7 fermented foods you should be eating

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fermented foods 5Every food expert on the planet will tell you that the healthiest foods are usually the freshest. But the latest beneficial food group isn’t a bit farm to table—it’s fermented—meaning ingredients like cabbage and cucumbers have been left to sit and steep until their sugars and carbs become bacteria-boosting agents.

Wellness experts are currently enthralled by how these pungent, probiotic powerhouses, which boost the good bacteria in your digestive tract, can help heal a multitude of health issues, like leaky gut and IBS, and can even lead to weight loss, better skin, and boosted immunity.

More Reading: 3 unexpected ways to add fermented foods to every meal

One of the reasons? "The gut is the largest part of our immune system," explains Drew Ramsey, MD, author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale. So it matters what you put in it. "Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause damage, while fermented foods heal.”

Ready to see what these (somewhat skunky) superfoods can do for you? Here are seven to try now. —Jennifer Kass

(Photo: Flickr/Jules:stonesoup)

Note: This post was originally published on August 9, 2013, and updated on August 20, 2015.

1. Kombucha

A fizzy, fermented black tea that's no stranger to New Yorkers, kombucha gives you a bang for your bacterial buck because of the variety of microorganisms it contains. "When you drink a bottle of kombucha, you're drinking four to seven microorganisms all at once, building a really strong gut," explains Michael Schwartz, the fermented-foodie founder of BAO Food And Drink. Just watch the sugar.

(Photo: Flickr/Irisphotos)

fermented foods 42. Sauerkraut

Turns out you should put sauerkraut, AKA fermented cabbage, on way more than your tofu dogs. It has a powerful impact on brain health, including depression and anxiety. "There's a tremendous connection between gut and brain health," explains Dr. Ramsey. If you're the DIY type, try making your own. (Here's an easy recipe!) Unlike non-refrigerated, store-bought varieties, homemade 'kraut has no chemical preservatives or added sugar.

(Photo: Flickr/Jules:Stonesoup)

fermented foods 63. Pickles

Pickles are the gateway ferment. Not only do they provide a healthy dose of probiotics, they're a familiar food item and have a taste that many people already love—including those who may hold their nose at the idea of eating fermented foods.

(Photo: Flickr/Andrewmalone)

fermented foods 14. Coconut Yogurt

Kimberley Snyder, celebrity nutritionist and author of The Beauty Detox Foods, loves coconut yogurt, because it's a delicious, dairy-free way to work plenty of enzymes and probiotics into your diet. Though Greek and regular yogurt are also fermented foods, Snyder is less enthusiastic about them. "Dairy is extremely acid-forming in the body and difficult to digest," she explains.

fermented foods 25. Miso

Jeff Cox, author of The Essential Book of Fermentation, loves miso for its nutritional profile. The paste made from fermented soybeans and grains is "full of essential minerals, like potassium, and consists of millions of microorganisms giving us strength and stamina," he says. To make miso soup, just add a dollop to boiling water, along with some favorite vegetables, like onions, bok choy, or mushrooms.

fermented foods 76. Tempeh

Tempeh (fermented soybeans) is a complete protein with all of the amino acids, says Cox. He suggests using it as a yummy substitute for bacon in BLTs. Try flavoring organic tempeh with some tamari (also fermented), then add it to a sandwich with tomato, lettuce, and toast. Or eat it tossed in a bowl of steamed veggies.

fermented foods 37. Kimchi

Think of this spicy Korean dish—typically made from fermented cabbage—as a beauty food, as well as an energy-booster, says Snyder. It can help "enhance digestion and nutrient assimilation," she explains. "You may also notice, with improved digestion, an improvement in the look of your skin."


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25 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. August 10th, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    And simple sourdough bread:)

  2. August 13th, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I really had my eyes opened with this article. Thanks for another great heathy eating bit of information. Well&GoodNYC.com, you are the best!

  3. August 21st, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Sauerkraut is awesome. I see it’s actually getting popular now as well. Fermenting vegetables is awesome, can’t go wrong. Great post.

  4. August 23rd, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    What about dosas made with fermentented lentils and basmati rice?

  5. September 3rd, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Wow! I’ve tasted all fermented foods featured in this post except Sauerkraut. Anyway, I would love to try it. Thanks so much for the link regarding this recipe. :-D

  6. January 3rd, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    *Don’t* add miso – or anything with probiotics – to boiling water. Boiling water kills loads of those probiotics you’re trying to eat. Stir miso into low-flame, simmering water for a few minutes before killing the heat, letting it slowly dissolve. You need heat to activate the enzymes, but a hard boil is too much. Remember that as a principle for any probiotic – these lil’ dudes are alive, so don’t boil or freeze them, as they may not be designed to survive extreme temperatures!

