Blog | May 19, 2022

What are Fermented Foods?

In this article, dietitians Anna and Alex from The Biting Truth share their favourite, gut-friendly fermented foods.   

Fermented foods are foods and drinks that have undergone controlled microbial growth and fermentation. Fermentation is a process in which micro-organisms, like yeast and bacteria, break down carbohydrates, like starch and sugars, into other products, such as alcohols which are then converted into organic acids.

Wait… bacteria in your food?! Yes, the friendly kind!

Fermentation is used to preserve food, enhance shelf life, flavour and texture. Fermentation also promotes the growth of good bacteria and live cultures which may help to boost the nutritional value of foods [1]. However, it is important to know that not all fermented foods contain probiotics or provide gut benefits - this is only found in certain fermented foods.

 In order to understand if the fermented food contains probiotics, look for the following:

  • The word ‘probiotic’ and a specific health benefit are mentioned on the label
  • The ‘genus’, ‘species’ and ‘strain’ name of the probiotic are mentioned on the label
  • The label specifies how much of the food you need to eat to reap the health benefits
  • The label mentions live cultures

Currently, there is limited research about how often fermented foods should be eaten. We recommended aiming to include a source of fermented foods every day to help support digestive health and keep your gut happy!

Here are some of our favourites:

 

  1. Kombucha

Kombucha is a sparkling, fermented tea drink. It begins with a blend of tea and sugar, before a living culture of bacteria and yeast, known as a ‘SCOBY’ (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is added. The SCOBY consumes the sugar in the tea blend and transforms it into kombucha - a naturally low sugar, tangy and refreshing drink full of live cultures and organic acids. The taste can range from sour to sweet depending on the additional ingredients added to the drink. MOJO Kombucha is free from sneaky sweeteners such as stevia or erythritol, for a more traditional tangy taste, As well as having live cultures, MOJO’s Activated Kombucha has an additional 1 billion CFUs of a probiotic strain, Bacillus Coagulans GBI-30 6086, for gut health support!

 

We love to enjoy a daily bottle of booch - “whether it’s accompanying one of our tasty salads or a warm toastie, a bottle of booch always takes our midweek lunches to that next level!”

 

  1. Dairy Kefir

For those who are lactose intolerant, kefir may help you get that dairy fix!

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is prepared by adding kefir grains, a combination of yeast and bacteria, to milk. The fermentation process helps break down lactose, a sugar found in milk, making it more suitable for those with lactose intolerance.

Like milk, this creamy and slightly sour drink is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, which are important nutrients for optimal teeth and bone health [2].

 

  1. Yoghurt

Yoghurt is nutritious food that is made from fermented milk. Whether it’s eaten for breakfast or as a snack, yoghurt is an excellent source of calcium, protein, and potassium [3].  

Eating yoghurt, especially those with probiotics, can contribute to better digestion.

With so many varieties of yoghurt available, try looking for brands that contain live culture and opt for products that have no added sugars.  

 

  1. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is popular side dish that is eaten around the world. Whether you add it to your steak or eat it straight from the jar, this fermented shredded cabbage is a simple and cost-effective way to add a tangy flavour and crunchy texture to your meal. It can be found in your local supermarkets or easily prepared at home. If you want to try making it at home, check out our sauerkraut recipe here.

 

  1. Tempeh

Tempeh is an extremely versatile plant-based protein. It is made from fermented soybeans and compressed into a compact cake, with a firmer, meat-like texture. The nutty and adaptable flavour makes it a great, affordable alternative to meat. This soy product is also a fantastic source of gut-loving fibre.

 

  1. Kimchi

If you want to add a spicy kick to your next meal, look for kimchi the next time you go grocery shopping.

This fermented dish is a staple in Korean cuisine. It consists of seasoned fermented vegetables such as napa cabbage and radish, and various flavouring ingredients such as chilli pepper seeds and garlic. 

Even though kimchi can be a great addition to your diet, it is important to be mindful of your intake as Kimchi is also high in salt.

 

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References

  1. Dimidi E, Cox S, Rossi M, Whelan K. Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease. 2019;11(8):1806.
  2. Shkembi B, Huppertz, T. Calcium Absorption from Food Products: Food Matrix Effects
  3. El-Abbadi N, Dao M, Meydani, S. Yogurt Role in Healthy and Active Ageing

 

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  • Martínez Leal J, Valenzuela Suárez L, Jayabalan R, Huerta Oros J, Escalante-Aburto A. A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites. CyTA - Journal of Food. 2018;16(1):390-399.
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