Did you know that your gut microbiome contains more than 100 trillion bacteria and organisms? The gut microbiome, which is housed in your digestive tract, is important for fighting everything from neurodegenerative diseases (i.e., Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease) to metabolic diseases (i.e., obesity) to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and several autoimmune disorders (i.e., crohn’s and colitis).
According to nutritionists from Harvard’s School of Public Health, an easy way to ensure a healthy, happy gut is by incorporating naturally fermented foods into your regular diet. Try noshing on the following foods that are fermented naturally, meaning they enlist natural processes and contain probiotics (or live bacterial cultures), contain the same organisms essential for healthy digestion:
- Yogurt and kefir
If you’ve seen an Activia commercial, you already know that yogurt is one of the best sources of healthy bacteria for improved gut health. However, the lesser known and even better source of probiotics is kefir, a fermented probiotic milky beverage that’s made by adding kefir grains to goat or cow milk to create several strains of yeast and healthful bacteria. Both yogurt and kefir are reputed for easing digestive ailments and symptoms irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), preventing infections of the gut, boosting bone health. Keep in mind yogurt mainly contains bifidobacteria, it may cause upset in individuals with lactose intolerance. While kefir is generally better tolerated by the lactose intolerant.
I love a nice bowl of miso soup and I’ve even been know to cook with miso to make my own Japanese-inspired soups and stir fry sauces. What I didn’t know is that this fermented soybean paste is Miso is loaded with protein, plant fiber (from a fungus called koji), copper, manganese, and plant compounds that actually lower the risk of breast cancer and stroke in women. You can purchase miso in white (fermented with rice), brown/black (fermented with dark grains like buckwheat), red (fermented with soybeans and barley grains with a umami flavor) , and yellow (fermented with barley and rice) varieties for different purposes.
Popular in Korean food cuisine, kimchi is spicy cabbage fermented with lactic acid bacteria (or lactobacillus kimchii), and flavored with a mix of garlic, scallion, salt, chili pepper, and ginger for a spicy kick. However, despite the spiciness, kimchi aids digestion, such as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and is rich in iron and vitamins B2 and K.
When you think of sauerkraut, you likely envision Bavarian food. However, this traditional european condiment and side dish made with shredded and fermented cabbage is loaded with good bacteria. Despite offering a satisfying mix of sour and often salty flavors, sauerkraut is loaded with antioxidants (i.e., zeaxanthin and lutein) known eye site boosters, manganese, iron, sodium, fiber, and vitamins K, B, and C. If you do choose to top your bratwurst or German sausage with sauerkraut, choose an unpasteurized version with the live bacteria in tact.
If you read up on the latest and greatest health trends, you’ve no doubt heard or sampled kombucha. The Asian-inspired tea drink is fermented with the help of a colony of yeast and friendly bacteria for a brew that’s loaded with probiotic benefits. For instance, kombucha rich in both acetic acid (like vinegar) and polyphenols (like green tea), which mean it helps eradicate dangerous microorganisms and infections (i.e., candida yeasts). Although studies remain ongoing, numerous scientific studies have linked drinking kombucha to improved liver and kidney function, lower blood sugar levels and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.