Some amazing research has been conducted on the benefits of fermented foods – anything from pickles and sauerkraut to yogurt and kefir. By the fermentation process, these foods are chock-full of probiotics, which are essential to good digestion. Have you ever been prescribed an antibiotic and have the pharmacist also recommend you eat yogurt? That’s because the antibiotics can kill off the good bacteria in your gut while it's busy annihilating the bad bacteria that’s making you sick. The yogurt helps replace the good bacteria in your gut. But it’s not just when you’re on antibiotics that you should be incorporating fermented foods into your diet; they’re extremely beneficial as a regular part of your diet.
Back to the amazing research I mentioned earlier, researchers have linked consumption of fermented foods to mental health wellness and the decrease in anxiety and depression. The gut has been dubbed our “second brain,” and gut bacteria creates neurotransmitters like the feel-good serotonin, positively affecting our mood and behavior. High levels of healthy gut bacteria have also been shown to have positive effects on combating obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as positive effects on autism.
What to eat: Luckily, there are all kinds of fermented foods, so if one doesn’t sound tempting, there’s bound to be another that you’ll love. Be brave and give them all a try!
- Yogurt and some cottage cheeses – the label should say “live active cultures.”
- Sauerkraut, Kimchi – a spicy Korean favorite.
- Pickled vegetables.
- Kombucha – this fizzy, tangy tea is one of my favorites.
- Miso – a paste made from soybeans, miso is often added to soups.
- Kefir – similar to a drinkable yogurt, vegan coconut-based varieties are also available.
- Tempeh – often used as a meat replacement in dishes, tempeh is made from soybeans.
As with any processed food, double check the label to see what might be hidden in the ingredients. Some pickled vegetables may be high in sodium, and cannot have been pasteurized to retain their probiotic punch. For this reason, picking your pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi from the refrigerated section at the store is a good bet. With yogurt, kefir, and kombucha, you'll want to watch out for added sugars too.
Now get out there and discover a world of fabulous fermented foods!