When I was younger, I was plagued with stomach problems. I sometimes missed school because of how awful I felt and later in my adult life it seemed everything I ate made me have that disgusting bloated feeling. It wasn’t until I learned about the processed food industry and began eating real nutritious food that these problems disappeared. That’s because sugar, refined carbs, certain food additives and junk foods all contribute to poor gut health and cause inflammation. If only I knew then what I know now!
In our over-sanitized modern world, most of us aren’t exposed to very much good bacteria, and this can be a problem. Most of our food has been pasteurized, irradiated, or chemically treated to kill bugs – but this also kills the good stuff. Our soil is depleted of good bacteria with the overuse of synthetic pesticides and other chemical contamination. Certain substances in our food have also been suspected to cause leaky gut syndrome – which creates tiny little holes in our digestive system organs that leak out the good bacteria we need to stay healthy and keep our immune system strong.
This is why we absolutely must do everything to restore the good bacteria in our guts. Historically, food was often preserved with fermentation and traditional diets often consisted of raw and fermented foods that contained a healthy dose of good bacteria. The fermentation process creates good bacteria (probiotics) that work like a little army in your gut helping to defend you from various ailments.
Why I eat fermented foods on a regular basis (almost daily!):
Increases the good bugs in your gut: Fortunately, you can easily increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut simply by eating fermented foods. The bacteria found in fermented food is likely more varied, and more easily assimilated in the body than what you can get from most probiotic supplements.
Prevent breakouts, eczema and skin rashes: Inflammation caused by an imbalance of gut bacteria can show up in the form of acne, eczema or other ailments on your skin. When you get balance back, these skin issues can improve dramatically. My eczema improved dramatically after figuring this out which I am incredibly thankful for since it used to be all over my face. I was on several prescription drugs to control it, and now no longer have to take them.
Get more nutrition: The fermentation process increases the nutritional value of food. Many fermented foods are good sources of K2 (a vitamin that is rare in most diets) and B vitamins, including B-12.
- Improve your digestion: When you optimize your gut bacteria and digestive enzymes you are able to absorb more nutrients and improve your intestinal tract health which helps with virtually all diet related stomach ailments under the sun. Taking a daily probiotic and eating fermented foods have helped me avoid the dreaded bubble gut feeling I used to have.
- Strengthen your immune system: Since up to 80% of your immune system resides in your gut, you want to keep it healthy. Ever since I started adding fermented foods to my diet, I have gotten sick less.
- Will help you stay lean: Good bacteria’s role in curbing obesity is still being studied, but some research indicates that bad bacteria promotes obesity, while good bacteria fights it.
My favorite fermented foods:
Fermented foods are really easy to add to your diet because they are inexpensive to make at home. It can be as simple as making homemade sauerkraut with just cabbage, water and salt. You also might want to try:
- Plain yogurt: Only choose organic, and mix it with your own fruit at home. My favorite brands are Traderspoint that comes in little glass bottles and Maple Hill Creamery. And, two-thumbs up if you’re lucky enough to have a mom that makes homemade yogurt – like mine does. Here are some other important details you need to know about store-bought yogurt.
- Miso paste: A fermented mixture of soybeans, sea salt, and rice koji. Since the soy is fermented, the phytoestrogens and phytates are reduced, just make sure you choose organic to avoid GMOs! My favorite brand is Miso Master and my miso soup recipe is a delicious way to work this into your diet.
- Tempeh: Also made fermented soybeans, it comes in a cake form, similar to a very firm veggie burger. It’s good when you marinate it and use as a meat substitute.
- Kombucha: A naturally carbonated drink and if you crave soda, this recipe for Kombucha Soda can really help you to get over it.
- Fermented pickles (and other veggies):Most pickles in the store aren’t fermented, but you can order some naturally fermented pickles online from Real Pickles (currently only available in the northeast). You can also make these on the cheap at home with this recipe.
- My favorite fermented food of all-time is kimchi, which is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings. It’s delicious on top of quinoa, wild rice, or on a sandwich. I hope you enjoy this super simple recipe for kimchi and let me know what you think. I love to hear your stories!
Food Babe’s Simple Probiotic Kimchi
- 1 head napa cabbage, chopped
- ¼ cup sea salt
- 1 small daikon radish, diced
- 1½” piece fresh ginger, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3-4 tablespoons Korean chili powder
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (alternative: ½ apple, shredded)
- 4-6 scallions, chopped
- Place the cabbage in a large bowl. Mix the sea salt with 2 cups of water and pour over the cabbage. Let sit for at least 2 hours to allow the cabbage to wilt.
- While the cabbage is sitting, mix together the ginger, garlic, chili powder and coconut sugar. Set aside.
- When the cabbage is wilted, add the radish and scallions to the bowl along with the spice mix and 1 cup of water. Mix fully to combine. Place the kimchi into mason jars, packing tightly to release any air bubbles trapped in the bottom. Cover the kimchi with the remaining liquid until it is roughly 1” from the top of the jar. Seal tightly.
- Let the kimchi sit at room temperature for 24 hours. After that, place in the refrigerator and ferment for 1 week. The kimchi will last in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Do you know someone who has acne, eczema, digestive issues or could use gut health promoting tips? Please share this post with them and spread the word. I’m convinced we can all be healthy if we keep our voices loud!