Top 6 fermented foods for your micriobiota

iStock photo

iStock photo

Fermented foods are  definitely hot as evidence accumulates about the powerful disease-fighting  effects of  populating your gut with beneficial bacteria.

Our microbiota, the word which  refers to  the trillions of colonies of  bacteria  or microbes living in our intestines, appears to play a major role in maintaining health.

Traditional diets which were based on whole foods as opposed to Western diets which are chock full of  processed foods, made it so much easier for these healthy microbes to flourish.

Fermented foods,  which were customarily used to preserve foods- before the days of refrigeration- also contributed to a healthy microbiota. The process of fermentation yields a wealth of beneficial bacteria. It’s one of the reasons that when interviewed for What will you be eating in 2014? Food resolutions from doctors, dietitians and more by CTV News, my response was fermented foods  (that’s on top of my usual nutrition basics of vegetables, fruits, whole grains etc.).

Fermentation can be carried out a number of ways – for example,  by adding bacterial cultures to certain foods- such as in the case of yogurt making – or by pickling through the addition of  salt to make a brine.

If a food has been pickled simply through the addition of vinegar, though, it is not fermented and there won’t be  microbial benefits to be reaped. This may be the case with many commercially made pickles.

Here are some top fermented choices to include on your menu:

•    Yogurt

•    Kefir (fermented milk drink)

•    Miso

•    Kimchee (Korean fermented vegetable dish usually made with cabbage)

•    Sauerkraut

•    Tempeh (fermented soybeans)

Not all foods that have been fermented  with just salt will provide you with those beneficial bacteria either. Some commercial versions may be pasteurized and the resulting heat will destroy the live bacteria contained.   Check labels and look for the term unpasteurized.  If you’re unsure, contact the food company.

Or better yet, make some of your own fermented products. Keep in mind, that while there may be salt used in the fermentation process, the amounts you need to consume to take in the bacteria are not large. As well, when you make your own, you have more control over the amount of salt.

Check out the guru of fermentation,  Sandor Katz, a.k.a. Sandorkraut and the author of the book Wild Fermentation, as he demonstrates how to make sauerkraut.

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Up next: probiotic foods and supplements – are they worth buying and prebiotics – feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut.
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Do you ferment your own foods? What’s your favourite? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Food Trends

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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3 Comments on “Top 6 fermented foods for your micriobiota”

  1. Roslyn
    January 20, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    Thanks for this! I was just thinking I would write to ask you to write a column on fermented foods — have not been seeing your posts, so did not see this column. . I have gone to your FB page and clicked “Get notifications”. Not sure that I plan to make sauerkraut, though, lol. Any commercially prepared versions you could name? Thanks.

  2. Maggie Young
    January 20, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    I have a friend who does all of the various fermented foods. She started me off with milk kefir as it seems to be the easiest to maintain. I use it in my morning smoothie and also in any salad dressing I make for coleslaw, etc. Also mix it into Greek yogurt to thin it out a bit.

    • January 20, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

      Maggie, it sounds as though you have a very smart friend indeed! Get her to fill you in on some of her other secret fermented recipes!

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