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Fermented Foods for Gut Repair - what are Fermented Foods?

Fermented foods are often referred to as ‘probiotic’ foods or ‘cultured’ foods. But the truth is, not all fermented foods have probiotics, and while fermented foods are cultured, not all cultured foods are fermented. For example, wine and beer are fermented, but they are not a good source of probiotics. And cultured meats are not fermented. Yup…it’s a bit confusing. Don’t worry; in this guide, I will explain the exact fermented foods to buy to boost your gut health.



THE BENEFITS OF FERMENTED FOODS

 

  • Fermented foods improve immune function: 80% of the immune system is found in the gut. Fermented foods deliver good bacteria to the gut that communicate with the immune system and boost its functions. 

  • Fermented foods help with detoxification: Bacteria in fermented foods help to cleanse the body of toxic metals like lead and cadmium. 

  • Fermented foods help to balance digestion: Fermented foods contain microbes that introduce good bacteria in the gut. These lead to the release of enzymes to support their functions, providing relief for most digestive issues. 

  • Fermented foods boost energy levels: When good bacteria colonise the gut, they increase the presence of minerals and vitamins that the body needs. These are a great source of internal energy. 

  • Fermented foods lead to stronger overall systemic health: They can help overcome issues like fungal and yeast infections in the gut, such as candida overgrowth. 

  • Fermented foods also boost mental health: Beneficial gut bacteria help relieve brain fog, anxiety, depression, and mood swings. 

 

THE FERMENTED FOODS FOR YOUR GUT HEALTH


YOGURT

Yogurt is fermented milk. However, it comes in various forms, with some being more beneficial than others. If you like dairy yogurt, I would suggest goat or sheep milk yogurt that is 100% organic and made from the milk of grass-fed animals. If you are dairy-free, you can purchase soy, almond, cashew, or coconut milk yogurt in most markets. Yogurt is often high in added sugar and as crazy as it sounds, not all yogurt on the market has live and active cultures – so read labels. 

 

KEFIR

Donna Gates, the queen of ferments, says kefir is a superfood. Kefir is a dairy beverage made from cow, goat, or sheep milk. It has its origins in Russia, where it has been consumed for thousands of years. Kefir is easier to digest than milk because it’s predigested. The fermentation process breaks down much of the protein and lactose, making kefir easier to absorb and digest. These days you can also find non-dairy kefir in some specialty markets.

  • Some of the benefits include: 

  • A rich source of vitamins B12 and K2

  • Contains high levels of calcium and magnesium

  • Rich in biotin and folate

  • A great source of enzymes and probiotics

 

PICKLES

Not all pickles are created equal. Pickles that are made with cucumbers in vinegar are not naturally fermented. Fermented pickles are made using cucumbers and brine, which is a salt and water mix. These are the pickles you need if you are looking to benefit from their probiotic content. 

 

Some of the benefits of fermented pickles include: 

  • They are packed with vitamins and minerals

  • They come with lots of antioxidants and probiotic bacteria

 

KIMCHI

Kimchi is a popular Korean delicacy that is spicy, pickled cabbage. However, this is not the only way to prepare it, and other vegetables and seasonings can be used. It is usually added to foods like rice bowls to give them more flavor. However, kimchi is good with many dishes – including scrambled eggs!

 

SAUERKRAUT

The Chinese invented sauerkraut over 2000 years ago. They were the first people to ferment cabbage in rice wine. Since then, it has become a popular dish in Germany, France, Russia, and Italy. When buying sauerkraut from stores, go for the ones stored in glass jars that say they are fermented on the label. Traditional sauerkraut is truly fermented and will need to be refrigerated. Canned and processed sauerkraut may or may not be fermented. 

 

Some of its benefits include: 

  • A rich source of vitamins A, C, and K

  • It also has high levels of B vitamins

  • It is a fibre-rich food

  • A great source of minerals like iron, copper, sodium, calcium, manganese, and magnesium

 

BEET KVASS

Beet kvass is a probiotic drink made by culturing beets in brine for 3-7 days. Beet kvass is valued for its medicinal benefits and as a digestive aid. Beets are bursting with nutrients. A small glass, morning and night, is considered an excellent blood cleanser, relieves constipation, aids digestion, alkalizes the body, and cleanses the liver.

