Nutrition

The 5 Best Fermented Foods for Gut Health

The fermentation process uses microbes, such as bacteria and yeast, to preserve food. These beneficial microorganisms eat sugars and may support gut health. Proponents of fermentation say it’s an easy way to add beneficial bacteria and other organisms to the gut to support a healthy gut microbiome. Some research has linked a healthy gut to better overall health. In this article, learn about some of the most popular fermented foods and their benefits.

List of fermented foods

The fermented foods on this list are rich in healthy nutrients and easy to incorporate into a balanced diet.

1 Kombucha

Drinking kombucha can help fight chronic inflammation. Kombucha is a type of sweet black tea that uses fermentation to promote the growth of good bacteria.
Bacteria convert the sugar in tea into alcohol. Therefore, kombucha contains a low level of alcohol, but not enough to cause intoxication. The authors of a review article on kombucha conclude that it may support immune system health and may also counter certain metabolic disorders. Chemicals produced by kombucha bacteria include antioxidants. Antioxidants counter the effects of free radicals, which experts say play a role in a wide variety of diseases, including cancer and chronic inflammation.

2 Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk product that resembles yogurt but has a thinner consistency. Some people drink it, while others prefer to top cereal or mix it into other foods. Kefir is high in protein, which makes it a good option for vegetarians. Protein can also help people feel full longer, which can help support weight loss efforts. According to a 2017 review, kefir provides probiotic benefits, such as improving digestive health. It may also help lower blood pressure and act as an anti-inflammatory agent, but more research is needed to confirm these effects.

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3 Miso and tempeh

Miso and tempeh are fermented soy foods that are popular in Japanese cuisine. Miso is best known as the main ingredient in miso soup, while tempeh is a popular meat substitute similar to tofu. Because soy is high in protein, tempeh and miso are great choices for non-meat eaters.
Research from 2016 suggests that the process of fermenting soybeans can release beneficial peptides, which are amino acids that help regulate body functions. These bioactive peptides can:

– reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer
– fight infections
– reduce blood pressure

4 Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a popular remedy that can also add flavor to salads, recipes, and some teas. In addition to its fermentation benefits, the authors of a 2014 review noted that research in animal models and test tubes suggests that apple cider vinegar may have the following properties:

– antioxidant
– antidiabetic
– antimicrobial
– anti-tumor
– anti-obesity
– antihypertensive
– hypocholesterolemic

5 fermented vegetables

Pickles and sauerkraut are among the most popular fermented foods. These foods are easy to add to salads, sandwiches and other dishes. Many vegetables are high in fiber and contain important vitamins and minerals. The vegetables that are commonly fermented are:

– broccoli
– beets
– ginger
– mustard leaves
– aubergine

The benefits of fermented foods

Fermented vegetables, like kimchee, contain probiotics. All fermented foods contain potentially beneficial bacteria, and some contain other organisms, such as yeast. These microbes act as probiotics, supporting gut health.

Benefits of fermented foods may include treating or reducing symptoms of:

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– Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection
– diarrhea due to antibiotics
– infectious diarrhea
– ulcerative colitis
– irritable bowel syndrome
– Crohn’s disease

As an imbalance in the gut microbiome can allow yeast to multiply, probiotics can reduce the risk of yeast infections and thrush, especially after antibiotic treatment.

Other evidence shows that beneficial gut bacteria play a broader role in overall health. Foods rich in probiotics, such as fermented products, may reduce symptoms of many conditions, including:

– the Depression
– urinary tract infections
– osteoporosis
– respiratory health problems
– hormonal disorders
– kidney and liver dysfunction
– diabetes
– caries
– gingivitis

Any food made with beneficial bacteria potentially offers these benefits. People who want to try probiotics can therefore choose from a wide variety of options.

How to read the label to choose well

Not all pickled foods are fermented. It’s best to check the label for “live bacteria”, “fermented”, or “probiotics”. Fermented foods that contain a wide range of bacteria are more likely to provide significant health benefits. If possible, choose fermented foods that contain several different strains of bacteria. Some fermented foods, like pickles, tend to be high in sodium. People concerned about their sodium intake, especially those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, should check the sodium content listed on the label.

Sources

Budak, NH, et al. (2014). Functional properties of vinegar.

Chen, K.-I., et al. (2012). Soyfoods and soybean products: From traditional use to modern applications [Abstract].

Nagpal, R., et al. (2012). Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: A review.

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Rosa, DD, et al. (2017). Milk kefir: Nutritional, microbiological and health benefits [Abstract].

Sanjukta, S., & Rai, AK (2016). Production of bioactive peptides during soybean fermentation and their potential health benefits.

Swain, MR, et al. (2014). Fermented fruits and vegetables of Asia: A potential source of probiotics.

Verna, EC, & Lucak, S. (2010). Use of probiotics in gastrointestinal disorders: What to recommend [Abstract]?

[HighProtein-Foods.com]

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