Medical Moment: Understanding fermented foods you eat

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 8:19 PM EST
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By now, you’ve probably heard of fermented foods.

They’re thought to provide good bacteria that promotes a healthy digestive system. But there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to incorporating these foods into your diet.

Yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Fermented foods like these are a popular way to boost your gut health.

“The healthier your gut is, the healthier overall well-being will be,” says Dan Brewer, chief dietician at Saint Louis University.

Studies have also suggested that fermented foods may reduce the risk of heart disease, type two diabetes, and high blood pressure. But make sure you’re doing it right when it comes to fermented foods. Do look for products that contain active live cultures. If the food is canned, the beneficial bacteria was killed in the process.

“If it’s still refrigerated, then more than likely it still has live active cultures in it,” Brewer says.

Look for statements on the label like “contains probiotics,” “unpasteurized,” or “contains live cultures.” And don’t buy products with added sugar. Some yogurts and kombuchas contain as much sugar as soda! It’s also a good idea to check out the sodium content. If you’re purchasing sauerkraut, do make sure it’s raw and doesn’t contain vinegar or preservatives, which can lessen the benefits. And when it comes to fermented foods, don’t overdo it.

“Incorporating a little bit of them every day is a good way or you can just eat them once or twice a week,” Brewer says.

Though it’s considered a relatively new dietary trend, people have been fermenting for about 10,000 years. It originally started to preserve food, but today we do it to add flavor and health benefits.

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