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What are live-culture ferments and how are they healthy for you?

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Fermentation is an ancient technique for preserving food. Humans have been fermenting food for over 10,000 years!

Beer, wine, cheese, sauerkraut, kombucha, bread, yogurt, and pickles are just a few examples of common foods and drinks that are fermented.

Fermentation is a process that involves the breakdown of carbohydrates by bacteria and yeast. It results in a distinctive tart flavor you taste in foods like yogurt, cheese, and sauerkraut.

Fermented foods are rich in beneficial probiotics and have been associated with a range of health benefits — from better digestion to stronger immunity.

But, not all fermented foods are created equal! (No, you can't just drink more beer or wine to improve your gut health!)

Kimchi from Fair Share Farm.

Not all fermented foods contain live organisms. For example, beer and wine undergo steps that remove the organisms, while others are heat treated (canned) and the organisms are inactivated by the heat.

Live-culture fermented foods are ones that still have probiotic activity happening in the jar. (These will be found in the refrigeration section of a grocery store.)

Finding live-culture ferments is important because that is the type of ferment that will provide probiotic and health benefits.

Here are some of the benefits of eating live-culture ferments:

  • improve digestion

  • strengthen immunity

  • may support mental health

  • improve cognitive function

  • fermentation of certain foods helps make nutrients available that normally wouldn't be in the non-fermented version

  • by eating local live-culture ferments or making them yourself you connect your human microbiome to your surrounding microbiome

  • full of life-supporting probiotics

It's easy to start incorporating live-culture ferments into your daily diet.

Yogurt and kefir are the most commonly known ferments and are easy to include in your diet by making yogurt bowls or smoothies.

An easy way to incorporate more flavorful ferments like sauerkraut and kimchi is to think of them as garnish. You don't need more than a tablespoon or two with each meal to make an impact on your internal microbiome.

Remember to start small and gradually increase your consumption to give your gut time to adjust if you don't normally eat fermented foods.

There's no reason not to give live-culture ferments a try and see how your life may improve, even if it's simply in the richness of flavors you get to enjoy on a daily basis!

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