From kimchee in Korea to kvass in Russia to dosas in South India, fermented foods are enjoyed almost daily in traditional societies, and now health professionals and enthusiasts are taking interest in the unique health benefits these foods offer.
It was once thought that ferments were used merely as a means of food preservation. For example, in the absence of modern refrigeration, cabbage could be preserved well beyond the growing season in the form of sauerkraut. However, as research on the human microbiome (the ecosystem within the body) progresses, scientists are coming to realize that fermented foods, which are rich in “good” bacteria, also play an important role in maintaining and optimizing our health.
We now know that our bodies are not sterile—far from it. In fact, our bodies contain more foreign bacteria than our very own cells (combined, it is estimated that the bacteria in our bodies could fill a half-gallon jug!). When the microbiome is balanced and this bacteria is present in healthy proportions, these organisms can affect our weight, immunity, mental state, and more. They help us better digest our food, and even synthesize nutrients, such as vitamin K, in our intestines.
Related: The Profound Health Benefits of Probiotics
Fermented foods act as natural probiotics, or “good” bacteria that support digestive health, and serve as an often delicious means of replenishing the bacteria in our gut. They come i…