Best Fermented Drinks and Foods to Boost Digestion and Health

Updated on October 31st, 2020
fermented foods for gut health

Fermentation is an ancient food preservation method which, in addition to preserving food for prolonged periods and preventing the growth of dangerous bacteria, also guaranteed health advantages.

Fermentation is the process of converting carbs into carbon dioxide and alcohol and then into fatty acids, thanks to the action of yeasts and bacteria, in anaerobic conditions (oxygen-free) [1]. The live microorganisms found in fermented foods assure the digestive system’s well-being and keep the bacterial flora in balance.

Fermented Foods for Gut Health

Besides being excellent for their pleasant acidity in taste, Fermented foods offer the body with valuable elements for the intestine, like lactic ferments [2]. They are also high in enzymes and vitamins C and B, which offer a purifying, antioxidant, and digestive action.

Here are some fermented foods that cannot be missing from our diet to facilitate digestion.

1. Kombucha tea, a natural probiotic

Kombucha tea can be black or green, and it has a distinct and spicy flavor: a fermented beverage believed by many to be an elixir of eternal youth. Besides enhancing digestion, kombucha tea helps the spleen and stomach to perform their functions, and it also functions as a natural probiotic supporting the intestine [3].

It is regarded as an excellent beverage for those suffering from kidney stones. You can buy kombucha tea online or in organic shops and try it also in herbal or fruit-flavored versions.

2. Tempeh, the fermented soy-based food

Tempeh is a fermented food with origins in Indonesia: it is based on soybeans, and it is high in proteins and isoflavones that protect the bones and heart. Tempeh is also an excellent source of probiotics that improve digestion, and it is also high in essential amino acids [4].

The tempeh is obtained from cooked soybeans’ fermentation, added to the vinegar and the Rhizopus Oligosporus mushroom. It tastes like hazelnut, and it can be consumed stewed or steamed but also as a condiment.

3. Kefir

Kefir is basically yogurt’s tangier, thinner cousin. It’s generally made by fermenting milk using kefir grains, which are yeast and bacteria cultures held together by a polysaccharide produced by the Lactobacillus higarii (beneficial bacteria).

Kefir has a wider variety of beneficial probiotics than yogurt, which will help promote microbiome health and healthy digestion. It also contains vitamin K2, B vitamins, and tryptophan—an essential amino acid that’s a forerunner to mood-stabilizing serotonin.

Due to kefir’s strong tart taste, several brands add a lot of sugar, offsetting some of the health benefits. Always go for unsweetened plain kefir, and flavor it yourself with a few dashes by blending it up with some berries or cinnamon.

[Also Read: Amazing Benefits Of Kefir]

4. Miso

Miso is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisines known for its distinct savory umami flavor. It’s also a source of calcium, iron, B vitamins and potassium, and complete protein.

Because miso is fermented, it contains abundant beneficial probiotic bacteria, too, including a strain of bacteria that’s been associated with a reduction in symptoms of digestive issues like IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).

But one has to be cautious about how they use it. While cooking with miso, add it to hot recipes toward the end of the cooking process, so you don’t boil off all those useful bugs. 

5. Yogurt

It’s tough to go wrong with yogurt (unless you opt for a sugar-loaded flavor) and select yogurts with an active culture label. Like kefir, yogurt has been fermented with LAB (lactic acid bacteria), making it another great gut-friendly food choice.

Studies have found that yogurt can increase the number of good bacteria strains in the gut. Why that’s great? Studies have also confirmed that having fewer strains of good bacteria can increase the risk of certain illnesses, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, IBD, and chronic inflammatory diseases.

Yogurt is also rich in protein—Greek yogurt can have 18 to 20 grams per serving—and calcium, making it a wise choice to boost bone health and maintain balanced blood sugar.

6. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is one of the ancient traditional foods, with very long roots in Chinese, German, and Russian cuisine, dating back 2,000 years or more. Sauerkraut translates to “sour cabbage” in German, although the Germans weren’t the first to make sauerkraut (it’s rumored the Chinese were).

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Made from fermented red or green cabbage, sauerkraut is rich in vitamin A, fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, and B vitamins. It’s also a great source of copper, iron,  sodium and calcium, magnesium, and manganese.

Is store-bought sauerkraut fermented? Not always, particularly the processed/canned kind.

Conventional, fermented sauerkraut needs to be refrigerated, generally stored in glass jars, and will say that it is fermented on the label/package.

7. Raw Cheese

Raw milk cheeses are prepared with milk that hasn’t been pasteurized. Sheep milk, goat milk, and A2 cows soft cheeses are specifically high in probiotics, including bifudus, thermophillus, acidophilus, and bulgaricus.

To find real aged/ fermented cheeses, read the ingredient label and look for cheese that hasn’t been pasteurized. The label should suggest that the cheese is raw and has been aged for 6 months or more.

8. Kimchi

Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean recipe prepared from vegetables, including cabbage, plus spices like garlic, ginger, pepper, and other seasonings. It’s often added to Korean recipes like ramen, rice bowls, or bibimbap.

It’s considered a Korean delicacy that dates back to the 7th century.

[Read: Health Benefits of Kimchi]

Bottom Line

Fermentation can help increase both the health benefits and shelf life of several different foods. The probiotics found in fermented foods have been linked with improvements in immunity, digestion, weight loss, and more.

Besides containing these beneficial probiotics, fermented foods can positively impact many other health aspects and are an excellent addition to your diet.

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