List of Fermented Foods That are Good for Your Health

Fermented food example - kimchi
Fermented foods are literally packed with good bacteria. It is important to include them in our diet. Including a single probiotic food will immensely benefit the body.

In case you are wondering what are fermented foods, the answer is very simple; fermented foods are those foods in which the sugars are converted into alcohol using bacteria or yeast. Fermentation is a very popular food preservation technique. But today, foods are fermented to reap their various health benefits.

There are some probiotic foods which are a must in your daily diet. These are not bland or boring, and you will actually enjoy eating them. So let’s take a look at some healthy fermented foods, in the following sections.

List of Healthy Fermented Foods and Their Benefits

1. Kimchi

If you like spicy food, then the Korean side-dish kimchi should definitely be on your list. It is packed with both, nutrition and strength. Kimchi is usually made with cabbage, but radish, scallion or cucumber is used as well. The vegetables may vary according to the season and availability. They are seasoned with brine, spices, ginger, and shrimp or fish sauce. Kimchi has featured in the list of World’s Healthiest Foods by Health magazine.

Kimchi packs 50% of your daily recommended vitamin C; plus, it has vitamin A, B1, B2, calcium, and iron. Most importantly, it contains lactic acid, and all the good bacteria.

Serving Tip
You can eat kimchi as is, or with rice. By combining it with other dishes, you can get tastier options, like kimchi burger, kimchi fried rice, or kimchi soup.

2. Kefir

It is a fermented milk drink, packed with calcium and probiotics. The drink is made by adding kefir grains to milk. These grains are made of lactic acid bacteria, and resemble cauliflowers. Cow, goat, or even sheep milk can be used to make kefir. The grains also ferment soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, fruit juice, and coconut water. It is definitely one of the best fermented foods with probiotics.

Kefir contains all the nutrients of the milk used to make this drink. Since most of the lactose is broken down, people who are lactose intolerant can enjoy kefir as well.

Serving Tip
You can get kefir grains or kefir powder in health stores. It is best to consume it immediately after preparation. It remains unspoiled for about a month without refrigeration.

3. Yogurt

Yogurt is prepared by bacterial fermentation of milk. The lactose in the milk gets converted into lactic acid, thus making the yogurt suitable for lactose intolerant people too. Cow milk is preferred when making yogurt, but buffalo, goat, camel, or even yak milk can be used.

Very low in fat, yogurt is packed with protein, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B6, B12, etc.

Serving Tip
Yogurt can be enjoyed plain or with fruits and nuts too. Since it’s very light, it makes a wonderful snack food. If you like it savory, you can add salt and spices to it.

4. Tempeh

Tempeh is a healthy natural fermented food. It is made by fermenting soybeans in a controlled process, and has a slightly nutty flavor. Tempeh is an excellent source for proteins for vegetarians.

Tempeh is a good source of probiotics. It contains all the essential amino acids.

Serving Tip
Tempeh can be eaten alone or used in salads, sandwiches, soups, or burgers. It makes a crispy snack when deep-fried in oil. It is also suitable for marination, and can be grated as well.

5. Miso

Miso is a fermented paste made from barley, rice, or soybeans. It has lactic acid bacteria, making it a very healthy probiotic food. It is used in soups, sauces, pickles, etc. Miso soup with rice is a Japanese staple.

Miso is very high in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. But it is important to remember that it has high quantities of sodium too.

Serving Tip
You can use one or two tablespoons of miso to make soup, or include it in your diet as a salad dressing. But never add it while cooking food, as the heat kills all the good bacteria. Once you remove the soup from the heat, you can add in the miso.

6. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is made from cabbage and salt, and packs a healthy dose of probiotic nutrients. Basically, it is fermented cabbage. It is served with meat dishes, and is also added to sandwiches and hot dogs.

Sauerkraut has several benefits. It is low in calories, and has vitamins like C, B, and K. It has calcium, magnesium, dietary fiber, potassium, and copper. Uncooked and pasteurized sauerkraut is an excellent source of lactobacilli. It also aids in digestion, and helps in reducing canker sores.

Serving Tip
Sauerkraut, if properly fermented, stays for months if packed in an airtight container. It is best consumed raw.

7. Pickles

Pickling not only gives an amazing taste to food, but also increases the nutritive value. Brine or vinegar is used to preserve food. Initially, pickling was used to store food, especially foods which were not available all around the year. But today, it is done for the taste and various health benefits.

The good bacteria that are developed as the pickles ferment detox and cleanse our body.

Serving Tip
Pickles can be paired with any dish of your choice. Always opt for pickles made from salt brine. Do remember though, that pickles have very high sodium content.

8. Kombucha

Kombucha is an effervescent tangy tea flavored with herbs or fruits. Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (scoby) is used along with black or green tea. Very little (2 – 3%) alcohol is produced during fermentation.

It is very popular, and is known as the ‘Tea of Immortality’ in China. But, the nutritional benefits of this tea haven’t been proven as yet. If the tea is not fermented properly, there can be some side effects.

Serving Tip
You can add fruits or syrups to make the tea a great summer drink, or enjoy it with spices.

