Why the fuss over fermented foods?

By Ashley Ng (Dietitian)


Move over kale because kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut have taken over the health food spotlight (for now)! Kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut are popular fermented foods that have been around for centuries but recently they’ve exploded onto the health food scene for their probiotic properties.

Probiotics are live mirco-organisms that promote certain health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. The research on probiotics has been very mixed. Currently, there is good evidence to suggest that probiotics are effective in managing diarrhoea associated with antibiotics as well as reducing and improving Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Beyond that, the science and research is still growing with regards to the benefits of probiotics.

So what are kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut and are they any good for us?


Originating from China, kombucha is essentially fermented fizzy tea, made using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The taste of kombucha varies on the amount of brewing time it has had and could range from mild to a strong vinegar flavour. Kombucha’s selling point is it’s low price but also the endless health claims associated with it. To date, there have been no human clinical trials published on the health benefits of kombucha.


A common household staple food in European countries, sauerkraut is finely cut fermented cabbage in brine. Sauerkraut can be pickled together with other ingredients such as apples or cranberries and can be served as a cold or warm side dish. As sauerkraut is made from cabbage, it is high in fibre, which is beneficial for digestive health. Additionally, if made from unpasteurised, raw cabbage, there would be some probiotic effect.


Korea’s national dish, kimchi typically features cabbage, spices, garlic, ginger and fish sauce. In fact, there are at least over 180 varieties of kimchi determined by its main ingredient, the region it came from and the season. As it’s made predominantly from vegetables, kimchi is high in fibre and low in calories. Emerging research has also found that kimchi may have cholesterol-lowering properties and help in managing blood glucose levels in healthy adults. Kimchi makes for a fantastic side dish and is easy to make at home.


Want to make your own kimchi? Follow the link:  http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/40236/quick+kimchi+pickled+cabbage+with+garlic+and+chilli

The Verdict

Although research is currently still expanding around the benefits of fermented foods, there is certainly no harm in introducing it as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

What do you think? Have you had success with fermented foods? Let us know below.


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