Some of the most exciting research in health and nutrition these days is around the vital role our gut flora (read: healthy bugs and microbes in our stomach) plays in our overall health, beyond just digestion. Having enough beneficial bacteria in your gut is linked to healthy weight loss, better moods, less anxiety, stress, and depression, increased immunity, clearer skin, and better bladder and reproductive health. Of course, fermented foods also make you more regular, eliminate gas and bloating, and relieve stomach aches!
Taking an effective, broad-spectrum probiotic, like NOW Dairy-Free Probiotic-10 25 Billion, is one great way of making sure you’ve got enough healthy bugs in your system. But as with all nutrients, food-based sources are even better! Fermented foods are naturally high in beneficial bacteria and they are the best way of getting more probiotics in your system. Eating fermented foods every day has amazing, immediately noticeable health benefits, and unfortunately, none of us are getting enough of these powerful health foods! Check out our favorite fermented foods below, and keep in mind that quality matters. Typical supermarket brands of these foods are pasteurized and heated, which kills the beneficial bacteria.
Top 5 Healthiest Fermented Foods
This delicious treat is a great starter food in the world of fermented foods. Lacto-fermented cabbage is high in B vitamins and, of course, probiotics. An added bonus is that cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, which helps to balance hormones, lowers cancer risk, and is loaded with beneficial phytonutrients! Always opt for raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut like Gold Mine Organic Raw Sauerkraut. Better yet, make your own! Check out this easy homemade sauerkraut recipe. Add sauerkraut to your Buddha Bowls, use it as a topper for your veggie dishes, throw it into salads, or just eat it on it’s own!
Kimchi is sauerkraut’s spicy Korean cousin, and it’s frickin’ delicious. Made with Chinese or Napa cabbage and yummy spices, kimchi is fermented in the same way as sauerkraut but the end result has a totally different flavor. In Korean cuisine, kimchi is served as a side dish with pretty much everything, and we can totally take a page from their book. Throw some kimchi on your veggies, over your BBQ, with soba noodles or rice, or just as a delicious complement to whatever you’re eating. Again, opt for a raw, unpasteurized version that has been lacto-fermented (as in, no added vinegar), like Rejuvenative Organic Spicy Kimchi. Or make your own!
Who doesn’t love pickles, right? But there are pickles, and then there are pickles. Most pickles you get at your supermarket are vinegar pickled, which means they haven’t been fermented, and don’t have healthy bacteria. Pickles don’t have to be relegated to burger or sandwich duty. Slice ’em up and add them to salads, eat them as part of a delicious pickle plate appetizer, or have one alongside your favorite soup. Opt for lacto-fermented pickles like Bubbies Pure Kosher Dills, or make your own!
If you haven’t had this fermented, probiotic-rich superpower drink yet, you’ve been living under a rock. Crawl on out and pick up a bottle ASAP. Kombucha is made by fermenting black tea with sugar and a mysterious bacterial culture called a scoby (or “mother”). The result is a vinegary, fizzy, tart and subtly sweet beverage that is super refreshing, energizing, and amazing for your gut flora. In addition to beneficial probiotics, kombucha is loaded with active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenol antioxidants. And it comes in a variety of yummy flavors to suit any palate. Opt for organic kombucha like GT’s Classic Raw Organic Kombucha or find a local kombucha purveyor in your area (we love Kombucha Brooklyn and NessAlla Kombucha in Madison, WI). You can also make your own!
5. Raw apple cider vinegar
Raw, organic apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples, and is one of the most versatile and amazing health foods and beauty tools out there. Check out our article, The Magic of Apple Cider Vinegar, to find out all the myriad health benefits and ways to use this superfood. Use raw, organic apple cider vinegar in your salad dressings, drizzled over veggies and soups, as a marinade for meat and fish, or a couple teaspoons in a glass of water with honey as an amazing drink for an achy belly or gas. Always go for raw, organic, unfiltered product like Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Or, you can try making your own!