The Top 4 Benefits of Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are very common in cuisines of all cultures. Think about yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso. Fermentation is a natural process performed by bacteria and yeast. Fermenting foods can give them added health benefits. Let’s take a look at some of these and which foods can help!


1.  Food Preservation

One of the most important benefits of fermented foods is their increased shelf life. “Good” bacteria and yeast have partially digested fermented foods. During this process, sugars and starches are converted to alcohols or acids. The reduction in sugar content makes it less likely for harmful bacteria or mold to grow on the food.

Ancient cultures did not have access to food storage techniques such as refrigeration or freezing. Thus, they relied on fermentation and seasoning to increase the shelf life of food.

Today, we don’t need to worry much about food spoiling. But it’s always nice to have foods that last a little longer. Meaning, we create less food waste. And, as a bonus, many people enjoy the novel flavors introduced during the fermentation process!


2.  Inclusion of Probiotics

Much has been said about probiotics in recent popular health publications. In case you don’t know, probiotics are live microorganisms. That is, bacteria and yeast. The “pro” means “good,” meaning they do not cause foodborne illnesses.

Rather, they are thought to boost digestive health. The digestive tract contains numerous bacteria that aid in digestion. The so-called gut microbiome contains more bacterial cells than human cells!

Probiotics in fermented foods are thought to contribute to the overall health of the gut microbiome. These foods provide good bacteria that help regulate the digestive tract. Purported benefits include better absorption of nutrients, more regularity in the digestive tract and bowel movements, improved heart health, improved immune function, and even protection against cancer!1

Scientific studies have shown some of these benefits, but beware of marketing! Some companies try to oversell the benefits, and scientists are only beginning to investigate. Only time will tell the true benefits of probiotics in fermented foods.


3.  Antioxidant Boost

Aside from probiotics, fermented foods often contain higher levels of antioxidants. This can vary from each food source. For example, soybeans are known to contain phenolic compounds, a type of antioxidant. When fermented, the number of phenolic compounds increases.2

Furthermore, another type of antioxidant called a flavonoid is made more bioavailable. Thus, these antioxidants are more readily available for use by our bodies!

Antioxidants have many benefits.3 They can help improve the immune system and slow down visible signs of aging. They can help fight against and prevent cancers. They improve the quality of our skin.


4.  Weight Loss

Weight is a primary health concern for many Americans. With high-fat and high-sugar diets running rampant, obesity is now considered an epidemic. Diet and exercise are cited as the number one intervention to help people lose weight and prevent or alleviate heart disease symptoms and diabetes.

Fermented foods can help here, too. Scientists examined the role of fermented foods in overweight mice. Mice eating a fermented mixture of the same food lost weight!3 In addition, signs of liver disease disappeared.

Although this particular study looked at rodents, it’s not uncommon for results to be similar in people. More evidence is needed, but this points to a very strong indication that eating fermented foods can aid in weight loss.

Of course, balancing diet (including total caloric consumption) and exercise is important. Adding some fermented foods to your diet can help.


Other Benefits

Numerous studies have been done on fermented foods. Benefits can range from lower levels of inflammation to reduced risk of cancer.4 It’s important to use judgment when evaluating the evidence. Some studies are for specific foods. Some studies may only provide preliminary evidence, such as the study mentioned above about rodents.

Overwhelmingly, however, scientists have shown that fermented foods are helpful for overall health. More evidence is needed to determine the exact strength of the benefit and how fermented foods help. Until then, feel free to enjoy your kimchi, knowing it’s helping you live longer and better!


1.     Can gut bacteria improve your health? Harvard Health Publishing.,known%20as%20the%20gut%20microbiota. Accessed 12/10/2020.

2.     Suh DH, Jung EH, Park HM. Comparison of Metabolites Variation and Antiobesity Effects of Fermented versus Nonfermented Mixtures of Cudrania tricuspidata, Lonicera caerulea, and Soybean According to Fermentation In Vitro and In Vivo. PLoS One. 2016. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149022.

3.     Antioxidants: In depth. National Institutes of Health. Accessed 12/10/2020.

4.     Fermented foods: The latest trend. Heart Foundation. Accessed 12/10/2020.

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