Ask Keri: I’ve heard about the health benefits of fermented foods, but how do I actually incorporate them into my diet?
Keri says: Let’s just say it: the word “fermented” is kind of unappetizing, and the foods it refers to generally look and smell a little funky. That doesn’t mean they can’t also be incredibly delicious (just think about funky cheese or wine!), and given the incredible health benefits, it’s worth giving them a shot even if you’re a skeptic.
Allow me to address your ferment-o-phobia and show you exactly how to add these important foods to your daily diet.
The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
First of all, yes, I recommend eating at least one fermented food per day. Similar to canning, fermentation is a process that helps to preserve foods. When foods are fermented, bacteria or yeast are introduced to break sugars down into simpler molecules such as alcohols and acids. This process can be as simple as placing vegetables in water with salt, or a starter culture is used.
Breaking down the food does two things: it releases flavor (yum!) and introduces tons of good microorganisms which can contribute to maintaining a balanced, healthy gut. (And we know how important gut health is, right?) Fermenting also begins the process of digestion before the food hits your lips, which can make the nutrients in your foods more available for absorption.
The Best Fermented Foods and How to Eat Them
Cucumbers are hydrating and filled with vitamins on their own. Turn them into pickles and they’re good for your gut. The most important thing to remember is that the ones on the shelf at the supermarket are not fermented; they’re made with vinegar. To get the probiotic benefits, you’ve got to look for refrigerator brands that tout the fact that they’re “naturally fermented.” Or, make them yourself at home. It’s seriously the easiest process you could imagine.
How to eat them: Straight out of the jar, alongside a grass-fed burger, or as a salty salad topper.
There is more lactobacillus (the golden child of good bacteria) in sauerkraut than in yogurt, and the cabbage concoction also contains lots of vitamin C, K, and iron. The same advice applies to kraut as to pickles—if you buy it off a shelf, it’s likely not fermented. Look for refrigerated versions without vinegar or make your own.
How to eat it: Top a grass-fed burger or steak or get creative with a savory, salty avocado toast variation.
Kimchi is essentially the Korean version of kraut, made with more veggies than just cabbage and way more spicy kick.
You know this one. Keep on eating this probiotic breakfast favorite. The best you can get will be Greek and/or full-fat, from grass-fed cows.
Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans. Buy it organic.
How to eat it: Order miso soup on sushi night or make your own. It’s also one of the best base ingredients for all kinds of healthy salad dressings.
Kombucha and Kefir
Fermented “foods” also come in liquid form. Kombucha is a great option if you’re skipping dairy; kefir’s got protein alongside its probiotics.
How to eat them: Don’t. Drink up, instead!
(All Photos: Shutterstock)