But, I don’t like sauerkraut!

Sauerkraut

In this month’s Nutrition Call, I talked about fermented foods and why they are important for our health. (If you want to listen to or download the recording, you can do so here.) When we talk about fermented foods, first there are a couple of terms that need to be defined: prebiotics and probiotics.

  • Probiotics are the microbes that reside in our gut that help us process our food, manage inflammation, and activate some vitamins among other things. When we take a prebiotic supplement we are seeding the gut with beneficial microbes.
  • Prebiotics are food for that humans can’t digest but feed the microbes in our gut. It doesn’t do any good to take a probiotic supplement and then not eat prebiotics because you’ll just starve and kill off the probiotics you’ve spent good money to put in your gut. For example, fiber is a great prebiotic and one reason it’s recommended that we eat lots of fiber.

Why am I talking about probiotics and prebiotics when this post started by talking about fermented foods? Because fermented foods contain probiotics. Eating fermented foods can help us maintain a healthy gut microbe balance. And, eating a variety of fermented foods can help, too. We need a symphony of microbes in our guts – a wide variety of all of the microbes. If a symphony has a few brass, one drum, and a lot of woodwinds, for example, the symphony isn’t going to sound right. It’s the same with our gut if we have an over population of one or two microbes and not enough of the others – your gut won’t function properly and you may experience gas, bloating, constipation, etc.

Fermented foods have been a part of ancestral diets. Our ancestors ate preserved and fermented foods to make it through the times when fresh fruits and vegetables weren’t available. As we’ve become industrialized, we’ve eaten less and less fermented foods. Can you remember the last time you ate sauerkraut? There’s actually research associating a healthy microbiome with cancer reduction, depression, and reduced inflammation. If you have IBS or IBD increasing the diversity of your microbiome may help reduce or eliminate symptoms. The research is growing daily on the importance of having a healthy microbiome.

How can you get fermented foods into your diet? Think about adding in a little bit each day. There’s a wide variety of fermented foods. And, you can make some at home – like sauerkraut. Actually, making sauerkraut at home can be a fun activity with kids. It’s like planting seeds and watching them grow. You put all the ingredients in the jar and let it ferment. You can taste it together during the fermentation process to see how the taste and texture changes. It’s a science experiment in a jar!

Here are some other fermented foods you can include in your diet.

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Aged cheeses
  • Preserved lemons
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickled greens
  • Sour pickles
  • Sweet pickles
  • Other pickled vegetables such as beets
  • Kombucha
  • Water kefir
  • Sourdough bread

Once you start thinking about including fermented foods in your daily eating, it actually gets pretty easy.

In next month’s nutrition call, on July 15th at Noon central, I’ll be talking more about gut health and how it connects to our overall health. If you’d like to sign up to receive the call in information, you can do so here. If you’d like to sign up to receive my monthly newsletter that summarizes the last few blogs and contains other information, you can sign up to get the monthly newsletter here.

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