4 Reasons to Eat Fermented Foods

Last week, I mentioned that I’m craving sauerkraut lately and I’ll share a how-to recipe soon.  But I realized that I haven’t taken the time to chat about fermented foods in general and why they are so important, so let’s do that today!

Fermented (or cultured) foods have existed in nearly every ancient culture.  It was an easy way to preserve food and these foods were also well known for their health and healing properties.

For example, kimchi is a popular condiment from Korea, olives and wine are popular around the world but especially in the Middle East, and Europe and the Americas are known for sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and vinegars.

Why should you include fermented foods in your diet?

1) They help maintain a healthy balance of flora in your intestines

Our gut can quickly become overwhelmed by “bad” bacteria- from our processed food diets high in preservatives, sugar and unnatural ingredients, environmental toxins, and due to medicines like antibiotics that wipe out all the good bacteria with the bad.

Healthy bacteria improves digestion, nutrient absorption and metabolism (by limiting inflammation and harmful metabolic changes).  It also prevents our gut from becoming home to harmful parasites or yeast overgrowth, which can lead to conditions like candida.

2) A healthy gut improves mind and body

When your gut has a healthy balance of bacteria, it produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin which improves your mood.  A lack of production of several neurotransmitters are also linked to depression, emotional eating, cravings and binge eating.

2) Probiotics improve immunity from disease

Certain lactic acid bacteria (like that found in natural yogurts) have been found to product antibiotics and help in the prevention of diseases and even cancer.  Higher levels of “good” bacteria can better fight off infections and disease naturally.

3) They have a powerful detoxifying effect on the body

Fermented foods help to rid your body of a wide variety of toxins, including heavy metals from environmental exposure.  They encourage the body’s natural self-healing process.

Sauerkraut is my favorite- maybe because I grew up with it and have Swiss-German ancestry, so it’s in my blood and has been in my family for generations.

There are many other ways to get fermented foods or bacteria into your diet, including:

  • plain yogurt
  • kefir (also a dairy product)
  • miso (fermented soy paste)
  • pickles or other pickled vegetables (when they come from the refrigerated section, not the kind in vinegar)
  • kimchi (spicy Korean condiment)
  • kombucha (fizzy, fermented tea sold at natural food stores or make your own!)
  • tempeh (fermented soy product)

Sourdough bread, vinegar, olives, wine and beer are also made with a fermentation process.  Probiotic supplements can have similar effects, but real food is most beneficial and helpful.

Do you incorporate fermented foods? Which ones?


42 thoughts on “4 Reasons to Eat Fermented Foods

  1. This is great Laura! I am with Hollie in that I have a lot of plain yogurt, and especially greek yogurt then gives me the protein too. I also used Kombucha when my stomach was bad earlier this year during my workouts, and it seemed to help A LOT! In my racing, I can’t really afford even a second to lose to stomach issues, so this is very important. Thanks for the helpful information!
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  2. I’ve never been a fan of Sauerkraut or pickled foods. I can’t get over the smell. I do like Kombucha but can’t stomach the price. I really need to make it on my own!

  3. Great info as always.

    In general, I am not a big fan of fermented foods as they seem to bother my stomach. However, I’m all about the pickles this pregnancy … and sharing them with Susanna who loves them!

  4. Mmmm, I didn’t always love sauerkraut and didn’t eat fermented foods period. It’s all so incredibly healing for the gut and now I try to incorporate as much as I can. I LOVE tempeh, and sauerkraut and kombucha are big favorites too

  5. I do eat tempeh and incorporate vinegars frequently. I eat plain greek yogurt several times a week and have actually been cooking with miso more frequently. I love sauerkraut and could just eat it plain!

  6. I hadn’t thought much about fermented foods until I read by Cooked by Michael Pollan, and he talked a lot about how beneficial they are. I’d love to know how you make your own sauerkraut! The only fermented foods I get right now are yogurts, so I feel like I could do a lot more to experiment.
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  7. My parents garden has gone crazy so my dad has started picking like nuts. He is retired and it is his newest activity. So far this week alone I have gotten a jar of sliced, pickled jalepenos, a jar of sliced, picked, sweet banana peppers, and a jar of what he calls “gardenia” which is a combo of a ton of stuff from their garden (all picked) which is great on top of cheese and crackers.
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  8. Pardon the ignorant question, but … how are the refrigerated pickled veggies pickled, if not with vinegar?

    Yogurt, check!

    Love that wine counts as a fermented food. Ok, kidding!… mostly. 😉

    • That’s actually a great question- most pickles (or preserved foods in general today) are made with vinegar. There are still health benefits to these pickled foods, but it no longer has probiotics. For a pickled veggie to product it’s own lactic acid bacteria and probiotics they should be in a brine (salt/water solution) and these are not canned on the grocery store shelves the way that pickles often are. Hope that helps!
      Laura recently posted..4 Reasons to Eat Fermented FoodsMy Profile

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  12. This is such a great post!! I was a aware of some benefits but but not all of fermented foods, great info thanks for sharing!! I love sauerkraut, pickles (BUBBIES is the brand I buy) and kombacha. I really want to try kimchi but haven’t yet but this gives me another reason to try it 🙂
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  16. Absolutely love all of these reasons! Another major benefit that has been well-researched is the effect of certain probiotic cultures on improving skin tone and reducing acne. We at EATProbiotics have created probiotic foods that are packed with cultures you won’t find in any other krauts!

  17. I’m not really a fan of fermented foods although I have family members that enjoys them. I’ve never really given much thought on them which is probably why I didn’t see them as a healthy addition to my diet. I once tried fermented pickles and I didn’t really like the way it taste at first but then I tasted it again and I think it tasted a little bit better but still not enough for me to even consider having it regularly. Now that I see the health benefits I’m seriously considering fermented foods in my diet. Since I have relatives that have jars of fermented food I might as well give them a chance. Thanks for sharing this information.


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