 

TEMPEH

Tempeh is by far the most popular fermented food in Indonesia, where it originated. It is made by combining soybeans with a mix of live mold called the tempeh starter. When this combination is left to sit for a couple of days, it becomes thick and dense, almost like a moist cake. It looks like tofu but grainier. Tempeh often has grains in it, so if you are grain or gluten-free, read labels. 

 

Some of its benefits include: 

  • An incredibly protein-rich food

  • It comes packed with probiotics

 

MISO

Miso is a traditional Japanese ingredient used to make various recipes, such as the delicious miso soup. It is made by mixing barley, brown rice, and soybeans, then fermenting them with a type of fungus called koji. Today, it is trendy in vegetarian and vegan circles. Be sure to purchase organic and ‘fermented’ as there are many cheap substitutes out there. 

 

SOURDOUGH BREAD

Real sourdough bread is easier for many to digest than regular bread because it’s made with a probiotic starter. However, sourdough is not a rich source of probiotics. Still, the fermentation process makes the proteins more available for absorption, easing digestion. Plus, sourdough has far less gluten than regular bread. However, sourdough is not gluten-free.

Some of the benefits include: 

  • It has prebiotic- and probiotic-like properties

  • It contains high levels of folate and antioxidants

  • Less gluten than other breads

 

KOMBUCHA

Kombucha is a fermented drink that is made using black tea mixed with natural sugars like cane sugar, fruit sugars, or honey. It has a rich bacteria colony and yeast, which when combined with the sugar initiates fermentation. Because of this fermentation process, kombucha also has trace levels of alcohol in it. However, it is too little to be noticeable which means it cannot cause intoxication. Try this fizzy drink instead of soda. 

 

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

Apple cider vinegar has low levels of probiotics. However, it makes up for this by containing essential acids like acetic acid that support the function of probiotics. When you add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a drink once or twice a day and consume fermented foods with it, you will see a massive boost in your probiotic levels. 

 

 

RAW CHEESE

Raw cheese is made from unpasteurized milk. Cow milk, goat milk, or sheep's milk can be used. The best raw cheese is the kind that has been aged for at least six months. This makes it extremely high in probiotics. While I suggest you eat cheese in moderation if you are going to eat cheese, choose raw!

 

WHAT ABOUT CANDIDA AND SIBO?

Well, it depends…

 

  • Wild strains of bacteria found in fermented foods can make candida and SIBO worse.

  • owever, carefully cultivated cultured foods made with starter cultures have shown to help battle candida in the gut. This is because they are packed with lactic acid bacteria that help control their overgrowth. 

  • To avoid the wild strains of bacteria that can feed Candida, Donna Gates from Body Ecology recommends fermenting vegetables, coconut water, and dairy with a starter culture. A starter culture contains specific strains of helpful yeast and bacteria that safeguard against the growth of wild and potentially harmful microbes, which may grow without a starter culture.

  • When it comes to SIBO the above applies, but start slowly and see how you react as SIBO can be tricky. 

 

HOW TO ADD FERMENTED FOODS TO YOUR DIET

  • Add some kimchi to your burritos

  • Add some kimchi to your sandwich

  • Add some probiotic yogurt OR kefir to your smoothies

  • Make your soups with fermented miso paste

  • Eat your sandwiches with some pickles

  • Add a fork of sauerkraut to your lunch wrap

  • Add some kimchi to your rice bowls

  • Top off your salads with fermented veggies

  • Instead of soda try a kombucha 

  • Wash everything down with a drink containing a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

 

HOW TO SHOP FOR FERMENTED FOODS

  • Always read the labels before buying. You’ll find a lot of information about the product this way. For example, when buying raw cheese, the label will tell you how long the cheese has been aged and whether the milk used was pasteurised. 

  • Go for products whose packaging indicated that they are fermented. Avoid canned and processed foods. 

  • Some foods like fermented pickles are best bought fresh and natural-made, which means places like farmers markets are a great option if you are looking for good quality.

  • For yogurt, go for organic brands. Goat or sheep milk yogurt is better if you have trouble digesting cow’s milk. Whenever possible, grass-fed is best.

Yours in health & wellness

Christine xx



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