Fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha and sauerkraut are widely believed to be good for our gut health, which, in turn, are linked to better weight control, immunity and mood.
A recent study from Stanford University in the US found that fermented foods also appear to reduce chronic inflammation, which is believed to be behind many diseases.
It showed that eating up to six times a day resulted in a significant increase in volunteers’ ‘good’ (probiotic) bacteria after just ten weeks, as well as a reduction in inflammatory markers associated with conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
Fermentation involves adding bacteria, yeast or fungi to foods, which then break down sugars and starches to form gut-friendly bacteria and lactic acid.
Certain fermented foods are also an excellent source of prebiotic fiber, which feeds the good bacteria in the gut.
Here, Jen Clark, dietitian and founder of nourishbeejneclarke.com, explains how to make the best choices.
Try: Raw Sauerkraut Classic, 410g, £4.39, ocado.com; Loving Foods Caraway and Juniper Berry Sauerkraut, 500g, £6.95, lovefoods.co.uk; Pama Classic Farm Style Sauerkraut, 500g, £7.99, pama-raw-food.com
Expert Comment : Sauerkraut is made by adding salt to the chopped cabbage. The salted cabbage releases the water and is left to ferment in its brine.
As cabbage ferments, billions of diverse probiotic bacteria develop from the ‘friendly’ Lactobacillus bacteria found on the leaves.
Look for raw, unpasteurized products that need to be refrigerated as they are likely to contain the highest amount of probiotics. Some sauerkraut can be pasteurized to have a longer shelf life, but this destroys most of the good bacteria.
Sauerkraut can be high in salt, so if you have high blood pressure compare labels and choose the lowest salt substitute you can find.
Fiber can cause bloating if you’re not used to eating it, so start with just one teaspoon a day and build up to a maximum of two and a half teaspoons a day.
Tip: Add a spoonful of sauerkraut to sandwiches and burgers for a delicious, crunchy health punch.
Pama Classic Farms Style Sauerkraut, 500g, £7.99, pama-raw-food.com
Loving Foods Caraway and Juniper Berry Sauerkraut, 500g, £6.95, lovefoods.co.uk
Raw Sauerkraut Classic, 410g, £4.39, ocado.com
Try: Asda Extra Special Camembert de Pays, 250g, £2.20, asda.com; Sainsbury’s Taste Difference Roquefort Cheese, 100g, £2, sainsburys.co.uk; Stitchelton Blue Cheese, 250g, £8.95, thecourtyarddairy.co.uk
Expert Comment : Fermentation is used to make most types of cheese, but most are also pasteurized, which kills most of the beneficial bacteria.
Although not as good a source of probiotics as sauerkraut and kefir, soft, unpasteurized cheeses, which are readily found in large supermarkets and delis, are more likely to contain probiotics, which can help with gas and diarrhea. can.
Real Brie de Meaux, Comte, Camembert and Roquefort are made with unpasteurized milk – just look for the words unpasteurized or ‘raw milk’ on the label.
Cheese is an excellent source of bone-building calcium, but can be high in saturated fat and salt, so watch your portion size.
Tip: Eat with a source of prebiotic fiber, such as oat cake, which can help ‘feed’ the good gut bacteria.
Asda Extra Special Camembert de Pays, 250g, £2.20 (left) and Stitchelton Blue Cheese, 250g, £8.95 (right)
Sainsbury’s Taste Difference Roquefort Cheese, 100g, £2, sainsburys.co.uk
Try: Willie’s Organic Live Apple Cider Vinegar (with live mother), 500ml, £6.95, Waitrose.com; Espel Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, 500 ml, £2.50, tesco.com; Bragg Raw, Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, 473 ml, £6.99, boot.com
Expert Comment : Fermenting crushed apple juice with yeast and bacteria produces acetic acid (vinegar) and ‘mother’, a hard-looking culture that can be used to make more vinegar.
Most apple cider vinegar is filtered to remove the ‘mother’, but it can provide more probiotic and prebiotic content, so choose ‘live’, unpasteurized, unfiltered vinegar.
Several studies have shown that a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar after a meal can significantly reduce post-meal blood sugar levels—possibly because acetic acid affects the way starch is digested.
For this reason, people with diabetes and those taking potassium-lowering medications should seek advice before consuming apple cider vinegar.
The acid in clear vinegar can damage tooth enamel over time, so dissolve it in drinking water.
Tip: For salad dressing, mix one part live apple cider vinegar with three parts olive oil and season.
Willie’s Organic Live Apple Cider Vinegar (with live mother), 500 ml, £6.95, Waitrose.com
Espel Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, 500 ml, £2.50, tesco.com
Bragg Raw, Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, 473ml, £6.99, boots.com
Try: The Gutsy Captain Zero Kombucha Passionfruit, 400ml, £2.25, hollandandbarrett.com; Remedy Apple Crisp Kombucha, 24 x 250 ml, tesco.com; No. 1 Living Raspberry Sugar Free Kombucha, 4 x 250ml, £1.99, sainsburys.co.uk
Expert Comment : Kombucha sugar-sweetened black or green tea is mixed with bacteria and yeast and left to ferment for several days. Yeast consumes sugar, probiotic bacteria, produce ethanol (an alcohol) and ‘fizzy’ carbon dioxide.
The bacteria consume most of the ethanol, turning it into acetic acid that makes the drink sour, and leaving the drink with a small alcohol content (0.5 percent, similar to a ripe banana).
The fermentation process produces useful amounts of certain vitamins, including vitamins B and C, important for building and maintaining healthy cells.
You can buy ready-made bottled kombucha, but the quality of live probiotic bacteria can vary. Look for a product with low sugar, as some kombucha can be quite sweet (3-4 teaspoons per serving).
And choose one made from green tea,…