If you have been hearing a lot about gut health, the need to look after your gut and the importance of keeping your gut bacteria optimized, you may have heard about fermented foods.
From kefir to kombucha, to sauerkraut to tempeh, there are several different fermented food options that you can try, and more than that, even make yourself.
But if you’re new to the game or just wanting to make sure you have all the right information, here’s the need to know on fermented foods and using them to look after your gut.
What are fermented foods?
Fermented foods are foods which have naturally occurring levels of healthy bacteria due to natural fermentation. In some cases, such as in kombucha or kefir, this fermentation occurs through a culture, whereby there is a symbiotic relationship between the culture and product. In other foods, such as sauerkraut or fermented vegetables, the process of fermentation is just done with time, whereby the bacteria natural starts to reproduce in the environment with the ideal setting of temperature and oxygen.
Why are fermented foods good for me?
Fermented foods are good to add to your regular diet because of their bacteria content. Our gut biome is made of up a balance of good and bad bacteria. We need each of these types of bacteria and the various strains of each to allow the ideal balance of bacteria in the stomach to continue and to promote good overall gut health. Good gut health is at the root of healthy skin, improved digestion, manufacturing and production of several vitamins, and the production of certain hormones and enzymes. Not to mention, research shows a direct connection between the gut and the brain. This means it is critical to have the gut functioning properly, with the right bacteria, in order to maximize focus and concentration.
What should I know about buying these foods?
When you buy fermented foods you should check to make sure that they are made using a natural culture (if applicable). Apple Cider Vinegar for examples, should say “with the mother.” In foods, such as sauerkraut, which does not use a culture, be sure that the process is that of fermentation, and not simply adding vinegar and sugar or spices to give it a fermented flavour. In addition, remember that good fermentation takes time. There is no shortcut to getting fermented food – without time and quality ingredients, you can’t have fermentation and get the benefits that come with it.
If you find yourself with an upset stomach regularly, struggling to concentrate and focus, or suffering from overall poor digestion, it may be time to take a look at your gut. If you don’t currently consume a regular source of probiotic foods, fermented foods is a great place to start.
By: Laura Peill, RHN, BScH