The science is getting ever stronger on the benefits of maintaining our microbiome, particularly the bugs in your gut. Researchers reckon our gut microbiome works to support immune function, reduce inflammation, help you get nutrients and vitamins from food and break down medication and toxins.
There’s possibly even a link between microbiome and mental health, giving a whole new meaning to “butterflies in the stomach” or “following your gut”!
The great news here is that good (pro) bacteria (biotics) is a natural part of your body. But you can also boost your probiotics by regularly eating fermented foods.
Fermentation is a process that sees little bugs like bacteria and yeasts break down the carbohydrates in food (yep, they’re everywhere). This helps preserve the food, enhances its flavour and grows the bacteria occupants to numbers that become beneficial when we eat them.
You’re probably familiar with many of these fermented foods already. Here are some of our favourites, and the easiest ways to add them to your life.
Kombucha is a fizzy fermented sweet tea that’s been taking the drinks market by storm over the past few years. The cool thing is that the yeast inside the ‘booch converts the sugar to lactic acid, making it naturally sweet without the sugar.
Try it: next time you’re craving a lemonade or cola, reach for one of the many kombuchas on the market instead. Look for brands that don’t add more sugar after the fermenting process – it shouldn’t contain more than 4 grams per serve.
Yoghurt is already a mainstay of many a fridge. Unfortunately, many commercial yoghurts kill the good bugs in processing, so you need to look out for yoghurts with live cultures to get your probiotic hit.
Try it: rather than going for yoghurts with flavours and fruits (which usually contain a lot of added sugar), opt for Greek or plain yoghurt and top with fresh fruit (or our added sugar-free Wild Berry Compote).
Hailing from Indonesia, Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans smooshed into a dense cake. Tempeh’s firm texture, nutty flavour and high protein content makes it a great substitute for meat products.
Try it: In stir fries, curries, atop a salad or on a sandwich – basically anywhere you’d put chicken.
Sauerkraut is a sliced fermented cabbage. It sounds pretty out there, but actually has a pleasantly sweet n’ sour taste, thanks to its abundance of beneficial lactic acid bacteria.
Try it: Sauerkraut can be topped on salad bowls, sangas, soups and stews. Once you get used to the flavour, you can also just eat it by the forkful!
The staple of Korean cuisine, Kimchi is a mix salted, fermented, flavourful veg (think onions, garlic, cabbage, radish, carrot and/or nashi pear). Kimchi has a sweet, spicy, umami kick thanks to a healthy dose of Korean chili paste (which is also fermented!).
Try it: Add to stir-fries, salads or noodle dishes. Kimchi also goes surprisingly well with a morning egg on toast.