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9 Fermented Foods for Better Gut Health

Published January 26, 2019 (Revised: December 21, 2019) Read Time: 8 minutes
Kate Sullivan

Written By: Kate Sullivan, MS

Kate holds a MS in Business Psychology and is currently a PHD researcher in Well-Being and Performance Psychology.

Fact-Checked By: Ana Reisdorf MS, RD

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<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Kate Sullivan, MS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/12/fermented-foods-thumbnail-0061.jpg" } }, "headline":"9 Best Fermented Foods for Improved Gut Health", "datePublished":"2019-01-26", "dateModified": "2019-12-21", "description":"Looking to add fermented foods to your diet for your gut health? Here are our nine favorite must-haves loaded with probiotics.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/12/fermented-foods-thumbnail-0061.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What are Fermented Foods?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Fermented foods are foods made through a process called fermentation. Fermentation is the way bacteria, mold, and yeast “eat”. They breakdown sugar and release alcohol, acids, or other byproducts through the fermentation process. This is the way beneficial bacteria grow and multiply.<br>Although fermented foods contain a large number of bacteria, fermentation is actually a way to preserve food or make certain foods, like yogurt. It can help make food more nutritious as well, releasing enzymes and nutrients humans need for health." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Why Eat Fermented Foods?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, beneficial bacteria that improve overall health and digestion. Having the right amount and balance of gut bacteria helps reduce inflammation, support immune function, and may even help you lose weight.<br>But, the benefits of fermented foods go beyond being just a source of healthy bacteria.<br>Fermentation also helps reduce anti-nutrients naturally occurring in foods like grains, nuts, and seeds; the breakdown process of fermentation actually makes these foods easier to tolerate, improves digestion, and increases nutrient absorption.<br>Fermentation also increases the vitamin and mineral content of foods through the breakdown of phytates (one variety of the anti-nutrients discussed above), which is helpful as these particular plant compounds can trap nutrients inside. Therefore, fermentation helps to increase the levels of several B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What are Fermented Foods?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Why Eat Fermented Foods?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Top 9 Fermented Foods</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Shopping for Fermented Foods</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Fermented foods like yogurt and kombucha, are a hot food trend due to their purported health benefits. What’s true about these claims is that beneficial bacteria found in many of these foods have significant impact on our health, such as weight loss and improved digestion. If you want to jump on the fermented food bandwagon, which are the best ones to add to your diet?</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What are Fermented Foods?</h2> <p>Fermented foods are foods made through a process called fermentation. Fermentation is the way bacteria, mold, and yeast “eat”. They breakdown sugar and release alcohol, acids, or other byproducts through the fermentation process<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9780470015902.a0001415.pub2" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>. This is the way beneficial bacteria grow and multiply.</p> <p>Although <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/fermented-foods-for-gut-health/" rel="noreferrer">fermented foods</a> contain a large number of bacteria, fermentation is actually a way to preserve food or make certain foods, like yogurt. It can help make food more nutritious as well, releasing enzymes and nutrients humans need for health<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1880-6805-33-2" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>Why Eat Fermented Foods?</h2> <p>Fermented foods are <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-probiotics/" rel="noreferrer">rich in probiotics</a>, beneficial bacteria that improve overall health and digestion. Having the right amount and balance of gut bacteria helps reduce inflammation, support immune function, and may even help you lose weight<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-010-0166-z" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup>. </p> <p>But, the benefits of fermented foods go beyond being just a source of healthy bacteria. </p> <p>Fermentation also helps reduce anti-nutrients naturally occurring in foods like grains, nuts, and seeds; the breakdown process of fermentation actually makes these foods easier to tolerate, improves digestion, and increases nutrient absorption<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0963996994900965" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup>. </p> <p>Fermentation also increases the vitamin and mineral content of foods through the breakdown of phytates (one variety of the anti-nutrients discussed above), which is helpful as these particular plant compounds can trap nutrients inside. Therefore, fermentation helps to increase the levels of several B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6261201/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>Top 9 Fermented Foods</h2> <p>If you are ready to add fermented foods to your diet, here are our picks for the top 9 best choices:</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fermented-kombucha-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fermented-kombucha-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fermented-kombucha-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fermented-kombucha-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="fermented kombucha"> </picture> <h3>1. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/kombucha-keto-to-drink-or-not-to-drink/" rel="noreferrer">Kombucha</a></h3> <p>Kombucha is a tart, fizzy drink made by combining tea, fruit, and bacteria. The calorie and carbohydrate content can vary greatly with kombucha, depending on the amount of fruit or sugar that is added. Be sure to look for varieties with minimal added sugar, as many companies add unnecessary processed sugar for flavor.</p> <p>Although kombucha is quite popular as a drink, there is little human evidence to support the health claims behind it. Lab and animal studies have found it may help protect the liver, prevent the growth of cancer cells, and improve blood sugar<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22591682" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a>,<a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18979556" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a>,<a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11723720" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup>. But, further research is needed to substantiate these health claims for humans.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/sauerkraut-kombucha-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/sauerkraut-kombucha-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/sauerkraut-kombucha-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/sauerkraut-kombucha-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="sauerkraut kombucha"> </picture> <h3>2. Sauerkraut</h3> <p>Sauerkraut is a condiment made by fermenting cabbage with lactic acid bacteria. It is extremely low in calories and carbohydrates, containing less than 1 gram of carbs for 2 tablespoons<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/576058/nutrients" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup>.This makes it a flavorful and nutrient-rich option to add to food.</p> <p>Sauerkraut is an excellent source of fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, and other antioxidants<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23571649" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup>. This may be why lab studies have found that cabbage may slow the progression of cancer cells<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22716309/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/kimchi-fermented-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/kimchi-fermented-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/kimchi-fermented-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/kimchi-fermented-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="kimchi fermented"> </picture> <h3>3. Kimchi</h3> <p>Kimchi is the Korean version of sauerkraut, and it comes with a bit more of a kick. It is commonly used as a side dish or a way to flavor food. Due to its strong flavor, it is usually only eaten in small quantities. One ounce of kimchi contains 15 calories and 3 grams of carbs<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/584674/nutrients" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup>.