Including fermented foods in your diet is one of the most important things you can do to support intestinal health and immune function.

Fermented foods have been around forever, but they are getting a lot of buzz these days. Fermented foods are ones in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch, creating lactic acid (also called lactofermentation). This process not only preserves the food, but also creates beneficial enzymes and various strains of probiotics that contain gut-healing and immune-support properties. The body has an easier time digesting, absorbing, and assimilating nutrients from fermented foods because they are “pre-digested”. Beneficial fermented foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir (can be made from whey or coconut)
  • Yogurt
  • Miso
  • Other fermented vegetables like pickles or carrots

Here are five reasons to start eating and drinking fermented foods right away:

  1. Natural probiotics. The probiotics created during the fermentation process are considered “good bacteria.” These probiotics are introduced to your digestive system and help to balance the bacteria levels in your gut. This beneficial bacteria helps prevent the “bad” bacteria from entering the gut and growing. The ideal ratio of good to bad bacteria is 85 to 15. I love this description from Summer Bock— she describes a healthy gut as a lush rainforest that is a naturally recycling environment, where the good bacteria are thriving. In contrast, when you eat processed, unhealthy foods, take antibiotics, or have too much stress, your gut is more like a dirty city street full of “bad” bacteria. This bad bacteria actually thrives on processed food and will excrete harmful toxins that can lead to digestive issues and trigger food allergies.
  2. Better food absorption. Having the proper balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes helps you to absorb more of the nutrients from the foods you eat. This balance pairs perfectly with a whole food, plant-rich diet because whole foods have everything you need to digest them. As a result, you will get more nutrients from your food and will need less supplementation.
  3. Cheaper, easier, and long-lasting! Fermented foods are inexpensive to buy or simple enough to make right at home. Lactofermentation allows the food to be stored for longer periods of time.
  4. Supports healthy gut function. Incorporating naturally fermented foods into your diet can help alleviate many problems such as IBS, constipation, allergies, skin issues, GERD, and acid reflux.
  5. Raw and unpasteurized is best! Unfortunately, traditional fermentation methods have given way to pasteurized, vinegar-based, and sugar-added processes that destroy the live nutrients and healthy bacteria. But not to worry, you have quite a few choices when it comes to healthy, raw and unpasteurized fermented foods. Your first option is making homemade versions of sauerkraut, kimchi, or kefir. Your next option is purchasing high-quality, raw, and unpasteurized fermented food. Here is a list of some of my favorite brands and their products:

Fermented foods are a tried-and-true way to heal your gut, enhance your digestion, and boost your immune system. My recommendation: Start by adding 1/2 a cup of fermented foods per day and gradually increase to a cup.

xo, jenni

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