Fermented food is a term thrown around all the time, but what exactly is it?

In short, fermented foods are foods that are exposed to certain bacteria, which leads to the breakdown of carbohydrates and the development of beneficial microorganisms in the food. Join the fermented foods movement and enjoy these benefits:

Healthier gut

After fermentation, foods contain lots of "friendly" bacteria, also known as probiotics, which maintain the proper balance of bacteria in the gut. Studies indicate that preserving a healthy gut can lower the risk for colon cancer. Whether it’s Greek or regular, yogurt is an easily accessible fermented food to add to your diet. Yogurts boasting a “Live and Active Cultures” seal contain 100 million probiotic cultures per gram. Choose a low-sugar yogurt, like plain Greek yogurt; 10g of sugar per 6-ounce serving should be your limit.

Weight loss

Bacteria regulate the inflammatory response in your body. By eating fermented foods, you can reduce low-grade inflammation in the body which may be preventing you from losing weight. Further, studies show that restoring the gut to a healthy state aids in maintaining a healthy weight, as gut microbes influence the body’s insulin resistance and deposition of excess calories in fat stores.

Improved digestion

The healthy bacteria in fermented food produces enzymes that break down food, making the nutrients more easily accessible for the body, and keeping the food moving along nicely. In particular, consuming fermented vegetables can have twice the benefits since they are often a good source of fiber, which aids in sustaining a healthy gut microbiome as well. Have low-sodium sauerkraut or pickles on hand and top your sandwiches or salads with this good-for-you flavor punch.

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Immune system boost

Health promoting probiotics help preserve a healthy mucosal lining in your digestive tract that serves as a physical barrier for harmful substance and aids in the production of antibodies which fight infections. Tempeh, a popular vegetarian protein source made from fermented soybeans, is a great source of such probiotics. One half cup of tempeh contains 160 calories and 16g of protein. Steamed, blackened, or crumbled onto a soup or salad, these are all great ways to incorporate this protein powerhouse into your meals. You can find tempeh at wholefoods or other specialty markets.


With some conscious effort, it is possible to reduce the amount of toxins that enter our bodies. But complete evasion of toxins is rare. Consuming fermented foods is a proactive means of fighting toxins in the body, as they possess the unique ability to degrade or destroy toxins and remove them from the body. For the more adventurous, try drinking kombucha. A fermented, tangy and fizzy tea, kombucha can be found in health food stores or even in some local groceries, and it comes in a variety of unique flavors.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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