s creamy and rich in probiotics.
Kefir is a great source of several important nutrients, including protein, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin B12, all of which play a central role in overall health (6). Kefir has a low level of lactose which means it is more easily tolerated than regular milk by those who have lactose intolerance. Animal studies have shown that kefir can reduce inflammation and be anti-allergic, which could make it useful for treating conditions such as asthma.
There are many other ways to enjoy this tasty, healthy drink. As an alternative to traditional dairy products, goat milk kefir, cheese and yogurt are all widely available. For those who are vegan or vegetarian, water kefir and coconut milk kefir are popular options.
Tempeh, a popular fermented soybean product, is considered a staple in both vegetarian and vegan diets. It is made from fermented soybeans and has been compressed into a dense, compact, high-protein cake.
Besides being rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, tempeh also contains soy isoflavones. These powerful compounds have been shown to decrease cholesterol levels, fight oxidative stress, and boost bone health (10, 11, 12).
Tempeh can also be used in wraps, sandwiches and stir-fries.
5. Like tempeh, natto is made from fermented soybeans and is a great source of several key nutrients, including protein, manganese, iron, and copper (13). Although many people are unfamiliar with natto’s unique taste and texture, it has many health benefits. In particular, natto contains an enzyme called nattokinase, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure and protect against blood clots (14, 15).
Pickles are a popular fermented vegetable that can be found on grocery store shelves all over the country. Pickles are cucumbers that have been soaked in salty waters. This allows them to ferment and increase their probiotic content.
Keep in mind that kosher pickles soaked with vinegar in most grocery stores won’t have the same probiotic benefits than fermented pickles in brine. To maximize your health benefits, make your own pickles or go to your local health food shop and buy pickles without vinegar.
Popular for its versatility and delicious flavor, vegan kimchi has become a staple of Korean cuisine. It is made from fermented and salted vegetables that have been seasoned using herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, and other scallions. You can also choose from cucumber, carrot, cabbage or radish-kimchi.
Kimchi is known for its spicy flavor and health benefits. For example, one study conducted by the Pusan National University in Korea found that eating kimchi for seven days led to significant reductions in cholesterol levels and blood sugar (16). Other research suggests that it could also aid in weight control and help promote insulin sensitivity (17).
8. You can also make it from fermented chickpeas or black beans. You may also mix it with barley, rice, or seaweed.
Miso boasts an impressive nutrient profile and is brimming with vitamins and minerals like manganese, vitamin K, copper, and zinc (18). It’s high in sodium so it should be consumed in moderation. For best results, pair it with lots of fermented foods.
9. Look for yogurt with probiotics next time you go to the supermarket. This yogurt is made from fermented milk. It usually contains lactic acid bacteria to increase the probiotics’ concentration.
Probiotic yogurt can be beneficial to those with high blood pressure. According to one review in The British Journal of Nutrition, consuming fermented milk in foods like probiotic yogurt may be effective at reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, especially in those with high blood pressure already (19).
How to Include More Fermented Foods in Your Diet
Need some ideas on how to include more fermented foods into your daily life? Here are some simple strategies that make it easier than ever to enjoy these nutritious and delicious ingredients:
- Swap regular yogurt for probiotic yogurt as a nutrient-rich snack or breakfast option.
- Trade sweetened tea, soda, or juice for a serving of kombucha instead.
- Implement a “meatless Monday” by switching animal-based proteins in your meal plan for organic tempeh or natto.
- Top off 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 give your gut health a boost. These healthy ingredients not only have a high probiotic content but also provide a steady supply of vitamins, minerals, nutrients your body requires.
If you are looking for additional support and ways to optimize digestion, you can reach out to one of our Registered dietitians and Wellness Coaches. You can make an appointment online and our NS Wellness Coaches will provide expert guidance and practical strategies for your long-term health.