  7. January 11th, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Thanks for a nice article, very inspiring. Before I started consuming fermented foods I had many problems with my stomach. This is all gone now thanks to the exceptional health benefits of natural bacteria.

    When you start making your own fermented food, you realize that there’s really not limit to what you can ferment, only your imagination. And it’s all delicious!

  8. January 19th, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    1) you forgot Kefir, one of the most powerful and healthy probiotic foods out there, it cured me in miraculous ways!!! 2) I would be careful of any soy products. Most all soy is genetically modified and garbage. If you can find organic/non-GMO soy to work with, great! Other than that, a great article, very educational. I culture my own Kefir, Kombachu, sourdough, yogurt and veggies. I had crippling auto-immune/inflammation until I discovered fermented foods. The healing result has been dramatic and drastic. I just wish I had discovered it earlier.

  9. February 19th, 2014 at 9:50 am

    No mention of Kefir? I that Kefir was the powerhouse of fermented foods

  10. 7!?...more like 3....cabbage.pickles.soybeans...
    February 21st, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    7!?…more like 3….cabbage.pickles.soybeans..

  11. February 24th, 2014 at 7:02 am

    I cannot stand having to click through nine separate views to see one lousy article. There is no “single page” option and no “print” option. I won’t bother visiting your site again.

  12. March 2nd, 2014 at 1:45 am


  13. March 19th, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    A new study shows that, contrary to this article, dairy products actually leave an alkaline ash, not that this really makes any difference to our health:


  14. May 20th, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Interessted in where In NY or NJ or online i can buy fermented food.

  15. June 4th, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    yeah. but how do you cook them. and do they taste ok? and do you eat them with a meal? How do you get the kids to eat them?

  16. June 6th, 2014 at 4:48 am

    I encourage everyone to ferment! My kids and I make and eat all the foods you listed in your article and some you didn’t like nut “cheeses” fermented with miso or whey, fresh (soft)cultured goat cheeses, sour dough bread. I drink the probio rich whey whenever I make a batch of cheese. Fermented foods are surprisingly easy to make and, except for the fermenting time which varies, don’t take a lot of prep time and mostly use simple ingredients. The probiotic rich results taste fresh and lively and my gut is always happy when I eat fermented foods every day. That said, I never use vinegar in fermenting because I believe vinegar’s acidity kills probiotics. Saurkraut can be made using salt (not iodized) as the fermenting agent. Enjoy!

  17. June 27th, 2014 at 8:43 am

    can you suggest a book to learn about fermenting?

  18. July 14th, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    My understanding is that if you boil miso during the soup making process, you loose a lot of the nutritional enzymes. Finish boiling the veggies, take the pot off the stove and stir in the miso until dissolved.

  19. October 8th, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    make sure you don’t cook miso (or you will kill the live beneficial organisms). add it to your bowl of soup.

  20. October 8th, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Good fermenting books:
    Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
    Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
    The Essential Book of Fermentation by Jeff Cox
    Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride
    The Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton & Mary Brackett
    The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods by Wardeh Harmon

  21. November 18th, 2014 at 5:13 am

    Just so you know miso soup should never be boiled. You add the paste after you heat the water.
    It ruins the taste and I’d imagine all the bacteria you want to keep alive wouldn’t be that happy.

  22. July 7th, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    I love to mix miso with apple cider vinegar and olive oil for a great salad dressing!

  23. July 27th, 2015 at 2:38 am

    Miso should be added to a small bowl of broth and stirred to a paste like gravy. It can then be added by spoonfuls according to taste to your soup or vegetables.

    Adding Miso to boiling water or soup stock breaks down or destroys a lot of the enzymes you are eating it for.

    Miso comes in different types or colors. white or yellow (light colored miso) is for summer, red for fall or spring and dark brown miso for winter eating with seasonal veggies.

    Miso can also be made into a spread by combining it with Tahini (sesame butter) good butter or cheese substitute for bread.

  24. August 26th, 2015 at 11:08 am

    wellandgood is the best to look for. I can have Miso soup everyday and I make my own kimchi to have it anytime I want. You can check on youtube posting how to make kimchi, it works too.

  25. September 6th, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    It would help to be able to read your website if you didn’t cut off every line with some BS panel running down the right side of the whole article. I see this so often and it’s very annoying. Please please please, have someone test your website and make sure it’s readable before you make it live.

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