As a nutritionist, nothing makes me happier to hear more people talking about the relationship between good digestive health and good mood, immunity, hormone balance, skin, energy and more. One of the most important ways to keep our digestive system healthy is by keeping the bacteria levels supported, and this is where fermented foods come in…
Eating fermented foods is a real trend at the moment and we are seeing them pop up in all kinds of weird and wonderful places. Though not all of these were created equal, there is great research about how some of them can help encourage better bacterial balance in the body, and keep us healthy.
Here is my verdict on the best ones to try, how to eat them and the ones to leave out:
Sauerkraut – A traditional condiment from Germany made by fermenting cabbage with salt. Sounds gross but has a delicious salty tang and tastes great added salads. A brilliant addition to support the gut, but can be tricky with those with severe IBS owing to the amount of fibre… go slow if you’re sensitive. Get the raw ones, as opposed to processed, sugary ones.
Kimchi – The Korean version of sauerkraut, super hot and spicy and full of goodness from ginger, chilli and herbs. Also extremely high in vitamin C.
Kefir – A bit like yoghurt, but better. This fermented milk has tonnes of research behind it and is a great addition to the smoothies, birchers or just alongside a meal. Coconut and water based kefir available if you don’t want dairy. You can get this from most supermarkets, health food stores, eastern European supermarkets, or even make it yourself using cultures from Amazon.
Kombucha – A fermented drink made with black tea and a scooby – nothing dog related, instead rather like a bee hive of healthy, live bacteria. Not as much research on the health benefits behind kombucha as kefir, but a nice addition to the diet as it is especially rich in antioxidants as well as good bacteria. Watch out for sugary ones and instead go for those flavoured with ginger and spices. Easy to make at home too – as per this video from Liz Earle.
Skin guru Liz Earle sharing her recipe for kombucha on Get The Gloss
Probiotic drinks – supermarkets are awash with these, but they generally are sugar and sweetener laden. Better off with kefir or sauerkraut!
Natto – A type of fermented soybean from Japan, extremely rich in protein, vitamin K and iron. Also a good source of bacteria for the digestive health, but there is no getting away from the fact that it is an acquired taste!
Unpasteurised cheese – Postulated as one of the reasons why French, who eat ALOT cheese, have low levels of heart disease despite eating high levels of saturated fats. Many cheese are pasteurised, but Roquefort is easy and widely available in most UK supermarkets. Try a match-boxed sized portion of per day.
Disclaimer: As with all articles on www.alicemackintosh.com, this is no substitution for individual medical or nutritional advice.
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Alice gained a First Class Honours degree in Nutritional Therapy at the renowned Centre for Nutrition Education