Why You Should Eat More Fermented Foods

By Ali Spencer, RD

You may be surprised to learn there are quite a few fermented foods you may be already eating.

Why You Should Eat More Fermented Foods

It’s time to start including fermented foods in your diet if you haven’t started already. Fermentation has been used for thousands of years to preserve food and its nutrients. You may be surprised to learn there are quite a few fermented foods you may be already eating. Today we’ll explore some of the benefits of fermentation, what foods are fermented, and what to do if you want to try fermenting on your own!

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is the chemical reaction that takes place when bacteria or yeast is used to break down a food. Typically what happens is sugar is broken down into acid or alcohol. Traditionally fermentation was used as a way to preserve food and beverages because it greatly extends their shelf life.

Why is fermentation beneficial?

There are a couple of reasons why fermented foods can benefit your health. First, the bacteria used to break down the sugars are beneficial to our intestines. We call these probiotics. Probiotics ensure we have a healthy balance of bacteria – they can aid in digestion, help with certain GI conditions, and may help boost our immune system. Second, the fermentation process breaks down food, which makes it easier for us to absorb certain nutrients — like vitamin C — from those foods.

What foods have been fermented?

Fermentation is more common than you think. Here are some of the more common fermented foods:

  • Yogurt (make sure to choose one that says “live active cultures”)
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Sauerkraut and pickled vegetables (must be refrigerated and say “unpasteurized”)
  • Vinegar (if you’re going to drink it, make sure you dilute 1-2 Tbsp in at least one full cup of water)
  • Beer and wine (remember that the health benefits of fermentation don’t outweigh the negatives of excess alcohol. It’s recommended to limit to 1 drink/day for women, 2 drinks/day for men)

Can I ferment foods at home?

Yes! Just a little bit of elbow grease and little bit of investigating makes fermenting at home easy. Some of the easiest ways to start is by pickling your own vegetables, making kimchi or sauerkraut, making your own yogurt, or making your own vinegar. Remember that fermentation can take weeks to months, but using a starter can reduce the fermentation process down to mere couple of days. These starters are called “mothers” or “SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). You can easily find these online or in health food stores.