7 Must-Eat Fermented Foods for a Healthy Gut
Fermented foods are a hot health topic—and for good reasons. These good bacteria—particularly those in our guts—may improve digestion, boost immunity and help us maintain a healthy weight. Research is still emerging on just how important these mighty microbes might be for our health, but the early results are promising. Take care of your gut, and in turn, it will take help take care of you.
Eating foods packed with probiotics—good bacteria—is one way to boost your gut health (eating more foods that are high in fiber, particularly prebiotic-rich foods, is important too). Fermented foods, like yogurt and kimchi, are rich in probiotics. The good bacteria grow during the fermentation process. Add these seven fermented foods to your diet for a healthy dose of probiotics.
Sauerkraut is good for more than just topping a hot dog. Made from just cabbage and salt, this fermented food delivers a healthy dose of probiotics and fiber. You can make your own or buy sauerkraut at the store. The kind sold in the refrigerated section will have more probiotics than shelf-stable canned or jarred varieties.
Recipe to Try: Simple Sauerkraut
This spicy Korean side dish made from fermented cabbage and other vegetables is touted as having anticancer properties and other health benefits. We also know the probiotics found in kimchi are good for our gut health. Look for it in the refrigerated section near pickles and sauerkraut. Eat it on its own or try it as a burger topper or atop tacos.
Recipe to Try: Homemade Kimchi
A fermented milk drink similar to drinkable yogurt, kefir is full of calcium and probiotics. Just as with yogurt, the probiotics in kefir help break down lactose, so it may be easier to digest for people with lactose intolerance. Kefir is delicious in smoothies or by itself.
Recipe to Try: Berry-Mint Kefir Smoothie
Kombucha is a tangy, effervescent, fermented tea that's rich in good-for-you yeast and bacteria. The drink is often flavored with herbs or fruit. You can find kombucha in natural foods stores, farmers' markets and your regular grocery store. A tiny amount of alcohol is sometimes produced during fermentation—usually less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (although some have been found to have closer to 2-3 percent). If you're not into the sour taste, you may just have not found the right brand or flavor for you.
Recipe to Try: Lemon-Ginger Kombucha Cocktail
A fermented paste made from barley, rice or soybeans, miso adds a nice umami flavor to dishes. It's a bold taste, so a little goes a long way (which is good because it's also high in sodium). Miso is typically found in soups, but also makes salad dressings and marinades even more delicious and gut healthy.
Recipe to Try: Miso Vegetable Soup
Tempeh is made from naturally fermented soybeans. It's similar to tofu in that it's a plant-based protein made from soy, but unlike tofu, tempeh is fermented. It also has a firmer texture and a slightly nuttier flavor profile. It's a good source of probiotics because it contains all the essential amino acids, it's a complete source of vegetarian protein.
Recipe to Try: Gochujang-Glazed Tempeh & Brown Rice Bowls
Yogurt is made by fermenting milk. Yogurt labeled with the "Live & Active Cultures" seal guarantees 100 million probiotic cultures per gram (about 17 billion cultures in a 6-ounce cup) at manufacturing time. Even yogurts without this seal contain probiotics. The probiotics in yogurt help digest some of the lactose (milk sugar), so if you're lactose intolerant you may be able to enjoy yogurt. Plus, many companies are now making dairy-free and vegan yogurt options that contain probiotics.
Recipe to Try: Ricotta & Yogurt Parfait