Main Benefits of Fermented Foods

┗ Development of immune system
┗ Provide beneficial bacteria
┗ Detoxification of the body
┗ Natural supplements
┗ Aid in digestion
┗ Prevent depression
┗ Help in hormonal balance
┗ Better absorption of nutrients

Fermented foods have several benefits, which our ancestors rightly understood. Although most of the above food items are a result of preservation techniques, their nutritive importance also made them a staple in our diet. When there is good flora in our gut, overall improvement in health is seen. Right from taking care of our immune system to benefits to the skin and hair, and protection from common allergies to weight loss, are some of the reasons why you should consume probiotics.

Now that you know how beneficial and delicious fermented foods can be, you should definitely include them in your diet. Just remember though, it is always better and safer to prepare the dishes at home.

Why Does Unhealthy Food Taste So Good?

Reason you crave for unhealthy food
Broccoli, spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts are all considered healthy. Loaded with minerals, vitamins, and fiber, they are a dietitian’s dream – a dietitian that hates you and wants you to be miserable by taking away all the sweet pleasures of life.

On the other hand, stuff that you love, – fries, burgers, desserts, and even red meat – are right at the bottom of the food pyramid. Called junk food, these, the health experts say, should not be consumed more than once a week, that too in moderation. I guess, like me, you are wondering why only the food that is so flavorful is always considered bad!

The reason is that, most ‘tasty’ foods are high either in fats, sugar, or salt; or some combination of them. And the reason our taste buds prefer them, is that we have evolved to love them. Our ancestors didn’t live in the prosperous times that we live in, and back then, these three things weren’t so abundant. So, prehistoric man and his body learned to value and preserve them.

Fatty Foods
There is a huge list of foods that are rich in fats, and we love to eat them all. But, a few popular ones are mentioned here. Also, add anything to this list that is fried, and things that you would describe as ‘greasy’ or ‘creamy’.

Fries, Fish and Chips, Donuts, Pizzas, Cheesecake, Pastries, Bacon, Salami, Burgers, Milkshake, Ice cream

The reason we love to eat fatty food –
They store energy. Fats are very high in calories – they contain twice the calorie content of carbohydrates. But since they take longer to digest, the body likes to store them for use when we don’t have enough food.
Our ancestors’ food supply was very irregular. The day they killed a mammoth, for example, there was enough food to feed the tribe for several days. But that happened pretty rarely, hence, our ancestors evolved to store as much as they could, and depended on the fat stores in times of food shortage. The person whose body was most equipped to store fat, was, by an evolutionary point of view, the fittest. He/she could survive through the harshest of times, and hence, our brains and taste buds love fat.
Foods High in Sugar
These of course, include the usual suspects – desserts and assorted cakes, especially those with icing and Jell-O. But flavored milk and yogurt are also high in sugar. Many products also contain high-fructose corn syrup, which ultimately is sugar in biological terms.

Cakes, Cookies, Ice cream, Donuts, Cream-filled Biscuits, Jam, Packaged Juices, Carbonated Drinks, Candies, Chocolates, Most Desserts, Flavored Milk

The reason we crave sugar –
For our body, sugar is energy. Always on the lookout for food, ancient man also was an expert at detecting the most energy-rich sources. Usually, this meant ripe fruit, which are sweeter and easier to digest than unripe food. Many scientists speculate that sweetness is also a sign of abundance. Hence, when we eat something sweet, the pleasure receptors in our brain are activated, releasing dopamine. In fact, the effect of sugar is linked to drugs like heroin.
Salty Foods
Chips and crisps are high in salt, but many preserved meats and packaged foods also contain excess salt. If you read the label, you will find that even things which have a sweet taste have some amount of salt in them.

Chips, Crisps, Packaged Nuts, Crackers, Fries, Pretzels, Salty Biscuits, Popcorn, Salami and Cured Meats, Cheese, Pickles

The reason we like salt –
It was not available like how easily it is now. Salt is the best source of sodium, a mineral essential for the muscles and nerve cells to work. Besides table salt, sodium is only found in small quantities in animal blood, meat, and eggs. Hence, it was prized, and actively craved for. Some scientists also speculate that it releases dopamine in the brain, much like sugar.
The Psychology Behind Our Love of Unhealthy Foods
Kids often get treats – sugary or fatty foods, as a reward for being ‘good’. This gets fed to our brains again and again, until we finally associate these foods as something coveted and prized. We often see this happen in adults too – when under stress or emotional distress, a lot many people find comfort in food, and more often than not, food that is tasty and unhealthy.
And, Why Do We Hate Greens?
Most green vegetables – broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc., are bitter. Again, the unpalatability of these foods is based on the food available to our ancestors. Most poisonous plants are bitter in taste, and hence, evolution made sure that our brains are simply hardwired to dislike them.
Besides these, there are also processed foods. These are rendered bland in the processing, and hence, manufacturers add all kinds of flavors and taste enhancers to make them palatable again. But, processing also destroys vital nutrients – all you get from processed foods are empty calories. For this reason, many processed food items are also considered unhealthy.
Many of the ‘bad’ foods, might in fact be full of vital nutrients. Take the example of salt. But what makes food really unhealthy is the quantity we consume them in. Anything in excess is bad for us, but our modern amenities make it so easy to have a variety of different treats, that it becomes difficult for us to resist them.