Opinion: How fermented foods may improve your health

Hayley Brock, Nutrition Student

Fermented foods have been growing in popularity over the years, likely due to the fact that more people are interested in improving their gut health.1 Your gut microbiome is home to more than 100 trillion bacteria and microorganisms and plays a major role in the immune system.1 Fermented foods contain live microorganisms that may improve gut health and provide other health benefits, like lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.2 Fermented foods include items like sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and kombucha. 

Vegetables are one of the most highly perishable foods, making them hard to consume for people who may not have access to proper storing techniques or for those suffering from food insecurity.2 Luckily, fermented vegetables have an extended shelf life, which makes them beneficial for both the wallet and the body. Fermented vegetables have different nutritional characteristics than their non-fermented counterparts, due to the activity of enzymes and microorganisms that are at work during the fermentation process.2 

One of the most valuable benefits from consuming fermented vegetables is the probiotic activity that is found in these foods.3 Normally, when one thinks of probiotics they think of dairy—which can be problematic for those who do not eat dairy. Luckily, fermented vegetables are a great source of probiotics without the dairy which are suitable for those who follow vegan diets, those who are lactose intolerant, or those who are looking to lower their cholesterol. Probiotics are essential for helping your body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms, especially after antibiotic use. 3

Plant-based fermented foods also contain B-group vitamins, which are involved in several essential functions in the human body3. B-group vitamins are involved in the synthesis of nucleic acids, cell metabolism, and antioxidant activity. The human body cannot synthesize B-group vitamins on its own, so it is important to get them from the diet.3 

In particular, kimchi consumption has been shown to improve fasting blood glucose levels and other metabolic syndrome symptoms in overweight and obese adults.2 Consumption of fermented soybean foods has been shown to reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, due to the amount of phytoestrogens and bioactive peptides found in the food.2 Likewise, consumption of fermented soybean paste has been shown to improve plasma triglyceride levels in obese adults.2 

Many cultures already consume fermented foods on a weekly, or even daily, basis due to their availability and related health benefits. Consumption of fermented foods can not only improve gut health, but can also be useful for those who have trouble meeting their daily macronutrient needs. For these reasons, some health professionals are suggesting that the consumption of fermented foods should be promoted as part of public health policy.2 Next time you head to the store, consider picking up some kimchi or sauerkraut—your gut will thank you! 


  1. Dimidi E, Cox SR, Rossi M, Whelan K. Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2019;11(8):1806. doi:10.3390/nu11081806.
  2. Rezac S, Kok CR, Heermann M, Hutkins R. Fermented Foods as a Dietary Source of Live Organisms. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:1785. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.01785.
  3. Melini F, Melini V, Luziatelli F, Ficca AG, Ruzzi M. Health-Promoting Components in Fermented Foods: An Up-to-Date Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1189. doi:10.3390/nu11051189.


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