Fermented foods have long been part of the human diet. From the Roman Era’s sauerkraut to Ancient India’s probiotic yogurt drink lassi, fermentation is a centuries-old way to promote good health and preserve food.
There are many benefits to incorporating fermented foods into the way you eat. In the recent months, more and more attention has been given to the importance of the microbiome: that is, the colonies of trillions of bacteria we carry around in our guts that control myriad processes within the body. Fermented foods introduce additional beneficial flora to the body, which helps bolster our existing colonies. In particular, eating a variety of fermented foods improves the variety of flora living in your gut, which further bolsters gut health. Also, because fermented foods are powerful chelators, which means they draw toxins out of the system, they help detoxify and remove waste more efficiently.
Why a Healthy Microbiome is Important
A healthy microbiome, supported in part by fermented foods, has been shown to improve not only mood, immunity and metabolism, but digestion, too. The bacteria present in fermented foods provide helpful enzymes – which support digestion – in addition to doing a little of the work for us. Foods that have been cultured arrive to us slightly broken down: less work for the GI tract means easier digestion.
Considering so many people report having digestive issues, foods that help support better digestion – no pills, no surgery, no complicated elimination procedure – could be a pretty delicious revelation.
If you struggle with slow digestion, whether from a diet high in raw foods, low energy, medication or just a stubbornly slow GI tract, fermented foods might be a simple addition that could make a big difference. Here are five foods to incorporate to help your body run just a little more, erm, smoothly:
Miso has been said to be the key to Japanese longevity. It’s made by fermenting soybeans, rice or barley with a fungus called koji, which produces a silky smooth paste for use in soups and sauces. Miso provides a plethora of happy-belly bacteria and nourishing Vitamin K. Miso makes everything taste better, including this Miso Glazed Pumpkin with Udon Noodles.
Kimchi and Sauerkraut
There are hundreds of varieties of pickled cabbage and vegetables, each with a different spice profile and fermentation method depending on a culture’s (get it?) traditional preparation methods. These have been shown to help digest proteins, often tricky for slow-moving systems to work through. Sauerkraut is often made just with salt, while kimchi includes spicier vegetables and different seasonings. The bacteria proliferate in a sealed, aquatic environment over several weeks and help break down some of the tough fiber in the veggies. Always be diligent about reading labels, though: many krauts and kimchis are prepared using a lacto-fermentation method or with dried fish ingredients.
Tempeh is made with boiled, fermented soybeans. The culturing process binds the beans into a meaty cake, which works as a wonderful main dish. It provides ample plant protein and valuable nutrients like magnesium, manganese and copper. Here are 25 Great Tempeh Recipes and to learn more about tempeh, check out All About Tempeh + 7 Tasty Recipes.
This fermented tea contains beneficial yeasts and bacteria and has been shown to help detoxify the whole body. Some people react well to it but because of its potency, some find it a little strong. It can help improve digestion and immunity, however, when cultured properly and handled responsibly. Learn to make your own, so you can enjoy it whenever you like!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar, also referred to as ACV, is the result of double-fermenting apples with cider using a ‘mother’ culture and low-heat processing. Unpasteurized ACV includes potent bacteria that can help regulate digestion and break down toxins, things that can often slow or interrupt the digestive process. It can also help produce adequate stomach acid levels if you suffer indigestion due to low stomach acid. You can use it in cooking and retain many of the benefits: check out these ways to ramp up your vegan cooking using ACV.
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