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The best fermented foods for better gut health

The best fermented foods for better gut health
The best fermented foods for better gut health

When thinking about the best foods for gut health, fermented foods are probably the first thing that comes to mind. Foods that go through a fermentation process contain probiotics that are important for your gut microbiome and support healthy digestion. But which fermented foods are best for better gut health—and is there a “worst” option? We asked an expert for his opinion.

“In my view, there is always a hierarchy in food,” says gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, MD, in an interview with Eat well“There are foods that I would rank at the top and those that I would rank at the bottom.”

There are two clear winners among fermented foods, as well as one that the doctor likes least. Read on to find out which probiotic foods you should focus on and what to look for the next time you shop.

The best fermented foods for gut health

Wondering what’s at the top of Dr. B’s list? It’s a tie between two herbal options.

“When it comes to fermented foods, I would put fermented plants at the top,” he says. “Examples would be kimchi and sauerkraut.”

Kimchi and sauerkraut are not only delicious, but they’re also incredibly good for your gut bacteria. Bulsiewicz explains why: “These foods contain probiotics, but also fiber and prebiotics,” he explains. “Fermentation is about conversion, and conversion isn’t just about adding bacteria to the process. It also involves the creation of acid. That’s why sauerkraut is bitter and not just salty cabbage. The fiber is converted and created into whole new forms of fiber (which supports your gut).”

With the ultimate combination of probiotics, prebiotics and fiber, fermented plants like sauerkraut and kimchi are clear winners. Buy them ready-made when you grocery shop this week, or make them at home using recipes like our easy sauerkraut and homemade kimchi.

The worst fermented foods for gut health

As Bulsiewicz explained previously, he believes there is a hierarchy for each food category. This means that fermented foods are at the bottom of the list – here’s his take on it.

“I don’t think it’s unhealthy, but I do consider it a food that I consume in moderation – that would be kombucha,” he admits. “The base of kombucha is basically sweetened tea, and that sweetened tea is converted – the sugar is mostly consumed by the bacteria in the fermentation process – but there’s still quite a lot of sugar left over.”

Kombucha, the popular fermented tea drink, can help you stay hydrated and energized, and offers the gut-healthy benefits of all fermented foods. But as Bulsiewicz explains, kombucha can contain a lot of sugar and added sugar, especially if you’re drinking a prepackaged product. Try making your own kombucha at home with our homemade kombucha recipe to control the sugar content.

The conclusion

All fermented foods have gut-healthy properties, but some are better than others. While kombucha, which is largely available in bottles from the store, may not be the best choice for an everyday sip, it is still a gut-supporting option that offers healthier alternatives. And sauerkraut and kimchi are nutritious and delicious, so adding them to your next meal may be a good idea.