A Guide to Gut Healthy Fermented Foods

Feb 17, 2023

fermented foods good for gut health

From kombucha to kimchi, fermented foods have been gaining popularity in recent years, often lauded for their potential health benefits and unique flavor profiles—which typically fall somewhere in the tangy, sour category.

Fermented foods aren’t just a trend though—research shows that fermented foods are an important part of a healthy diet, as they’re packed with beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms. These microorganisms can help improve gut health, which is linked to a healthier immune system and even improved digestion.

But, with the growing popularity of fermented foods, it can be hard to know which foods to choose or how to use them in everyday recipes.  This guide will discuss the overall gut health benefits of these foods, how they’re made, and popular dishes to try so you can make better gut health decisions in your own diet.


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fermented foods good for gut health

What is gut health and why is it important?

So, what exactly is gut health?

Gut health is simply the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut microbiome, the home to billions of microbes, like bacteria and fungi, that live in your digestive tract. When your gut microbiome is healthy, it can help you to digest food and protect you from infection and illnesses. It also helps you absorb nutrients from the foods you eat and eliminates toxins and waste from your body.

The gut’s microbiome is very sensitive, and can easily be disrupted by poor diet, stress, and environmental toxins. An unhealthy gut may lead to gastrointestinal issues, nutrient deficiencies, and even chronic health conditions. An unhealthy gut may also cause inflammation, which can lead to a weakened immune system and a host of other health issues.

Fortunately, there are several ways to keep your gut healthy. Eating a balanced diet full of fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains is essential for healthy gut bacteria. Exercise and reducing stress are also important, helping to reduce inflammation and promote good gut health. Probiotics can also help to replenish the good bacteria in your gut and support a healthy microbiome.

A great source of gut-healthy probiotics can actually be found in a common type of food we eat: fermented foods.

fermented foods good for gut health

Why are fermented foods good for you?

The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because it houses over 100 trillion bacteria, many of which are beneficial to our overall well-being. When we consume fermented foods, the beneficial bacteria in the food can colonize the gut and help balance the existing microbial population. This can improve digestion and help to reduce inflammation.

Top benefits of fermented foods include:

  1. Improved digestion: Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria, which can help improve digestion by increasing the number of good bacteria in the gut. These bacteria help to break down food, aiding in digestion and preventing stomach upset and discomfort, like bloating or gas.
  2. Reduced inflammation: The lactic acid bacteria help to balance the pH levels of the gut, which can help to reduce inflammation-causing compounds in the gut and reduce the risk of digestive problems.
  3. Boosted immunity: Fermented foods can help to boost your immune system by providing beneficial bacteria which can help to fight off harmful bacteria. This can help to reduce your risk of developing infections and illnesses.
  4. Increased nutrient absorption: Fermented foods can help increase the amount of vitamins and minerals that are absorbed in the body. This can help ensure that you are getting the most nutrition possible from the food you eat.


How are fermented foods made?

Fermented foods are made by allowing microorganisms like bacteria and yeasts to break down the sugars and starches in food.

This process occurs naturally by exposing food to the microorganisms in the air but can also be done with the help of a starter culture. The starter culture helps to speed up the fermentation process, as well as introduces beneficial bacteria that can create unique flavors, aromas, and textures in dishes.

Generally, the fermentation process takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks to complete, depending on the type of food being fermented.

fermented foods good for gut health

Best fermented foods for gut health

Not only can fermented foods help to maintain a healthy gut, but they may also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and probiotics that may help keep your digestive system in top form.

Here are some of the top gut-healthy foods to try:

  1. Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from cow, goat or sheep milk. It is packed with probiotics and beneficial bacteria that can help improve gut health. Kefir can be enjoyed as a drink or added to smoothies, salads and more.
  2. Kimchi: Kimchi is a popular Korean dish made from fermented vegetables. It is usually made with cabbage, radish, scallions and spices such as garlic and ginger. Kimchi is rich in probiotics that can help improve digestion and boost the immune system. Try it in this Kimchi Fried Rice recipe!
  3. Yogurt: Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with beneficial bacteria. It’s an excellent source of probiotics and provides a good source of calcium and protein. You can even make it at home using your own multicooker and this Greek Yogurt recipe!
  4. Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is a traditional German dish made from fermented cabbage. Sauerkraut can be enjoyed as a side dish or added to salads and sandwiches, like these Reuben Stuffed Peppers.
  5. Kombucha: Kombucha is a fermented tea that is made by combining black or green tea with sugar and a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). This combination creates a naturally fizzy drink that’s a great on its own, or mixed into your favorite beverage, like this Celery, Green Apple and Kombucha juice.  
  6. Miso: Miso is a traditional Japanese paste made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. It’s a great addition to fish dishes, like this Sheet Tray Miso Salmon With Crispy Kale And Shiitakes.
  7. Tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that is high in protein and dietary fiber. Similar to tofu, tempeh provides a meaty, firm texture and nutty flavor, making it a great choice for stir fry or on sandwiches.


So, now that you understand the ins and outs of fermented foods, try your hand at one of the recipes above.


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