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Fermentation is the process of allowing food items to sit for an extended time in conditions that allow the sugars and carbs to be broken down by bacterias, yeasts, or other microorganisms that are also present in the food. The byproducts of this breakdown change the food into something altogether different. This allows for a whole new array of benefits when the foods are consumed!
You might be thinking, “why on earth would I eat something that has been broken down by bacteria?” It may sound alarming at first to think of consuming fermented foods, but by a different name, you may find yourself more open to the idea. Have you ever heard the term “probiotic?” This is a health term you are probably familiar with. All it means is that there is a live culture of safe bacteria and yeasts present in a food source. These live cultures to aid in healthy digestion and promote overall gut health. (1)
The benefits of probiotics are many, and fortunately so are the sources of this amazing dietary agent! Some you may be surprised to recognize, and others may be completely new to your food experience. Here are the top seven fermented foods that are filled with incredible probiotics that you can easily add to your diet.
Kefir is a fermented milk product typically from cow’s milk It tastes similar to yogurt, and normally comes in the form of a conveniently drinkable liquid. Kefir contains high levels of calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes, and amazing probiotics. These nutritional qualities can help boost immunity, combat irritable bowel syndrome, improve allergies, and promote digestive health. (2)
Miso is a Japanese paste created by fermenting soybean with a fungus called koji. Miso is a source of various B-vitamins, vitamins E, K, and folic acid. It is also rich with good bacteria that is especially good for digestion, absorption of nutrients, and supporting the immune system. (3)
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from black or green tea. A colony of bacteria and yeasts are introduced and combined with sugar, which begins the fermentation process. The kombucha becomes carbonated and rich with vinegar, enzymes, B-vitamins, and probiotics. A daily dose of kombucha increases energy, detoxes the body, and supports the immune system.
Sauerkraut is one type of fermented food you may be more accustomed to seeing. It’s made from fermenting cabbage and has high amounts of lactic acid and tyramines, as well as vitamins A, C, K, and B, and minerals like magnesium, calcium, and iron. It also has very few calories. (4) Sauerkraut’s many benefits include healthy digestion, lowering cholesterol, aids and reducing inflammation.
You may be surprised to find such a simple food on this list. Fermented using vinegar, pickles are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and gut-friendly bacteria. Most importantly, pickles can help counter vitamin K deficiency, which is a vitamin very important for bone and heart health.
Another very familiar fermented food, plain yogurt is one of the most popular probiotic sources in America today. Not only is it rich with good bacteria cultures, but it is also an incredible source of calcium, B-vitamins, and potassium. Yogurt aids in healthy digestion, boosts the immune system, contributes to bone health, and can even help cure infections. (5)
Perhaps the most popular of any fermented food worldwide, cheeses are full of nutrients including calcium, protein, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12. Made from unpasteurized, or “raw,” milk, these nutrients are even richer! In addition to building bone health, regular consumption of cheeses can boost immunity and combat harmful bacteria in the digestive tracts and greatly benefit gut health with the power of its amazing probiotic content.