I know lots of ladies are all about baking. Don’t get me wrong. I love fresh bread or baked goods just as much as the next person. However, I would take fermented foods over cookies and pies any day! And you know what? They are better for me too! I know, shocking. You may or may not know much about fermented foods, so let me do a quick explanation.
Fermentation is a process that involves bacteria and yeast breaking down sugars.
Not only does fermentation help enhance food preservation, but eating fermented foods can also boost the number of beneficial bacteria or probiotics found in your gut. And if you know anything about me, I am a gut-health-junkie! If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know that I am a Plexus gal (contact me!). We can save that for another time.
There are many health benefits associated with probiotics, including improved digestion, better immunity, and even increased weight loss.
I will now cover a few fermented foods and drinks shown to improve health and digestion. In the future, I will do a deep dive into specific foods and how to make them! Because this is all about being prepared, right?
Kefir is a type of cultured dairy product. My friend Julie at The Lord’s Farm in NE Washington always has this on hand (along with literally every other type of fermented food you can imagine) #lifegoals. She runs a small organic goat dairy. Check her out! www.itsthelordsfarm.com on Facebook.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains (a combination of yeast and bacteria) to milk (cow, goat, or any other for that matter). The results are a thick and tangy beverage. Some compare it to yogurt.
Studies have shown that kefir may have many benefits, affecting everything from digestion to inflammation to bone health.
There are lots of studies to back these findings up!
Kombucha is a fermented tea. It is fizzy, tart, and flavorful. It is made from either green or black tea and contains potent health-promoting properties. The fermentation makes it a good source of probiotics, which have many health benefits.
Without going into detail, a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is used to make kombucha. Kombucha contains several species of lactic-acid bacteria that may have a probiotic function. And from what my friends and family have seen, I would say that we have enjoyed many health benefits.
Kimchi is a popular Korean side dish. It is usually fermented cabbage but can also be other fermented vegetables such as radishes. I have yet to experiment with this. However, my friend Megan Kutchman, at Little Avalons Farm, has kimchi that is to rave about!
Kimchi boasts an extensive array of health benefits. It may be especially effective at lowering cholesterol and reducing insulin resistance. Amazing right?
In one study, 21 people with prediabetes consumed either fresh or fermented kimchi for 8-weeks. By the end of the study, those consuming fermented kimchi had decreased insulin resistance, blood pressure, and body weight (Source).
Sauerkraut is a popular condiment consisting of shredded cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria (this is a whole other topic I will follow up on later!). It is low in calories but contains plenty of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K (Source).
The antioxidant content of sauerkraut may also have promising effects on cancer prevention.
You can use sauerkraut in just about anything. For instance, try it in your next casserole, add it to a hearty bowl of soup, or use it to top off a satisfying sandwich. Seriously, my friend serves it at all feasts like Christmas and Thanksgiving!
Yogurt is fermented milk. It is, most commonly, made with lactic acid bacteria. It is super easy to make by-the-way! We will have to do a deep dive on that as well!
Yogurt is high in many nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 (Source). Attributed to yogurt are a wide variety of health benefits.
One literature review of 14 studies showed that fermented milk products such as probiotic yogurt could reduce blood pressure, especially for high blood pressure individuals Source).
Another study linked a higher intake of yogurt to improvements in bone mineral density and physical function in older adults (Source).
The probiotics in yogurt help digest some of the lactose (milk sugar) so, you may enjoy yogurt even if you are lactose intolerant. However, remember that not all yogurt varieties found in stores will contain probiotics. Processing often kills beneficial bacteria and probiotics. That is why it is preferable to prepare food at home!
Look for yogurts that contain live cultures to make sure you are getting your dose of probiotics. Additionally, make sure to opt for yogurts with minimal added sugar. AKA NONE! Try using Raw honey instead! Raw honey is alkalizing for the system instead of acidic.
The bottom line
Fermentation can help increase both the shelf life and health benefits of many different foods.
Additionally, fermented foods have other positive health impacts and are an excellent addition to your diet.
Please share your favorite fermented foods in the comments below and here, here to amazing gut health!