Discover fermented foods that help aid digestion, boost immunity and have anti-aging properties
You’d be forgiven for thinking that fermented foods meant big jars of soggy pickles. But what if we told you a daily glass of kombucha could offset the ageing process? The truth is that real fermentation, the kind that relies on salt rather than vinegar, is fast becoming the trendiest way to get a complete health reboot.
But how does it work? Vegetables, such as cucumbers and cabbage, are left to steep in a salty solution until their natural sugars and carbs become bacteria-boosting agents. The resulting fermented foods aren’t just tasty – they’re great for your health. In other words, that everyday cucumber becomes a probiotic powerhouse!
It’s the prevalence of bacterial cultures that make fermented foods such great immunity boosters. But it doesn’t end there. Fermented foods are great for pumping up the energy levels, enhancing weight loss and even calming food allergy flare-ups. Already partially broken down due to the fermenting process, these foods are easily digested, which prevents bloating and helps the fight to a flatter tummy.
In fact, many people take probiotics supplements to boost their health. Probiotics are essential for a healthy gut, which in turn affects your overall health from your mood and energy levels to your digestion and weight. Experts say that 70% of our health stems from the gut so it makes sense to invest in making it healthy! But there’s no need to turn to supplements – you can get the same benefits from fermented foods.
With so many delicious types of fermented foods to choose from, there’s something for everyone. So whether you’re adding a spoonful of sauerkraut to your sandwich, or choosing sourdough instead of your usual white loaf, it only takes a few, simple switches to supercharge your diet with fermented foods.
Find out which foods pack the biggest punch and get ready for a healthier you…
Surprisingly, the new the thing being hailed as the elixir of eternal youth isn't a fancy face cream but rather pantry staple, vinegar. Due to popular demand, jars of fermenting foods all over the world are being turned into drinking vinegars. Teeming with live bacteria, the vinegar from rotting food is packed with probiotic bacteria which fights infection, promotes gut health and aids digestion.
The tipple of choice for Hollywood A-listers (including Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon), these probiotic-rich, naturally fermented tonics are believed to help maintain youthful looks.
The Chinese call it the 'immortal health elixir' because it promotes the production of hyaluronic acid, a key anti-ageing ingredient. It's also loaded with detoxifying enzymes; we'll take a litre please!
It's also in our top 20 beauty foods.
This spicy Korean dish made from fermented cabbage with a mix of garlic and chile peppers is the best beauty food. It's pungent, but it's jam packed with lactobacilli; a good bacteria that helps your body absorb those skin brightening, wrinkle-fighting nutrients. Well worth the odour, we think.
Sauerkraut (aka fermented cabbage) is packed with probiotic properties, making it the perfect solution for an upset tummy. But be warned: the added preservatives of storebought varieties strip the cabbage of its natural, health-boosting powers. Proper sauerkraut should be tangy and crunchy, so stick to the homemade kind.
Popularised by the delicious Japanese soup, miso is derived from fermented soybeans and full of essential minerals that give us strength and stamina. Just add a dollop of miso paste to some boiling water and stir in your favourite veggies for a deliciously healthy broth.
Or go all out and try miso-grilled cod edamame fried rice.
Staying healthy doesn't mean banishing carbohydrates from your diet. Sourdough is the most natural and digestible choice when it comes to baked goods. It doesn't send your blood sugar spiralling, and even gluten-sensitive diners can enjoy it. It looks like you can have your bread and eat it, after all.
PIck from our delicious sourdough recipes.
Hate tofu? Tempeh is a vegetable protein with all the same heart-healthy benefits but a meaty taste and texture. It lowers cholestrol, increases bone density and promotes faster muscle recovery. All in all, it's the perfect fermented substitute, even if you eat meat. Try switching bacon for tempeh, and seriously boost the health benefits of your weekend BLT.
Soy sauce is the Jekyll and Hyde of fermented foods. In its purest form, it's a great low-calorie protein that reduces cholestrol. But at its worst, it's more chemical than foodstuff. Properly fermented soy sauce should take 18 months to make! But some brands are made in two days using a chemical process that leaves it packed with phytic acids, which hinder the absorption of minerals. So make sure you're getting the right stuff by sticking to fermented varieties like tamari and shoyu.
Put high quality soy sauce to good use in this ginger and lemongrass salmon recipe.
It's no secret yoghurt is a fantastic source of probiotics, not to mention it's tasty and easy to integrate in to your daily diet. Above all, it's brimming with calcium, so make sure you get your fill to prevent bone-brittling diseases like osteoporosis.
Start the day with yoghurt and granola or have it for dessert in this berry yoghurt parfair recipe.
Add it to soups, cakes and curries for an instant probiotic boost. Creme fraiche is just one example of a dairy product that's been curdled in a controlled way, making it easily digestible and ten times more nutritious.
Try creme fraiche stirred into this broccoli and stilton soup recipe.
They might have given fermentation its bad reputation, but when soaked in a lacto-bacterial salt solution instead of vinegar, pickles are a nutritious snack that's low fat, low sugar and low calories!