The benefits of fermented foods

My parents are both German so I’ve grown up eating sauerkraut. I’ve always loved the taste, especially red kraut, and as a kid devoured it on the regular by choice. Now as an adult I make an effort to eat it in big part because of the health benefits, which include alleviating digestive issues and autoimmune issues, improving skin and helping maintain a healthy weight because of their probiotics. There are so many great brands that make clean options (but also a lot that don’t! More on that later). I’m particularly obsessed with Fermenting Fairy, an organic brand that makes a number of functional probiotic foods and beverages including coconut milk kefir, probiotic lemonade, and sauerkraut in traditional as well as unique flavors like Apple Cinnamon Sauerkraut… like I said… obsessed!

It’s important to always look at labels when buying fermented foods, however, because they’re often loaded in additives and sugar. Fermenting Fairy products have super clean labels with very few ingredients, no gums, pectins, or natural flavorings and they’re hand-made with only raw, organic ingredients. To find out more about the benefits and other great options I turned to Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition.

What are some of the benefits of fermented food?

“Fermented foods contain a host of probiotics, which are beneficial microorganisms. Probiotics are linked to optimized digestion, immunity, metabolism, fat loss/gain, allergies, sleep patterns, and even mood.”

How much do you need to eat to see these benefits? 

“At this time, we haven’t been able to identify precise amounts of CFUs (colony forming units) that would confer a certain benefit on a certain host (person) for a certain condition, but we  know that probiotics are beneficial to human health. The smart thing to do, for now, until the research and field of personalized microbiome medicine develops, is to include as many fermented food sources daily into your diet as possible.”

Any things to look for when it comes to nutrition labels?

Since some fermented foods have alcohol (kombucha), that is to be considered, and many fermented foods are raw/unpasteurized and may be unsuitable for immunosuppressed populations / young children. A physician should be consulted for these matters. Also, be on the lookout for products with added sugars especially in yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. You may be getting as much sugar as a candy bar, and sugar can actually wreak havoc on your microbiome. You’re less likely to find sweetened kimchi!”

Can you single out some fermented foods you love? 

“Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, natto, pickled vegetables (I make my own – super easy!).”

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