Fermented foods are a great way to get fiber into your diet (definitely check out this post if you’d like to learn more about fiber, and why it’s so important for your gut), highly bio-available nutrients, AND the added benefit of live bacteria. I’d recommend that you aim to get some sort of ferment into your nutrition on a daily basis.. all you need is a tablespoon or two!
While there is still a lot to learn as it relates to how the bacteria found in fermented foods may or may not influence our gut microbiome, and therefore our gut (and overall) health, we have seen through studies like this one, that fermented foods have the ability to positively impact our microbiome, such as the microbial diversity in the gut.
If you're new to fermented foods, I’d likely recommend starting with something like yogurt (either dairy or plant-based), or kombucha to start. Fermented foods can be an acquired taste if you aren’t used to them, so ease into things if you need to! Ideally, I’d recommend trying to get as much diversity as possible among your ferments — cycle through them throughout the weeks, to get the most diversity in bacterial strains, nutrients, and fiber.
7 Fermented Foods to Incorporate for Better Gut Health
You’re likely familiar with this traditional fermented food — yogurt is made by fermenting milk (of many kinds!). You’re likely also familiar with the type of bacteria that are typically found in fermented dairy products, such as those from the lactobacillus family.
When buying yogurt, look for organic, grass-fed varieties that are made from goat’s or sheep’s milk or non-dairy with only coconut milk and bacterial cultures. We want to avoid yogurt that is loaded with sugars and additives, as much as we can!
Similar to yogurt, kefir can be made with dairy or non-dairy milk, and tends to contain higher levels and diversity of bacteria. What’s interesting about this one, is that it contains little to no lactose in the final product, even when dairy is used. It tends to be a little effervescent, compared to its yogurt counterpart!
Sauerkraut is traditionally a ferment made from cabbage. Nowadays, you’ll see alternative takes on the classic sauerkraut, such as carrot or beet kraut. This particular ferment tends to be high in vitamin C and digestive enzymes (which help us break down our foods!). It’s also a good source of natural lactic acid bacteria, such as lactobacillus.
Likely one of the most popular fermented foods around these days, this fermented tea is delicious, and can be found in a huge variety of flavours. Most commercial kombucha products are high in sugar, which is something to be aware of! This product is generally fermented with yeast, so it may not be great for people prone to yeast overgrowth.
If you’re up for some at-home fermentation, kombucha is a great one to try out for yourself! You have so much freedom to explore different flavour combos; likewise you can experiment with the type of tea, and the type of sweetner you use, which can be helpful for reducing the sugar content, as found in many store-bought alternatives!
Kimchi is a cousin to sauerkraut and is the Korean take on cultured veggies. It’s created by mixing a main ingredient, such as Chinese cabbage, with a number of other foods and spices, like red pepper flakes, radishes, carrots, garlic, ginger, onion, sea salt and fish sauce. Kimchi is a great addition to bowls, salads, eggs, or by the spoonful if you’re feeling really daring!
6. Beet Kvass
Kvass is a lacto-fermented beverage, made from (as the name would suggest), beets! It’s got an earthy, sour, and perhaps acquired taste (I personally love it), and it jam-packed with nutrients. We know and love beets for they’re liver-and-gallbladder supportive properties (which you can read more about here), which makes this ferment a great addition not only for your gut and microbial health, but for your liver and gallbladder, too!
7. Pickled Vegetables
Another favourite! Lacto-fermented, pickled veggies are a great way to get in a diversity of nutrients and fibers, as there’s no limit to the types of veg that you can consume in this way.
This is a very non-exhaustive list of all the fermented foods that exist internationally! While exploring these foods, you can also try things like miso, tempeh, apple cider vinegars, etc. If you’d like to learn more about how to take care of your gut health through nutrition and lifestyle, definitely check out my “Beginners Guide to Gut Healing”