You already know fermented foods are good for your gut—and the trillions of microorganisms that live in it—but it’s not always easy to choose the best ones. Incorporating these into your diet can help tamper signs of an imbalanced gut environment, which often include bloating, constipation, acid reflux, skin issues, and brain fog. It’s where health (and disease) starts, so paying attention to it—and eating according to its needs—is wise.
How fermented foods can help your gut
Yes, probiotics can be useful, but incorporating lots of fermented foods (which are foods that teeming with microorganisms) into your diet has been scientifically proven to boost gut microbial diversity, decrease inflammation and improve immune system function (resulting in a reduced likelihood of developing various diseases).
A 2021 study by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine found that a 10-week diet incorporating certain fermented foods – more on which later – can “remodel the microbiota across a cohort of healthy adults,” Justin Sonnenburg, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the university.
The research suggests that the more fermented foods we eat, the better, but eating six servings each day (as those taking part in the study did) has been scientifically proven to produce these health benefits.
The best fermented foods to eat
“If your gut is feeling really out of balance, start slowly,” says Rhian Stephenson, nutritionist and founder of nutrition company Artah. “Add a few tablespoons of wild fermented foods a few times a week, and build up your intake slowly.” She recommends avoiding any fermented foods that have added sugar, coloring, or lots of vinegar.
If you haven’t (knowingly) tried any fermented foods, then Greek yogurt – or indeed any “live” yoghurt – can be a good entry point, as well as a great source of protein. Yogurt is created by adding bacteria to milk and leaving it to ferment, and depending on which type you get, comes in varying levels of thickness. Avoid yoghurts with flavouring or added sugar, look for “live and active cultures” on the label, and ensure it hasn’t been pasteurised for the best wellbeing benefits.
Not dissimilar to yogurt, kefir is made by adding kefir grains into milk, and letting them ferment. A tangy delight, it’s been getting more attention recently, and can be bought in drinkable containers for optimal ease. Packed with natural berries and fiber, it’s an easy way to boost your gut day to day, but you can also make your own (and add different fruits in) if you prefer.
Made from fermented shredded cabbage, sauerkraut has long been popular in German and central European diets – and for good reason. An easy and tasty addition to any meal, it’s also full of fiber and antioxidants.
Yes, you can drink your ferments too. Kombucha is a great – and tasty – way to boost your microbial diversity, plus it’s also packed with antioxidants. Studies suggest that kombucha consumption has a positive effect on inflammation, liver detoxification and intestinal dysbiosis, plus it’s delicious. Make sure to opt for kombuchas which are raw, unpasteurized and unfiltered – I love Momo.
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