</p> <p>Kimchi has been found to help improve insulin function, reduce blood pressure, and improve body weight<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23969321" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a></sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fermented-yogurt-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fermented-yogurt-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fermented-yogurt-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/fermented-yogurt-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="fermented yogurt"> </picture> <h3>4. Yogurt</h3> <p>Yogurt is made from milk that is fermented with lactic acid-producing bacteria. The nutritional content can vary based on the type of milk used and the addition of any flavor or sugar. A 6-ounce container of whole milk yogurt contains 121 calories, 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 10 grams of carbs<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/575341/nutrients" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a></sup>. </p> <p>Yogurt has been associated with lower blood pressure, improved bone density, lower body weight, and improved weight circumference<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26443336" rel="nofollow noreferrer">15</a>,<a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28462469" rel="nofollow noreferrer">16</a>,<a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23823502" rel="nofollow noreferrer">17</a></sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/kefir-fermented-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/kefir-fermented-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/kefir-fermented-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/kefir-fermented-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="kefir fermented"> </picture> <h3>5. Kefir</h3> <p>Kefir is a fermented dairy product made by combining kefir grains, milk, and bacteria. After a period of fermentation, what results is a thick, yogurt-like beverage. </p> <p>The nutritional content will vary depending on the type of milk used. In general, an 8 ounce serving has about 168 calories and up to 11 grams of carbs<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/480300/nutrients" rel="nofollow noreferrer">18</a></sup>. </p> <p>Kefir has many health benefits from improved digestion to less inflammation. It is believed to be even healthier than yogurt, containing up to 61 different strains of healthy bacteria<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854945/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">19</a></sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/olives-fermented-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/olives-fermented-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/olives-fermented-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/olives-fermented-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="olives fermented"> </picture> <h3>6. Olives</h3> <p>Olives are an incredible source of healthy monounsaturated fat and rich in probiotics. Five medium olives contain 20 calories and only 1 gram of carbs<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/536533/nutrients" rel="nofollow noreferrer">20</a></sup>. Be sure to look for olives that have been made through fermentation (hint: not the typical ones on the grocery shelves).</p> <p>Olives are loaded with antioxidants and phenolic compounds that may help reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996900000727" rel="nofollow noreferrer">21</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/64/suppl_4/S20/1918903" rel="nofollow noreferrer">22</a></sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/pickels-fermented-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/pickels-fermented-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/pickels-fermented-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/pickels-fermented-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="pickels fermented"> </picture> <h3>7. Pickles</h3> <p>Pickles make a delicious, crunchy, low calorie snack. But, the normal pickles you find on the shelf are not usually fermented, they are just pickled. To find fermented pickles you will have to look in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. <p>Pickles, since they are made from cucumbers, are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants. Fun fact: eating pickles can help reduce muscle cramps<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2010/05000/Reflex_Inhibition_of_Electrically_Induced_Muscle.15.aspx." rel="nofollow noreferrer">23</a></sup> . They may also help improve blood sugar, decrease insulin resistance, and help you feel more satisfied after meals<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16015276" rel="nofollow noreferrer">24</a></sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/miso-fermented-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/miso-fermented-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/miso-fermented-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/miso-fermented-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="miso fermented"> </picture> <h3>8. Miso</h3> <p>Miso is a seasoning common in Japanese cuisine made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of fungus called koji. It is probably most commonly known as one of the main ingredients in miso soup.</p> <p>Miso is high in probiotics and also has many health benefits. It has been found to lower the risk of breast cancer in a study of over 20,000 women<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12813174" rel="nofollow noreferrer">25</a></sup>. It can also help regulate blood pressure, improve heart health, and lower the risk of stroke<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24047246" rel="nofollow noreferrer">26</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18025534" rel="nofollow noreferrer">27</a></sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/apple-cider-vinegar-fermented-0061.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/apple-cider-vinegar-fermented-0061.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/apple-cider-vinegar-fermented-0061.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/apple-cider-vinegar-fermented-LR-0061.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="apple cider vinegar fermented"> </picture> <h3>9. Apple cider vinegar</h3> <p>Apple cider vinegar is made by crushing apples, then using bacteria to ferment the sugar, resulting in a sour-tasting liquid. Most types of vinegar are made in a similar manner<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">28</a></sup>. </p> <p>Vinegar has many health benefits including as an antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and antimicrobial substance<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">29</a></sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>Shopping for Fermented Foods</h2> <p>When shopping for fermented foods, first you want to understand that not all pickled foods are fermented. Most pickles or olives you will buy on the grocery shelves do not contain live bacterial cultures. For the most benefit, the label must say “live bacteria” or “fermented”. Look for these products in the refrigerated section. </p> <p>One that note, some fermented foods may not be best for those with certain health conditions. Usually this is due to other aspects of the fermented food of choice. For example, some fermented foods (such as pickles) can be high in sodium and thus not particularly a food of benefit for those with high blood pressure. There is also some research suggesting that the bacterial content of these foods, may not be optimal for persons with a weak immune system due to a medical condition. </p> <p>For all other intents and purposes, fermented foods like our nine favorites are a healthy and beneficial addition to the diet to promote gut health and support immune function. Pick your favorite foods from our list (or if they're all new, make a game of exploring a new one every few weeks and see how you feel!), and regularly include them to your diet for a delicious way to support your digestion and health.</p> </section> </article>

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