How to Eat More Fermented Foods [And Why]

Updated: May 27, 2020

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Healthy gut bacteria/gut health... this whole idea of eating bacteria to be healthy has recently EXPLODED. I remember back in college a few professors hinting at the fact that probiotics were going to be the next big thing. But I honestly don't think they understood just HOW big it would be or even how IMPORTANT it was.

I know that my professors were thinking about it in traditional terms of probiotic supplements or eating yogurt (which apparently was the only "healthy fermented food" back when I was in school because that's all that was ever mentioned - kimchi? sauerkraut? pickles?!?! forget it!). But still - they were on the right track and it's evidenced by this ever growing market of fermented foods such as kombucha and kefir.

how to eat fermented foods and why is it good for you - autumn elle nutrition
Homemade pickled red onions on top of my very eclectic salad!

But which fermented foods should you be eating? Exactly how and when do you eat them? I'm going to be covering all the dirty deets (get the pun?!) in today's post!

But first, a little walk down history lane

Did you know there was a time before fridges/freezers? 🤯

Although logically, we all know that, it becomes a bit more abstract when you really start to think about it. Just stop and think for one second: what did people do about storing and preserving food before fridges? The answer is fermentation. Something really cool happens when you allow your food to ferment - it actually protects that food from other bad bacteria spoiling it.

Think of bacteria growth like real estate: there's only so much space (and food) that bacteria can take up. That means, if good bacteria comes and settles in on a food (or in your gut!), it competitively inhibits the growth of bad bacteria. In an essence, good bacteria acts as a natural antibiotic and preservative!

Because of this, through fermentation, people were able to store food like veggies, milk and even meat by fermenting it! Little did they know at the time, eating these fermented foods was also providing them a wealth of healthy gut bacteria on the daily.*

*This post is focusing specifically on fermented foods ~ if you're interested in a future post on gut health in relation to fermented foods, let me know in the comments below and I'll put one together for you! :)

What's considered a fermented food?

Any food that has been introduced to bacteria or yeast and undergone the process of fermentation (basically where the bacteria or yeast starts to eat some of the food) is considered a fermented food.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Cheese (raw, organic and grass-fed - the stinkier, the better!)

  • Kimchi (perfect to throw on your Cauli Rice Burrito Bowl!)

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kefir (from coconut water or raw, organic and grass-fed milk)

  • Chocolate (yup! technically this is fermented too!)

  • Fermented Pickled Veggies (add some fermented pickled red onions to your LA Street Tacos!)

  • Yogurt (raw, organic and grass-fed; I prefer high quality dairy yogurt vs. nut milk yogurt as nut milk yogurts tend to contain added sugars)

  • Miso

  • Fermented Diakon Radish

  • Raw, Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Wine