Top 10 Fermented Foods and Their Health Benefits

What are fermented foods? Fermentation is an ancient process used to produce foods like beer, wine, chocolate, yogurt, cheese, and bread. Our ancestors used fermentation to preserve foods so they could be preserved and available to them throughout different seasons. With the advancements made over time, today we can keep fermented foods in the refrigerator for a rather long time. Lately, scientists and medical professionals including nutritionists and dieticians discovered many health benefits to be gained from foods that have undergone the fermenting process. Most experts believe the fermentation process provides a dose of probiotic bacteria that is good for the digestive process and cognitive function. Foods having undergone this process help boost immunity, fight allergies, and kill harmful yeast and microbes. With these in mind, here are the top 10 healthiest fermented foods and the health benefits they provide.

Fermented Foods and Their Benefits

1. Kefir

Fermented milk products taste like drinkable yogurts. It is made from cow, sheep, or goat milk and contains many health benefits. These include lots of vitamin B12, vitamin K2, calcium, biotin, folate, and magnesium. Kefir is also loaded with beneficial enzymes and probiotics.

2. Kombucha

This fermented beverage is made from black tea and sugar. Sugars used may be natural sources like fruit or honey. Adding a bit of sugar to dried black tea initiates the fermentation process. It contains trace amounts of alcohol, but not enough to cause intoxication. Kombucha contains B vitamins, probiotics, enzymes and a high concentration of acid. Good enough reasons to drink some every day.

3. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a traditional food often attributed to the German, Chinese, and Russian cuisines. When cabbage undergoes the fermentation process it becomes sauerkraut. Either red or green cabbage may be used to create this nutritious fermented food. It provides a host of benefits including iron, fiber, copper, sodium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamins A, K, and C as well as the B vitamins. Note that store-bought sauerkraut is not always fermented it is just canned. Real fermented sauerkraut needs refrigeration, is in a glass jar, and indicated on packaging labels.

4. Pickles

Fermented pickles contain loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also contain gut-friendly probiotic bacteria. Most store-bought pickles are not fermented foods. Even though they are processed using vinegar to enhance the sour taste, they’ve not undergone the natural fermentation process. Fermented pickles require cucumbers in a brine. Check the labels to locate fermented pickles. The label indicates whether the contents are fermented. One of the best places to find fermented pickles is a local farmer’s market.

5. Miso

If you eat at a Japenese restaurant, you may try miso soup. It’s created by using a special type of fungus, koji. The fungus combines with soybeans, brown rice, or barley to initiate the fermentation process. Miso benefits the immune system, lowers the risk of some types of cancer, promotes a healthy nervous system, and improves bone health.

6. Tempeh

A tempeh starter is made using a special live mold. The mold mix is added to soybeans to create a fermented food product. After it sits for a couple of days, it becomes dense. It looks and feels like cake, but it’s loaded with probiotics and protein. Tempeh reduces menopausal symptoms, increases bone density, reduces cholesterol, and promotes muscle recovery.

7. Natto

Popular in Japan, natto consists of fermented soybeans. Many eat it for breakfast. Natto is also common to combine it with karashi mustard, soy sauce, and Japanese bunching onion. It develops a strong flavor and smell during the fermentation process. However, many people dislike it because of the sticky, slimy texture. Those who get past the texture will benefit from K2 and the anti-inflammatory enzyme nattokinase.

8. Kimchi

The Korean cuisine uses kimchi for rice bowls, bibimbap, and ramen dishes. It is fermented using a variety of vegetables and spices. Kimchi contains lots of antioxidants and is also known to promote digestive and cardiovascular health. Experts suggest the benefits of kimchi include reducing the risk of cancer, obesity, gastric ulcers, and diabetes.

9. Raw Cheeses

Unpasteurized milk is used to make raw cheeses. A2 cows, sheep milk, and goat milk produce soft cheese high in probiotics. If you are looking for raw cheese in the store, read labels carefully. Labels indicate if cheese is raw and how long it has aged. To reap the most health benefits it should be aged at least six months.

10. Yogurt

Yogurt and kefir are dairy products made from fermented milk. You’ve likely seen them both at your local grocery store. They are not difficult to find. Yogurt provides better overall diet quality, healthier blood pressures, and healthier metabolic profiles for those who consume it regularly.