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Discussing the Fascination with Fermented Foods

Did you know that trillions of bacteria live in your intestines? BUT don’t be grossed out! Many of them are “good” bacteria that help keep us healthy.

What are fermented foods? 

Fermented foods are foods and beverages that have undergone controlled microbial growth and fermentation.[1] Fermentation is a process in which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria break down food components (e.g. sugars such as glucose) into other products (e.g. organic acids, gases or alcohol). This gives fermented foods their unique and desirable taste, aroma, texture and appearance. 

Fermentation can happen naturally in some foods, however, others have cultures added to them.

What are some examples of fermented foods?

Some examples of fermented foods include: 

  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Yogurt (Look for yogurts that contain live cultures to make sure you’re getting your dose of probiotics. Additionally, opt for products with minimal sugar.)
  • Miso

What are the benefits of eating fermented foods? 

The benefits of fermented foods start in your gut which has a strong influence on many aspects of your health, from mood and behavior to appetite and weight. Feeding your gut with fermented foods helps give you a better mix of the bacteria known as the gut biome. This boosts gut health and, in turn, all the body functions that your gut supports! 

Fermented foods have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and inflammation.[2] They've also been associated with weight control, mood and brain function, bone health, and post-exercise recovery.[2] 

Studies show that the gut biome of lean people is very different from that of people with obesity.[3] In other words, having a healthy biome can help to prevent or manage obesity. Some foods that may help you get a healthy biome and ward off weight gain include: fermented dairy, green vegetable-based kimchi (usually made from Napa cabbage) and chungkookjang, a type of fermented soybean.[3]

Keep in mind that not all fermented foods are created equal. For example, although cheese is fermented, it's not known to bring the same health benefits as yogurt. The difference is yogurt contains live microbes, and typically cheese doesn’t. 



  1. Marco, M.L., et al., Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Current opinion in biotechnology, 2017. 44:94-102.
  2. Heart Foundation NZ. (2018, August 20). What are the benefits of fermented foods? Heart Foundation NZ. 
  3. Davis, Cindy D. “The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity.” Nutrition today vol. 51,4 (2016): 167-174. doi:10.1097/NT.0000000000000167

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