Glow from the gut with these fermented foods

Kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut are among fermented food staples increasingly found on menus. But how do they nurture our bodies?

Fermented food is the trend that keeps on trending.

It’s a trend tipped to continue in 2019. With Food & Drink Resources highlighting fermented turnip greens and fermented mushrooms among the foods to watch.

Dietitians Anna Debenham and Alex Parker, of The Biting Truth, break down which ones we should be adding to our diets, and why.

How fermented foods fuel our bodies

Traditionally a method used to extend the shelf life of food, fermentation happens when food is transformed by bacteria, creating small proteins, acids and enzymes.

According to Harvard Medical School, fermented foods contain good live bacteria that help influence what the gut digests and absorbs.

“Research suggests probiotics may help to promote better immune function, increased gastrointestinal health, improve mental health, reduce risk of some chronic diseases and even promote clearer skin,” Anna says.

“Some bacteria can also increase levels of vitamins in food, especially B vitamins.”

Aim to eat fermented foods daily

Yoghurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi are among the live bacteria line-up to give you a boost of probiotic benefits.

“One of the most abundant organisms in sauerkraut and kimchi is lactobacillus plantarum,” Alex says.

“Along with bifidobacterium, it helps crowd out pathogens, maintain gut barrier function and produce organic acids that nourish colonic cells and enhance gut health.”

The more probiotic-containing foods you can include in your daily diet, the better.

“Yoghurt is our number one recommendation as we know the bacteria present survives digestion and reaches the large intestine,” Anna explains.

fermented foods

How to increase your fermented food intake

Simple dietary swaps make it a breeze to boost your intake. Alex and Anna suggest:

  • Add kefir to breaky bowls – or use as a substitute for milk in any recipe.
  • Sauerkraut or kimchi are delicious in salads, wraps or eaten on their own.
  • Replace soft drinks with kombucha. It tastes delicious and still has the fizz factor.
  • Try roasting your vegies with miso paste.

Things to watch out for with probiotics

Don’t rely solely on probiotics to boost gut health; instead, look to other nutrients and living organisms, advises Alex.

“Dietary fibre found in plant-based foods provide prebiotics, which act as food for the probiotics,” she says.

“Consider a plant-based diet rich in dietary fibre, and include fermented foods to boost your gut bacteria and add flavour.”

She advises checking labels for live cultures because those without do not necessarily have probiotic functions and won’t survive the journey to the gut.

And if you’re watching your sodium intake, be aware some fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut contain high levels of salt.

Written by Jenna Meade