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Why You Should Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet

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Kimchee instead of hot sauce as a condiment with your eggs, kefir instead of milk in your post-workout smoothie, sourdough bread instead of rye for your sandwiches—fermented foods like these are seriously good swaps when it comes to kicking up the nutrition in your meals.

And while they're becoming more and more popular, fermented foods don’t just turn up the flavor of your meals. (Try making your own kimchee with Judy Joo's fermenting 101 guide.) They can also instantly make your food even healthier—seriously! How come? “The probiotics used in the fermentation process help your body digest what you’re eating and better absorb its nutrients,” explains dietitian Torey Armul. “The acids produced start to break down food molecules into simpler forms, which can be really helpful for some people.”

Even more: Fermentation can also increase the levels of certain nutrients, like B vitamins, which your body needs for energy. (Read The Truth About Vitamin B12 Injections.) And if you’re lactose intolerant, you may even be able to eat fermented dairy products. “These foods have an enzyme that breaks down lactose. Many people who have issues with milk can eat yogurt and feel fine,” says Armul.

But they're not a total health food. One thing to watch out for: sodium. Lots of these foods—like sauerkraut—are made in a salt water bath. While they’re still healthier than more processed fare, if you have blood pressure issues or a salt sensitivity, you should watch your intake throughout the week. Need some places to start? Try kombucha or kefir. Or whip up our 5 Spice Tempeh Salad with Avocado Dressing or Kale Miso Soup.

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