Do fermented foods really promote a healthy gut?

From kombucha to kimchi, fermented foods are gaining popularity as “functional foods” loaded with gut-friendly probiotics. So what do we know about fermented foods and gut health?

A BBC News feature reports that the tradition of fermented foods popular in Asian diets appears to lead to better gut health.

In the same report, Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College, suggests that probiotics may increase the production of short-chain fatty acids, which have immune-boosting properties. He also implies that more research is needed to fully understand how fermented foods impact gut health. But for some nutritionists, the connection is clear. 

“Research indicates that fermented foods support intestinal health,” says Jessica Tong, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian and nutrition consultant. “Fermented foods help maintain a healthy balance of gut flora by restoring the ‘good’ bacteria in our digestive tracts,” she tells Wellness Matters.

Gut bacteria ferments dietary fibre into short-chain fatty acids, and is known for its synthesizing and metabolizing properties.

Tong's recommended fermented foods include probiotic yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, natto and kombucha. When it comes to health, go with your gut. Just be mindful of salt and sugar content when choosing fermented foods.