Tired of yogurt, kombucha, and kefir? Then give these five foods a try to get more of the gut-boosting benefits of fermentation.
If you haven’t added beneficial fermented foods to your diet—now is the time. Studies have shown that fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha may support a healthy gut microbiome as well as boost immunity and treat chronic illnesses.
Make your digestive health a priority in 2020 and try these five fermented foods today.
You’ve probably already tried koji, but just didn’t realize it. Made from the microorganism Aspergillus oryzae, which has been used in Japan for more than 1,000 years to make fermented foods like sake, miso, and soy sauce, koji has become more popular in the West as high-profile chefs like David Chang sing their praises of the funky fungus. In addition to providing beneficial digestive enzymes, koji also boosts cancer-fighting isoflavones antioxidants. You can use koji as a less salty substitute for soy sauce in stir fries, as a general seasoning to add umami, as a marinade for meats and fish, or you can make koji rice. You can buy koji online or at your local Asian grocery, but you can also make it yourself.
Don’t let how natto looks (or smells) scare you—it is a powerfully beneficial superfood. Made from soybeans that have been fermented with Bacillus subtilis, natto is probiotic rich; it contains between one million and one billion colony-forming bacteria per gram, which means you can get as many probiotics from one gram of natto as from one serving of yogurt. The combination of fiber, probiotics, vitamin K, and the enzyme nattokinase in natto may help reduce cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Buy pre-made natto from MegumiNatto or Rhapsody Natural Foods, or make it yourself.
Fermented Tea Leaf
Fermented tea leaf, or laphet, is considered the national delicacy of Myanmar; Burmese people eat it most commonly in Tea Leaf Salad, but also snack on the leaves and use them to aid digestion. To make laphet, after being harvested, green tea leaves are steamed, pressed, rolled, and then packed into burlap sacks that are weighted down in cement containers, and then left to ferment for two to three months. Though there aren’t many Burmese restaurants in the U.S., you can make your own very tasty Tea Leaf Salad. It’s so addictive that once you know how to make it, you’ll never stop.
Move over kombucha! Beet kvass has been around a while—a traditional Eastern European beverage that has been used since the middle ages as a liver cleanser, digestive, and hangover cure, the fermented health tonic is making a comeback. Bright red with a salty, slightly sour flavor, you can make beet kvass at home, and unlike with kombucha, you don’t need a culture.
Eating pickled vegetables is common all over the world—even Americans eat pickles, if not a ton of other fermented veggies. Have you considered adding pickled vegetables to all your meals? In addition to getting a briny kick of flavor, eating pickled vegetables may help stabilize blood sugar, provide valuable probiotics, boost immune function, even fight cancer. While the ubiquitous cucumber is an obvious choice, try fermenting carrots, cauliflower, onions, and peppers at home—it’s easy!
Want more info on boosting gut health? Read “6 Veggies (and Recipes) for Optimal Gut Health.”