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Boosting digestion with fermented foods

Our guide to six popular fermented foods that are thought to give your body a good dose of gut-healthy bacteria and improve your digestive health.

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What are fermented foods?

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Fermented foods seem to be the latest health trend, but there is actually nothing new about the practice of fermenting food and drink. Long before refrigerators were on the scene fermentation was used to preserve foods, with bacteria breaking down sugars and starches and turning them into natural preservatives. It’s this process that also gives fermented foods that distinctive tangy flavour. 

However it is their health benefits that make fermented foods so popular today. Fermented foods are naturally rich in probiotics- so-called ‘good bacteria' which are thought to help support your digestive health, boost immunity and help you maintain a healthy weight. Fermenting certain foods also helps make the vitamins and minerals they contain easier for our bodies to absorb. 

So while there’s still so much we have yet to learn about the gut, it certainly seems that eating fermented foods as part of a balanced diet has lots of health benefits. Here are six health-boosting fermented foods that are easy to incorporate in your everyday diet- and most of them are easy to make yourself from scratch, too. Please note that this guide is for lifestyle information only. If you have any concerns about your health you should always seek advice from your doctor or a medical professional.

Sauerkraut

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A fermented food made with minimal ingredients- just shredded raw cabbage and salt, and even less effort, sauerkraut is an incredibly versatile condiment bursting with probiotics, vitamins, minerals and fibre. With a wonderfully crunchy texture and tangy flavour it makes for a delicious side dish, sandwich filling or hot dog topping. Or try combining it with dried mushrooms to make the filling for these traditional Polish dumplings.  

By adding pineapple and turmeric, this recipe gives sauerkraut a zingy twist that is guaranteed to elevate any dish- while your Multipro food processor allows you to shred, chop and grate the ingredients in no time at all. 

Kimchi

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Kimchi is a popular Korean dish traditionally made from fermented cabbage and spices, and often a variety of other vegetables such as radishes, onions or carrots. Super versatile and full of spicy flavour, it works well as a side dish, topping or condiment and is great to cook up in batches as it will keep for several months in the fridge. 

Like other fermented foods, kimchi is thought to help boost the levels of good bacteria in the gut, and so improve your digestive health. Eating kimchi may also help your body regulate blood sugar levels, improve your heart health and reduce inflammation.

We love this kale kimchi recipe, which swaps out cabbage for cavolo nero for an extra crunchy texture, and is so quick to prepare using your Multipro food processor.   

Miso

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A potent Japanese paste made from fermented soybeans, miso is an integral ingredient in Asian cooking, typically added to soups, broths, dressings, stir frys and marinades. It packs a mighty flavour punch, as well as being a rich source of protein and  gut-boosting bacteria. It also contains a range of essential vitamins and minerals, including zinc, folic acid and manganese. 

There are so many ways to use miso to add something extra to your dishes, and because a little really does go a long way a batch will last and last. In this delicious vegan donburi bowl recipe you make a rich miso marinade using your Triblade, which you use to glaze the aubergine during roasting, while white miso paste is added to this ramen noodles with prawns recipe for an umami boost. 

Kefir

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A fermented milk drink with a slightly tangy fizz, kefir is similar to yoghurt but with a thinner consistency. It’s bursting with calcium and probiotics, and because the fermentation process breaks down lactose, it can also be easier to digest for people who are lactose intolerant. 

You can enjoy kefir on its own, as a milk substitute or use it to make smoothies, drinks and desserts. These refreshing  strawberry and kefir popsicles are super simple to make and will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. 

Sourdough

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Sourdough is a leavened bread which is made using a fermented starter rather than commercial yeast. So not only does this deliciously chewy bread taste great toasted, served with avocado and eggs for brunch or simply slathered in salted butter, it is actually thought to be healthier for you, too. The fermentation process means sourdough is easier for the body to digest than other breads and also contains less gluten, while the higher fibre content means it is a good choice for people who need to keep an eye on their blood sugar levels.  

Making your own sourdough starter is really easy, but as with other fermented foods, requires a bit of time and patience. It is made from a mixture of flour and water. Once combined the mixture will begin to  ferment and cultivate the natural yeasts needed to make your sourdough loaf rise. It will need to be fed over the course of several days, until the point when it has doubled in size and is ready to use. This recipe will guide you step by step through making a deliciously chewy sourdough loaf using your starter and your stand mixer.