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Photo Credit: Brooklyner

We don’t know about you, but when we hear the word “fermented,” we usually think of alcoholic beverages. Surprisingly, a new trend in healthy living is eating fermented foods. What the heck are fermented foods? Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation, describes fermentation as the “the flavorful space between fresh and rotten.”

Rotten…ew! But not so fast.

Fermented foods are loaded with healthy probiotics. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live in the gut. The chemical process of fermentation turns sugars and carbohydrates into acid or alcohol. The stars responsible for this process are little microorganisms called probiotics. Probiotics improve digestion and immunity, provide many vitamins and enzymes, and improve storage life of food without the use of artificial preservatives.

yogurt

According to Hopkins Medicine, a whopping 70% of the cells that make our immune system are found in the walls of the gut. Eating fermented foods directly provides probiotics to those cells. The probiotics fight off the millions of viruses and bacteria we encounter everyday. They also help to decrease the low-grade chronic inflammation in our gut that can lead to illnesses such as arthritis, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders.

The benefits of a healthy gut don’t stop at immunity and inflammation. Some experts say the digestive tract has a mind of its own. The brain-gut axis is a fascinating area being explored in science. For example, ever had a knot in your stomach because you’re so nervous? Stress causes the brain to send chemical and electrical messages that potentially disrupts the digestive process. Luckily the probiotics in fermented food can quell that upset tummy to strengthen the brain-gut connection in a positive way.

fermented foods

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3 fermented foods you need to add to your diet now:

Kombucha is fermented black tea with a fizzy quality. This ancient eastern drink has been used for thousands of years in places such as China, helping to bring the body back into balance from an array of different illness.

Some benefits include:

  • Detoxification- kombucha helps to accelerate the natural detoxification process in the body due to the different enzymes and bacterial acids.
  • Joint Health- kombucha has glucosamines that are thought to help prevent or relieve different joint conditions, such as arthritis.

Kimchi or Korean fermented vegetables is a low-calorie, low-fat, high fiber and nutrient dense staple in Korea. It has become more popular in the United States due to its delicious taste and healing qualities. Kimchi is thought to be a powerful anti-aging food. It also helps to regulate digestion, stabilize diabetic’s blood sugar, and promote good immunity.

Kimichi also aids in:

  • Dermatitis therapy-  the lactobacillus bacteria and high levels of immunoglobulin E found in Kimchi are beneficial in treating all sorts of dermal ailments due to its anti-inflammatory effects on the body (via Organic Facts).
  • Reduce Cholesterol- Kimchi is often made with different herbs and spices such as garlic. Garlic contains selenium and allicin and has been shown to decrease the total cholesterol levels.
photo credit: Mark's Daily Apple

photo credit: Mark’s Daily Apple

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that originated in Indonesian. Tempeh is extremely high in protein and is equivalent to the protein levels found in animal meat and dairy. It is a complete protein and great alternative for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Like the other fermented vegetables, tempeh is amazing for digestion and immunity.

Unique advantages of tempeh include:

  • Healthy fats: tempeh has “healthy fats” that help to balance blood pressure and regulate the metabolism. These healthy fats are essential in the foods we eat, as they cannot be stored in our bodies for long periods of time.
  • Other fermented foods to add to your list include: kefir, sauerkraut, miso, seed cheese, and coconut yogurt.

So add some fermented items to your regular meals. Just make sure you are careful to buy fermented products that are free from chemical preservatives and added sugars.