Benefits of Fermented Foods

different fermented foods in jars and bowls

Cleopatra knew it. Confucius too. Caesar no doubt hailed it.

We have been eating fermented foods for some 5,000 years or so.

Why? Because they taste good and, as our ancestors knew, they’re good for us.

Beer, wine, coffee, yogurt, soy sauce, sourdough breads, and countless pickled vegetables, all rely on fermentation to give them that little extra zing, that pungency that tickles your taste buds. But perhaps best of all, fermented foods pack a powerful punch that helps promote and maintain good health.

There are so many things you can ferment (sometimes called “pickling”), you’re certain to find foods you and your family will enjoy.

10 Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

  • Better Digestion

    Fermented foods are partially digested foods. That means the fermentation has done some of the heavy lifting for your digestive system and digesting these foods is easier. The fermentation in yogurts and kefir, for example, help lactose-intolerant people digest dairy foods.

  • Nutrient Absorption

    Try a dill pickle or sauerkraut. These two fermented veggies (cukes and cabbage) are made with lactic acid bacteria. Eating these enzyme-rich foods helps the body absorb nutrients more easily while keeping naturally occurring plant toxins at bay.

  • Boost the Immune System

    Because fermented foods are bacteria-based, they support the beneficial bacteria already in our digestive tract. These good bugs strengthen the immune system and help us ward off disease and illness.

  • Increased Vitamin Content

    Fermented dairy products, such as kefir or yogurt, release more of the vitamins in foods that our bodies rely on to stay healthy, such as folic acid, B vitamins, riboflavin, and biotin.

  • Longer Shelf Life

    Leave a cucumber or quart of milk in your refrigerator and it will go bad in a week to 10 days. Fermented foods, however, last much longer. Refrigerated pickles, salsa, and sauerkraut, for example, will keep for months.

  • Save Money

    Whether you can or pickle it yourself (a great hobby most anyone can do, especially with the kids on a summer day, rain or shine), fermented vegetables can lower food costs and stretch your budget while keeping healthy veggies on the plate—in season or out.

  • Tastes Great

    It may seem counterintuitive given our propensity for sweet, but that pungent pop you get from fermented foods tastes great.

  • Relieves Constipation

    The bacteria in fermented foods stimulates peristalsis (fecal elimination) and thus wards off constipation.

  • Improve Neonatal Health

    When a mother has a healthy amount of good bacteria in her own system, those benefits transfer to her fetus and can help prevent neonatal infections.

  • Weight Loss

    Some fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, are high in choline, which can help lower blood pressure and metabolize fats more quickly.

Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet

  • Use miso to season soups.
  • Drink kefir a few times a week.
  • Use fermented chutneys as a relish.
  • Drink kombucha tea.
  • Eat kimchi.

What Is Kombucha Tea?

One of the latest biocultures to join the SCOBY category (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), kombucha is a fermented tea (less than 0.5% alcohol) whose earliest entry into the lexicon is 1995 but some references to the drink itself date as far back as China’s Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

Lab studies published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate that the antioxidants present in kombucha may help with healing gastric ulcers.

Other studies conducted in Tunisia and at the University of Washington conclude that kombucha may also help with controlling hypoglycemia in diabetics. The research also showed that kombucha delayed absorption of LDL (lousy) cholesterol while increasing HDL (healthy) cholesterol significantly.

What is Kimchi?

Kimchi is a spicy pickled sauerkraut popular in Asia. It's one of the best food sources of probiotics, which are healthy microflora that supports overall health.

Kimchi is also a great source of beta carotene, calcium, iron, and vitamins.

Read More About Fermentation

Learn more about the benefits of eating fermented foods in The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

Click to See Our Sources

"Fermented Foods Bubble with Healthful Benefits" by Casey Seidenberg,, 11/19/12

"Fermenting Foods for Flavor, Fun, and Nutrition" by Paulette Millis,, 3/15/11

“Comparative Healing Property of Kombucha Tea and Black Tea Against . . . Gastric Ulceration in Mice . . .” by D. Baneriee et al., Food Funct, 12/10

“Hypoglycemic and Antilipidemic Properites of Kombucha Tea in Alloxan-induced Diabetic Rats” by A. Aloulou et al., BMC Complement Altern Med, 5/12

"Top Ten Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet,", 6/17/13

Start Fermenting with These Recipes

Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stronger ($21.95, Page Street Publishing, 2017) shows readers how to preserve food using traditional fermentation techniques, often without refrigeration.

An alternative to canning and freezing, traditionally fermented foods do not require modern technology to preserve. You can learn:

  • Shannon’s authentic preservation technique, which she depends on daily to put food on the table, so you know they work.
  • More about how fermented foods work, how to make them, and how to use them in recipes.

Here are two of her favorites!