Give your gut a health boost with more fermented foods

Ingredients for kimchi.
Ingredients for kimchi.
Image: 123RF

It appears there's more to the saying "follow your gut". Not only can this refer to your intuition, it can also be applied to your physical health.

In recent years, it has become apparent that the health of the gut is something we shouldn't be overlooking.

But how do you know if you have an unhealthy gut? And how does it affect you?

An unhealthy gut has been linked to autoimmune conditions, sleep disturbance or constant fatigue. Sometimes it can result in skin irritation, food intolerances, an upset stomach and unintentional weight changes - gaining or losing weight without changing your diet or exercise routine.

This could be a result of your body not being able to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar and store fat.

The benefits of having a healthy gut are increased energy, a better mood, healthy weight and you will not feel fatigued or have persistent stomach issues.

Home-made fermented raw kombucha tea ready to drink.
Home-made fermented raw kombucha tea ready to drink.
Image: 123RF

In the most simplistic terms, the body is filled with various bacteria, viruses and fungi that number in the trillions and are collectively known as microbiome. There are microbes in your gut or intestines and you can help yourself feel better by increasing these by eating fermented foods. This means foods fermented naturally - letting the food sit and steep until the sugars become bacteria-boosting agents.

Fermented foods contain probiotics - good bacteria - just the type you need to help boost your gut health. Foods like kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage dish that usually contains garlic and Korean chilli; sauerkraut, a dish made from just cabbage and salt are some of the foods you can consume.

Other popular food within this group are kefir, a fermented milk drink; kombucha, a tea that can be flavoured with fruit or herbs; miso, a fermented paste made from barley, rice or soybeans; tempeh, made from naturally fermented soy beans is a source of vegetable protein; and yoghurt. It's best to look for yoghurt that states on the tub that there are "live and active cultures".

Fermented foods normally taste very sour, and it's advisable to introduce this slowly to the body. Kimchi, for example, can be added to a variety of foods to get the taste buds accustormed to it.

Kefir grains and homemade milk kefir.
Kefir grains and homemade milk kefir.
Image: 123RF

You can find these foods at various stores but have to be careful. It should not be stored on the shelf but found in the fridge section. Secondly, you should be able to see bubbles when you open the product to prove that there are live cultures in the food.

Che Upton of Che Gourmet recently gave a talk about the benefits of fermented foods at the Women and Lifestyle expo held at Montecasino in Joburg.
Upton, a self-taught chef who manufactures healthy marinades, pickles, pastes and fermented food, said you should be wary when purchasing fermented foods from grocers.

"Probiotics, if you cook with them you kill everything. So when you go into [a grocer] and see a can of sauerkraut, put it down and walk away.

"That can of sauerkraut has been pasteurised beyond comprehension, it's been boiled, it's been heated so that it can become stable for at least a minimum of two years. There is no nutrition in it whatsoever."

You can make the above-mentioned food at home however, it is important to remember to ask a physician if you have health issues.

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