(NaturalNews) Good nutrition includes eating fresh organic foods, and also means getting a healthy supply of "friendly" bacteria, or probiotics, to maintain balance in the intestinal tract. Although you could take a digestive supplement, a better choice is to eat selectively fermented foods that supply tons of friendly microflora to promote better gastrointestinal health. Some people turn their noses up at the thought of eating fermented foods. However, you may be surprised to learn that fermented foods come from every food group, including water; and, offer a wide range of flavor profiles to suit everyone's tastes.
Proper digestion and gut health nourishes the body's systems, fostering physical integrity of the intestinal lining. When healthy flora is out of balance, unfriendly bacteria and fungi like candida grow rampantly -- often becoming systemic and compromising the immune system. The result is autoimmune and inflammatory disease such as MS, Lupus, Crohn's, allergies, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, IBD and other degenerative diseases. Poor gut health also produces symptoms of chronic diarrhea, flatulence, depression and ADHD. Eating fermented foods seals the lining of the gut, restoring its proper function.
What foods are fermented?
Not all fermented foods taste like sauerkraut. Read about the variety of tasty foods that are actually good for you.
Vegetables - Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, capers, artichokes, mushrooms, peppers, olives and the Korean delicacy kim chi are prepared by pickling. Modern processing methods don't include beneficial bacteria; however, specialty stores still make these foods in the traditional manner.
Dairy - Yogurt, kefir, creme fraiche, and certain aged cheeses are fermented with various live cultures to enhance nutritional value. Those made from goat, sheep or raw cow's milk supply the best nutrients with the least amount of processing. Organic cow's milk is also a good choice.
Legumes - Popular fermented products made primarily from soy beans have been part of native diets for over 5,000 years. The Japanese eat natto, which is exceptionally high in protein and vitamin K2. Tempe originated in Indonesia and is made from grains and legumes. Miso is fermented soy paste and comes in several strengths. Red miso is often used as a soup base, where light miso is milder and used to flavor foods. Both are high in sodium and should be used sparingly. Soy sauce, or Shoyu, originated in China and is considered one of the oldest-known fermented condiments. Tofuyo, a fermented tofu product is known as the "cheese of the east," and originates from Okinawa. Fermented for three to four months, it is prized for its smooth texture, mild flavor, and medicinal qualities.
Sprouted grains and seeds - Grains and seeds can be sprouted and then fermented to provide beneficial bacteria for breads. Sourdough rye or sprouted wheat breads are more digestible than ordinary breads and may prevent allergic or gluten reactions.
Fruits - Umeboshi plums are a small, tangy, pickled plums originating in Japan that promote better digestion. Fermented for six months, they are considered the "king of alkaline foods." They provide probiotics and potent antibiotic properties.
Water and Juices - Water, coconut milk and fruit juices can be fermented with special kefir starter grains to create tangy, fizzy, delicious drinks that provide friendly bacteria to support the GI tract.
Fish - Nam Pla, or Thai fish sauce, is fermented for many months and used as a popular flavoring and dipping sauce in Asia. The long fermentation process imparts a nutty, cheesy flavor.
Still don't think you'll like fermented foods? Imagine the tangy-sweet, refreshing taste of aged apple cider or a fizzy coconut milk shake and then reconsider whether you're going to add fermented foods to your diet.
JB Bardot is an herbalist and a classical homeopath, and has a post graduate degree in holistic nutrition. Bardot cares for both people and animals, using alternative approaches to health care and lifestyle. She writes about wellness, green living, alternative medicine, holistic nutrition, homeopathy, herbs and naturopathic medicine. You can find her at The JB Bardot Archives at www.jbbardot.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jbbardot23 or on Twitter at jbbardot23 or https://twitter.com/jbbardot23