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So much of our daily health and emotional state hinges on how our body is reacting to the foods we put in it. AВ day of bad digestion and bloating can ruin your day. Over the past few years, fermented foods and the probiotics they contain have become a large part of the conversation about how to improve digestion. In fact, a Byrdie article from 2015В stated that fermented foods were вЂњso hot right now.вЂќВ
As a refresher, fermented foods are products вЂњthat have been left to sit and steep until the sugars and carbs become bacteria-boosting agents,вЂќ says natural foods expert AnnaleaВ Krebs, CEO ofВ Social Nature, a product sampling community that connects people to natural wellness products. "Consuming fermented whole foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir, goes way back to the diet of our ancestors, but they've seen a reemergence due to a plethora of research showing fermented foods provide a potent source of probiotics, which are key for immunity, digestion, disease protection, and even emotional health."
But knowing that fermented foodsВ help improve digestion is only half the story. The other half is understanding exactly how they function in the bodyВ and then learning how to incorporate these seemingly bizarre items (kefir?) into our everyday diets. Keep scrolling to learn how to use fermented foods to beat belly bloat.
Why Fermented Foods?
The essential thing to know about fermented foods is that they contain the power to fix what processed foods have ruined in our digestive systems.В вЂњWe're literally killing our gut flora, one potato chip at a time!вЂќВ Krebs says. Here's what went wrong: вЂњAs a society, we have increased the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics and also consume a diet of highly processed foods: This combination has diminished the ecosystem of bacteria in the microbiome of our digestive organs,вЂќ explains Rebecca Lewis, a registered dietitian atВ HelloFresh.
Consequently, digestive issues are widespread in the United States, but in recent years, scientific research has highlighted the importance of gut health for making things better. Thus, probiotic-rich fermentedВ foods вЂњhave been enthusiastically called the new cure-all,вЂќ LewisВ says.
What makes probiotics so wonderful for gut health and digestion is the fact that they are live bacteria. вЂњIn other words, they don't just sit in our stomach after consumption, but rather they go to work, helping to balance gut bacteria and stomach acids, releasing enzymes,вЂќ Krebs says. These enzymes encourage digestion, making it easier for our bodies to eliminate toxins and extract and absorb nutrients. Probiotics also help stave off infection, reduce bloating and inflammation, and influence the hormones our brains release, which affects our mood.
The only tricky part with fermented foods is knowing what they are (and how to eat them). That's where the following grocery list comes in.
What to Eat (and How)Getty Images
1. Yogurt and KefirVivo Real Kefir Starter $28Shop
Not familiar with kefir? Krebs describes it as вЂњa fermented milk product (cow, goat, or sheep milk), much like a drinkableВ yogurt.вЂќ Both kefir and certain varieties of yogurt are rich in calcium and magnesium, as well as enzymes andВ probiotics. вЂњWhen consumed regularly, these products canВ heal and target gut issues, such as irritable bowel disease, candida, and poor digestion,вЂќ Krebs says.
We're not talking about that sugary fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt, though. вЂњOf the options available, look for products derived from grass-fed cows and lower in sugar, such asВ IcelandicВ yogurt,В Greek-styleВ yogurt, andВ organic kefir,вЂќ Krebs says.В
For a delicious and easy fermented breakfast, check outВ this kefir parfait recipeВ (which contains the added digestive benefits of cinnamon).
Nope, kombucha isn't just a trendy drink for health nuts. It's made ofВ fermented black teaВ and sugar (usually cane sugar or honey).В "Following fermentation, kombucha becomes carbonated and provides aВ rich colony of bacteria, along with B vitamins, enzymes, andВ probiotics," says Krebs. "Along with improving digestion, fans of kombucha report it also increases energy, detoxes the body, and promotes better immunity." To reap the benefits, try working 16 ounces into your diet a few days a week. There are dozens of brands available, but make sure to look for one made in a smaller batch with organic ingredients. Krebs recommends the brandВ Health-Ade, which you can find a Whole Foods and other grocery stores using theirВ store locator.
3. KimchiWang Korean Canned Kimchi $7Shop
вЂњKimchi is a Korean dish that's made from a combination of vegetables, including cabbage, with spices and seasoning,вЂќ Krebs says. вЂњDue to its high level of antioxidants and probiotics,В kimchi is regarded as a gut-friendly, cancer-fighting food.вЂќ Better yet, eating vegetables in a fermented state вЂњallows us to access to them when their high nutrient density is preserved,вЂќ Lewis says.
Our favorite way to eat kimchi is in a stir-fry or ramen bowl. (Check out this easyВ kimchiВ ramen recipe).
4. Probiotic SupplementsThe Nue Co. Debloat Food Prebiotic $75Shop
According to Krebs, вЂњfermentedВ protein powders and bars are relatively new to the fermented landscape. However, expect to see more cropping up.вЂќ The benefit to these plant-based supplements is that they provide both probiotics and protein without aggravating lactose intolerances or whey sensitivities. вЂњBy the process of fermentation, protein powders and bars are easier to digest, requiring the body to do less work to absorb nutrients,вЂќ Krebs says. Just make sure to look for products that are low in sugar, gluten, and fillers, like the one above.Getty Images
Tempeh might not look so pretty when raw, but it is very a versatile food made from fermented soybeans. Tempeh can be transformed into a number of different dishes, including delicious stir-fry mealsВ and a convincing vegan bacon. Despite the controversies surrounding soy,В most nutritionists agree that when eaten in moderation, it can absolutely be a part of a healthy diet.ВCultures For Health Tempeh Culture $8Shop
Tempeh might not look so pretty when raw, but it is very aВ versatile food made from fermented soybeans.В Tempeh can be transformed into a number of different dishes, includingВ delicious stir-fry mealsВ and a convincing vegan bacon. Despite theВ controversies surrounding soy,В most nutritionists agree that when eaten in moderation, it can absolutely be a part of a healthy diet.ВGetty Images
Don't get too excited: We're not recommending that you down a bottle of rosГ© every night. But there is room for alcohol in the life of someone with great digestion. How? вЂњIn some cases, the fermentation process actually creates additional nutrients,вЂќ Lewis says. вЂњIn the case of alcoholic beverages, B vitamin synthesis is part of the fermentation process.вЂќВ That means four ounces ofВ wine a couple times of weekВ provides a вЂњmicrodose of essential B vitamins,вЂќ in addition to the benefits of probiotics.
Next up, don't missВ six easy things you can do to detox your body in 24 hours.