Fermented foods are some of the most powerful foods to improve gut health and improve our health to a great extent.

For starters, fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, are loaded with cultures of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria aid digestion, reduce inflammation, strengthen your immune system, and prevent unhealthy bacteria from overpopulating your gut, which can lead to chronic digestive conditions like candida, intestinal dysbiosis, and leaky gut syndrome .

Foods rich in probiotics also help to replenish the body’s natural stores of healthy gut bacteria, which are destroyed by factors in our modern lifestyle that we cannot escape, such as high stress levels, the use of antibiotics, a diet rich in processed foods. and environmental toxins such as pesticides.

Lastly, fermentation increases the nutrients and enzymes in a food, which not only makes the food easier to digest, but essentially makes it a more nutritious version of itself.

Fermented foods have been consumed around the world since about 6000 BC. At the time, fermentation was predominantly used to preserve food in times of famine, but research has shown the benefits of incorporating fermented foods into our current diets.

How does fermentation work?

Fermentation is defined as the chemical breakdown of a substance (such as sugar) in an environment without oxygen and with organisms present, such as yeast, mold, or bacteria. When fermentation occurs, these organisms break down sugar or starches into gases, alcohol, or organic acids, such as lactic acid or acetic acid, the compound that gives apple cider vinegar its powerful antibacterial health benefits.

Not all fermented foods contain                                                                    . For example, sourdough bread is leavened with yeast, but baked at such a high temperature that the probiotics are destroyed. Beer, wine, and spirits are common fermented beverages, but the high alcohol content kills all the beneficial bacteria, not to mention damaging the gut and liver.

So what should you eat? Here are some of the best nutritious, probiotic-rich fermented foods you can add to your diet today:

1. Chucrut

The sauerkraut is simply green lacto fermented cabbage , which is fermented by a strain of bacteria found in cabbage called lactobacillus. Lactobacilli are present in serum (and therefore in certain plant foods), as well as in some dairy products.

Besides being rich in probiotics, sauerkraut is also a good source of fiber, B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium . Many health experts recommend adding 1/4 cup of sauerkraut to a meal per day to improve the digestive system and promote healthy, glowing skin. This is because the health of your gut is directly related to the health of your skin.

2. Kimchi

In the like sauerkraut, the kimchi is a lacto fermented cabbage dish . It has more flavor than sauerkraut because garlic and chili powder are often added, along with carrots and other vegetables. Kimchi is rich in fiber, vitamins A and C, and lactobacillus bacteria.

Kimchi is Korean and is often eaten as a garnish in Asian cuisine or simply eaten alongside a plate of white rice. But the kimchi flavor is mild enough to add to any dish you can imagine, from stir fries to quinoa salads.

3. Kefir

Kefir is a fancy name for fermented milk that is rich in probiotics and enzymes. Its slightly sour and bitter taste almost makes you feel like you’re drinking liquid yogurt.

The kefir is done by symbiotic fermentation, which means that both yeast and bacteria are used together. To make kefir, you need active kefir grains (which are not real grains but a bacterial culture) and cow, sheep, coconut, rice or goat milk.

4. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has found its way into the health arena, primarily due to its bacteria-fighting benefits. However, it also contains a beneficial bacterial culture called “the mother” – a cloudy, cobweb-like substance that floats near the bottom of the bottle. The mother is where all the probiotics are concentrated and what gives greater health benefits than other varieties of vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar has a strong tangy taste, but you can mask the taste by adding a few teaspoons of lemon water and honey, or adding it to your homemade salad dressings or slow cooker bone broth .

5. Miso

Miso means “fermented beans” in Japanese, and that’s basically what it is: fermented soybean paste.

Miso is fermented with grains such as barley or rice and a bacterial culture called koji. Koji is a type of yeast that has been shown to produce a number of enzymes that promote digestion. This is part of the reason why miso soup is commonly served before meals. While miso soup is one of the most common ways to eat miso, you can use miso paste to enhance the flavor of sauces, salad dressings, and stir-fries.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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