Finding Gut Health in Fermented Foods

For the better part of human history, man ate fermented foods ridden with bacteria. It wasn’t until the discovery of microorganisms that the process of pasteurization began commonplace. Nowadays, almost all food is pasteurized to sterilize and make the food ready for consumption. While pasteurization does keep some very harmful microorganisms away, a bit of bacteria can do the body some good. Where can we find sources of beneficial bacteria? The answer lies in fermented foods

Have our Foods Become Too Sterile?

 Cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods throughout their history, from sauerkraut in Germany to kimchee in Korea to the pickles you probably have inside your fridge. Even with today’s heavily used pasteurization process, sauerkraut, kimchee, and pickles are three very common fermented foods still eaten on the regular. Sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. Just like the lacto-fermentation process used to make sauerkraut, pickles and kimchee are made the same way. Kimchee is a traditional dish in Korea made up of vegetables such as cabbage, cucumbers, radish, or scallions. The dish has been a staple in Korea for thousands of years and is so important to the Korean people that it is the country’s national dish. The pickles you might love atop one of your favorite sandwiches are also fermented in an acidic solution.

The Art of Fermentation

 If you’re interested in adding fermented foods to your diet, Sandor Ellix Katz provides a do-it-yourself guide to at home fermentation in his book, The Art of Fermentation. After a forward by Michael Pollan, a famous journalist known as a “foodie intellectual,“ Katz explains the processes and concepts behind fermentation and helps readers dive into the art fermenting foods, with recipes including sauerkraut and yogurt. The book comes with illustrations and is helpful for cooks, food lovers, practitioners, and those with all different levels of fermentation knowledge and experience.

Benefits of Fermented Foods

 You may be wondering why fermented foods are recommended when probiotics supplements are readily accessible. Eating fermented foods in addition to taking a probiotic supplement is a good idea because fermented foods retain more bacterial strains than probiotics alone. Also, pasteurized yogurt, for example, is less beneficial than fermented yogurt because the bacteria are less likely to survive. In other words, fermented yogurt has more live bacterial strains.

Fermented foods provide the gut with healthy intestinal bacteria that aid in digestion and support immune function. Having the proper balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes can better help you absorb the nutrients from food. Beneficial bacteria within the digestive system have also been shown to slow and reverse diseases, improve bowel health, and lead to better overall wellbeing. Even better, fermented foods have a long shelf life and are budget friendly!

To incorporate more fermented foods in your diet, you can look into Katz’s book for recipes and start eating foods such as sauerkraut and including fermented drinks such as kefir. Adding fermented foods can be an easy process to enhance overall gut health.

5 Ways to Get Fermented Foods Into Your Diet

  1. Make your own sauerkraut.  See my recipe here.
  2. Use these Top 10 Gut Cleansing Foods for optimal digestive health.
  3. If you’re okay with dairy, try making your own Greek yogurt.
  4. I’m in love with Black Garlic.  Check it out here.
  5. Try my favorite Miso paste for broths and salad dressings.