Kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut.
These sweet, tangy treats are a staple of most people's diets thanks to their distinct taste, flavor, and aroma.
But little did people know about the nutritional benefits fermented foods contain.
It's no wonder medical experts recommend two to three servings of fermented foods per day for a healthy gut.
According to food scientist Robert Hutkins, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
"If you're consuming a diet rich in fermented foods, you're essentially bathing your GI tract in healthy, food-related organisms."
Unfortunately, the majority of people still treat fermented foods as a side dish to accentuate the flavor of their meals.
So today, let us talk about fermented foods and the benefits they could bring to your gut health.
What Are Fermented Foods, Anyway?
Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years spanning all-known cultures in the world.
From the famous fermented sharks of Iceland to the cheeses of Sardinia, people from all walks of life rely on fermentation to preserve their produce and add zest to their meals.
According to Heart Foundation, fermentation involves the introduction of live microorganisms like bacteria, molds, and yeasts into foods so they can convert simple sugars into other products such as acids, gases, or alcohol.
Yogurt - Made from fermented milk, yogurt is rich in probiotics, protein, calcium, and vitamins. Use it as a dipping sauce or as a thickener for your favorite shake.
Kimchi - Made from fermented cabbage and other vegetables, kimchi is full of beta-carotene and antioxidants to help improve your gut health. It's high on sodium, though, so eat it in moderation.
Sauerkraut - It is another type of fermented cabbage that is low in calories and high in fiber that is known to aid in digestion.
Kombucha - It is a type of sweetened black or green tea drink that underwent fermentation to promote the growth of gut-friendly bacteria. Drinking 1-2 cups of kombucha daily will help improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, and reduce blood pressure.
Kefir - This fermented, carbonated drink from grains provides a diverse range of gut-friendly bacteria and yeast than regular yogurt. Kefir is said to promote normal bowel movement, reduce flatulence, and offer relief to an upset stomach. If you're lactose intolerant, kefir is a much better option than yogurt.
Miso - This fermented soybean paste adds depth and flavor to soup dishes, salad dressings, and marinades. It is rich in protein and is a good source of probiotics for improved gut health.
Apple cider vinegar - This popular folk remedy may help increase stomach acid levels for better digestion. It also has anti-microbial properties that may aid in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.
Although most of these items are now available at your local grocery stores and health shops, you can always create your preserves using available vegetables, including:
When shopping for fermented foods, always look for terms like "low sugar,” "organic,” "contains probiotics,” "naturally fermented,” and "low sodium.”