If you’ve been trying to figure out the cause of a chronic health issue like acne, dry skin, brittle hair, or even mental health issues like depression and ADHD, you might be missing a very important piece of the puzzle. What so many people don’t know is that a balanced gut is the foundation of health. Further, what you eat dictates your gut health completely.
Fermented foods are key to a healthy digestive system and gut, as they balance flora and the ratio between good and bad bacteria. Here are ten fermented foods that could transform your gut health!
The simplest kind of sauerkraut is naturally-fermented cabbage with salt as the only other ingredient. You end up with a slightly-sour, totally-delicious condiment that is great on avocado toast, alongside a quinoa and veggie bowl, or even to jazz up some inventive tacos. There are many variations of sauerkraut now available, with delicious ingredients like leeks, caraway seeds, smoky jalapeño peppers and more.
You might only know pickles as those little spears that used to come with your hamburgers growing up. When naturally fermented, pickles become probiotic powerhouses that can be used to add flavor to bibimbap, macro plates, Asian-style stir-fries and more.
Kombucha is a naturally-fermented, slightly-effervescent tea that’s gained major popularity. It boasts tons of probiotics – aka good bacteria – and is fantastic for gut health, skin health, and energy. It’s most often consumed chilled and is a popular option for those trying to reduce alcohol consumption. You can buy kombucha or make your own for a much lower cost than store-bought.
4. Beet kvass
Beet kvass is an Eastern European drink made by fermenting beets in water with salt and whey. It’s known to protect against disease by significantly boosting gut health, and therefore immunity. Beets alone can have a significant positive impact on digestive and kidney health, and when fermented they become a truly incredible tonic. Kvass can be had by itself or added to salad dressings, soups, or sauces for flavor and punch.
Natto is a traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans and known for its pungent smell and strong flavor. Like all fermented foods, natto boasts incredible probiotic properties and significantly improves the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, therefore improving digestion, immunity, skin health and more. Often eaten along with rice, natto is another fermented food that would be great in a quinoa bowl or macro plate. It’s high in protein, fiber, vitamin B, calcium, and iron, and gluten-free to boot.
Kefir is a fermented yogurt drink and can be made from any milk, dairy or non-dairy. Because it’s fermented, kefir is a great source of probiotics and other gut-healthy bacteria, even more than traditional yogurt.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans that have been pressed into a cake. In addition to its high probiotic content, tempeh is rich in nutrients like vitamin B12. Tempeh is also high in protein, which makes it a good meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans. Soy protein has been shown to help reduce some risk factors for heart disease.
A popular Korean side dish that’s gained popularity in the Western world more recently is kimchi. Kimchi is fermented cabbage leaves (and sometimes radishes), made with salt, Korean red chili pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic. It’s then fermented in a combination of these spices and various salted seafood. A diet that includes kimchi has been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce insulin resistance.
A traditional Japanese condiment, miso is a thick, fermented soybean paste, made with salt and a fungus called koji. Miso is typically used as a base for miso soup, but can also be used in salad dressing, a glaze, or to marinate meat in. Soybeans are considered a complete source of protein, as they contain all the amino acids needed to sustain health in humans.
10. Sourdough bread
Everyone’s favorite quarantine past-time, sourdough bread is ‘started’ from a fermented mixture of wild yeast, a leavening agent like lactic acid bacteria, flour, and water. During the bread-making process, this ‘starter’ ferments the sugars in the dough, helping the bread to rise and acquire its characteristic funky taste and texture.
Fermented and funky
Fermentation involves the creation of bacteria in these foods, giving them their unique – some would say funky – taste. It’s not a flavor that everyone loves, but the benefits that these good bacteria provide your gut with should persuade even the pickiest eater to try them out.
Before adding new foods to your diet, consult with your doctor. People with soy allergies may not be able to eat things like miso, natto, tempeh, or other fermented soybean products.