Fermented foods have been around for centuries, but we are just now starting to understand their role in healthy digestion and overall wellness. Along with providing a whole host of health benefits, they are versatile kitchen staples, too!

Fermented foods are made of live bacteria, which has earned a bad reputation over the years, because of its association with disease. However, without bacteria, the body would cease to function. Healthy bacteria prevent the growth of undesirable micro-organisms, including candida yeast overgrowth. 

The fermentation process produces lactic acid and enzymes, which appear to have beneficial effects on the digestive system and metabolism. Because of the process of fermentation, these foods are considered "predigested," which means they're easy to digest and assimilate.

Here are four fermented foods to include in your diet: 
 
1. Yogurt

Yogurt is one of the most popular supermarket purchases, but when buying yogurt look for the words active or live. Some yogurt is pasteurized, killing its healthy bacteria. In yogurt with active culture, the milk is pasteurized before the bacterial culture is added. 

Commonly used yogurt cultures are Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Lactobacillus Acidophilus. These cultures boost the body’s friendly bacteria, thereby improving digestion and keeping intestines healthy. These bacteria also help the body manufacture B vitamins such as B12.

2. Kefir

Another fermented milk product is kefir, which originated in the northern part of the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas, an area renowned for its healthy and long lived people.

Kefir is a great option for those with lactose intolerance and works as a probiotic in the intestinal tract. The finished product is less firm then yogurt and is usually taken as a drink.
 
3. Sauerkraut

This fermented cabbage dish is believe by some to be a natural remedy for cancer. Although this claim has yet to be validated, research suggests that a cancer preventing compound, known as isothiocyanates, is found in cruciferous vegetables, including fermented cabbage. 

We do know that sauerkraut is rich in many nutrients, including vitamin C and beneficial lactic-acid bacteria, and it's easy to digest.

4. Miso

Miso is made from fermented soybeans or barley; and comes in the form of a paste, which is used in soups, dressings and sauces. This seasoning ingredient provides a salty, flavorful taste to dishes, along with some protein and complex carbohydrates. 

Like other fermented foods, miso provides a wealth of healthy micro-organisms to maintain and promote intestinal health. Be careful not to heat miso to a boiling point, as the live culture will be destroyed. The different types of miso offer different colors and flavors; and typically the longer the soybean has been fermented, the darker the miso paste will be.


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