Winter is traditionally a time to enjoy the foods that were harvested in the fall and preserved until the spring! Depending on the type and length of the preservation process (aging, pickling, canning, curing, etc.), different levels of fermentation will occur.

This is a healthy, natural process that protects food from spoiling and generates colonies of beneficial bacteria which we then consume when we eat the food.

What’s in Season for February: Fermented Foods and Probiotics

What foods are probiotics?

Popular fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, aged cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled veggies, tofu/tempeh, miso, pickles, beer, and wine. Soy sauce, ketchup, sourdough bread, coffee, tea, and kombucha are also products that include a period of fermentation!

fermented foods

Are probiotics good for us?

Probiotic foods are being examined for their potential role in helping us build a healthy, flourishing microbiome that supports digestive health and potentially minimizes risks of other chronic diseases. Right now, scientific evidence supports that there is a difference between the microbiomes of people who include a lot of plants in their diet, versus the microbiomes of people who include a lot of “Western-style” foods (refined grains, red meat, processed foods, etc.) and don’t eat as many plant-based foods. What we don’t know yet is whether the differences are associated with potential health risks and whether including more probiotics will benefit our microbiome and minimize health risks.

Should I be taking probiotic supplements?

As of now, there is not enough scientific data to suggest whether probiotic supplementation is beneficial to our microbiome in a way that is significant or meaningful. Nutrition supplements are also very poorly regulated, and therefore fall victim to false health claims or inaccurate reporting of what the label states versus what is actually in the supplement. Look for your supplement to be certified with a seal from an independent third party verifier such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) to ensure that you are getting what is stated on the packaging. Even so – are you wasting your money? Right now, we don’t know for certain.

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