More and more research is highlighting the importance of gut health to our overall well being and immunity. Known as the second brain, it’s an ecosystem all of its own, which needs to be looked after. While taking probiotic supplements is a great way to do so, we’re big believers in the ancient adage of “let food be thy medicine” - here’s looking at you Hippocrates. With that in mind, one of the easiest and most delicious ways to improve your gut and digestive health is by eating and drinking fermented foods.
‘Fermented’ essentially means that a food has been left to steep until the sugars and carbohydrates within it become bacteria-boosting agents. (This process is a great way to preserve vegetables for longer periods of time, so if trying to reduce food waste, it’s a great idea to make your own!). These foods are known to improve digestion, help with weight loss, increase energy, detoxify, support the immune system, aid circulation, fight inflammation and also taste good! The tangy, sour, sharpness of condiments such as sauerkraut and kimchi are the perfect partner for rich ingredients like avocado and eggs as the flavours balance out for a flavourful punch.
Here’s our list of fab fermented foods which we love to include in our diets:
Originally German, it’s one of the oldest fermented foods. Made from fermented cabbage, it’s high in fibre, vitamin A, C, K and B. Try it in a sandwich with cheese or with eggs - yum!
This traditional fermented Korean delicacy is made up of a melange of vegetables including cabbage and chilli, alongside plenty of spices and seasoning. It dates back to the 7th century, so Koreans have known about the importance of gut health for a really long time! Kimchi is fiery, tangy and delicious.
A fermented milk product that can be made from cow, goat or sheep milk. It’s pretty much like a drinkable yoghurt and it contains ample amounts of vitamin B12, calcium and magnesium, as well as enzymes and probiotics. Try it over fresh fruit and granola for a delicious breakfast.
A fermented black or green tea drink which contains a colony of bacteria and yeast that ferments the tea once it is combined with sugar. You can get kombucha in many health food stores and supermarkets now and it’s even served on tap in places like Deliciously Ella’s Deli and Planet Organic.
These modest little veg that tend to be served on the side of dishes in middle-Eastern cuisine should not be forgotten! They’re fermented too and therefore filled with gut-friendly bacteria. When choosing a jar of pickles, go with a food manufacturer that uses organic products and if you can find a local maker, even better!
This Asian ingredient which gives dishes that delicious umami flavor is created by fermenting soybean, barley or brown rice with koji which is a type of fungus.
A delicious ingredient that’s widely loved by meat-free eaters, tempeh is like tofu’s posh older sister. Also a soybean product, it’s delicious marinated and grilled. Tempeh is said to reduce cholesterol, increases bone density, relieve menopausal symptoms and promote muscle recovery. All that and it’s packed full of protein.
Good old probiotic yoghurt is one of the fermented foods that’s most widely eaten in the western diet.
It’s important to remember that if you’re new to fermented foods, start with small doses, such a tablespoon a day and build up from there. You’ll know if you are going overboard on them because you’ll experience certain digestive like gas and bloating. This should be a sign to cut back! Want to get your fill of fermented foods while eating out? There are some really cool spots across London that celebrate pickles, kombucha and other tasty, tangy ferments. Try Newton and Pott for their innovative take on fermenting and Rawduck for some deliciously refreshing drinking vinegars, which are far more appetising than they sound. Three of our other favourites are Counter Culture, Rok and Salt and Pickle.