Fermented Foods- why and how to get them in your daily routine
Although food fermentation is an age-old food preparation process, it is much more recently that the full benefits of fermented foods on our digestive system and other body systems are beginning to be understood.
Research into the digestive system, has made the case for a stronger connection between the gut and the brain than had been previously demonstrated with strong links to the production of serotonin (the happiness hormone), the extraction of the benefits of calories, management of appetite, weight and moods, cognitive health and emotion. (I’d recommend looking into the subject more if you are interested as there is a wealth of information out there on it). So if your gut is feeling good, there seems to be a significant benefit to overall well-being.
This is where fermented foods come - a range of foods from probiotic yoghurts to sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir among others, help our systems to produce “good bacteria” in the gut and bring the benefits outlined earlier.
So now you know the why, but how can you increase your good gut bacteria, and where should you start?
Where to start?
Everybody’s gut is different, and I don’t believe that there is a “one-size-fits-all” solution for gut health. My advice is to try to incorporate a fermented food into your diet every day for a month and see how you get on. You may then like to try another, or add something else from the fermented food category to your routine. Good bacteria takes time to build up in our systems.
If you want to start with something in pretty familiar territory – I suggest Old Mac Donnell’s farm Pro-biotic Yoghurt. This little gem packs a really good bacteria punch containing four strains of live cultures, which can’t be said of many other pro-biotic yoghurts. We love Old Mac Donnell’s because it has everything that SoulBia is about - made in small batches in the Wicklow Hills on the Mac Donnell family farm, this thick set yoghurt has a very loyal fan base, and tastes great anytime of the day. Smaller pots for snack time and large pots for breakfast/dessert time. Our Bridie orders them by the tray load!
Another fermented foods champion is Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut has been hailed as one of the oldest traditional foods. It’s base ingredient is fermented cabbage, with properties such as high dietary fibre, high vitamins A, C, K and B and also high in iron and magnesium, sauerkraut is a fantastic digestive aid. It is also known to have other properties such as reducing cholesterol levels, aiding circulation and helping fight inflammation. Most of us have heard of sauerkraut, and with some more recent German and Polish influences on the Irish shopping trolley, you may well have bought it, but did you know how to use it? One of the most common fermented food questions I get asked is how to add Sauerkraut into your diet. If you think of it as both a type of cabbage, and a side like coleslaw (without the mayo and general badness), you’ll find lots of ways to get it onto your plate. You can mix into your stir-fry’s like any other cabbage you would use, or add it to the side of any main salad or meat dish where you would use a coleslaw type side. You might add it on a burger (meaty or meat-free!) or hot dog dressing, or some people just have a spoonful every day for good measure! We stock a great range of naturally flavoured sauerkrauts from The Cultured Food Company in West Cork.
Finally for now – if you haven’t tried Kombucha you have a treat in store. Kombucha is a delicious fizzy cold fermented tea drink. It has been know the aid digestion, weight-loss, increase energy, support the immune system and contain plenty of good gut health bacteria. We stock it in single serves from SynerChi in Donegal, so whenever you need a cool refreshing drink, after a walk or your workout, SynerChi’s range of Kombucha flavours makes it a great choice to get your good bacteria active.
I recommend giving these foods a try and taking some time to give your gut what it loves from the fermented food range.