Research has consistently shown that fermented foods and drinks can help improve your digestion and overall health. They contain bacteria that prevent and treat an array of digestive problems. Fermented foods and drinks are also delicious and convenient.

Fermentation involves the addition of yeast and bacteria to fresh food to break down sugars. This process is important for the preservation of food. Eating them also increases the number of healthy bacteria in your gut. The healthy bacteria are also called probiotics and have been associated with several health benefits, including improved immunity, better digestion, and increased weight loss. This article discusses some foods and drinks you can include in your diet for improved digestion and health.

1.      Kefir

Kefir is a fermented dairy product. It is made by adding kefir grains to milk. Kefir grains are yeast and different active bacteria. Adding them to milk gives it a thick consistency and tangy flavor. The taste is almost close to that of yogurt. In fact, some people think of it to be yogurt. Studies suggest that consuming kefir may benefit your health in various ways, including improved digestion, reduced inflammation, and improved bone health.

Kefir may help people with lactose intolerance digest lactose. This condition is usually due to inability to digest sugars in milk and dairy products. Its common symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and cramping. Kefir does not only help improve digestion of lactose; its lactose content is less than that of milk. Lactose is reduced during fermentation when the bacteria in kefir grains break it down. Kefir has also been shown to reduce inflammatory markers involved in the development of heart disease and cancer, among other chronic illnesses. Lastly, kefir may increase mineral density in bones, thus reducing the risk of porosity and weakness of bones as seen in osteoporosis.

2.      Tempeh

Tempeh is a type of fermented soybeans and have been designed into compact cake. It has long been used as a substitute for meat. It can be prepared in various ways, such as steaming, sautéing, or baking. Apart from increasing the number of probiotics in your gut, tempeh also provides beneficial nutrients that may improve your health. Research has shown that soybeans can help reduce certain predisposing factors to heart disease. For example, eating soybeans frequently can reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol by up to 3.2% and reduce total cholesterol by up to 2.8%. Other studies have also shown that tempeh contains powerful plant compounds which can act as antioxidants. Getting enough antioxidants from food have been associated with reduced accumulation of free radicals – harmful molecules that cause oxidative stress and chronic diseases.

3.      Natto

Natto is a popular probiotic in many Japanese cuisines. It is also made from fermented soybeans just like tempeh. However, unlike the chewy texture of tempeh, natto tends to be slippery with a very strong flavor. It is high in fiber, 100 g providing 5.4 g. Fiber is celebrated for its support of the digestive health. Fiber escapes digestion, and add bulk to stool. This help to promote bowel regularity and prevent and treat constipation. Natto is also an excellent source of vitamin K, which is important for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and improves bone health. Studies indicate that natto is associated with prevention of bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women. In addition to strengthening bones, natto contains an enzyme called nattokinase, which is produced during the fermentation process. Studies suggest that supplementing with nattokinase may help prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure both for diastolic and systolic.

4.      Kombucha

Kombucha is made by fermenting tea and has a tart flavor. Made from either black or green tea, kombucha may help promote your health in several ways. For example, liver toxicity and damage that’s often caused by ingestion of toxic chemicals, can be prevented by drinking kombucha. Researchers have also found that kombucha has anti-cancer properties, which may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate apoptosis – programmed death of cancer cells. It is also speculated that drinking kombucha may help regulate blood sugar, reduce triglycerides, and LDL “bad” cholesterol.

5.      Miso

Miso is a type of fermented soybeans mostly used as a seasoning in Japanese cuisine. It is made by adding a fungus called koji and salt to soybeans. It can be served for breakfast in miso soup. Several health benefits are linked to the consumption of miso. First, miso soup is said to benefit women by reducing the risk of breast cancer and stroke. Studies indicate that miso may also help regulate blood pressure and support heart health. However, some studies in Japan have associated too much consumption of miso soup to increased risk of cancer of the stomach. These studies only focused on better health and didn’t take into consideration some factors. It is therefore, important to carry out more studies on miso.

6.      Kimchi

Kimchi is popularly used as a side dish in Korea. It is made by fermenting many varieties of cabbage, including radishes. Consumption of kimchi is tied to numerous health benefits. It has been found to be much effective at reducing cholesterol and insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone responsible for the storage of glucose in tissues from the bloodstream. When insulin levels constantly remain high in the blood for a long time, your body cells fail to respond to its signals, leading to high sugars in blood and insulin resistance. Interestingly, consuming kimchi can help reduce insulin resistance, increase insulin sensitivity, reduce blood pressure, and body weight in people living with diabetes. Plus, frequent intake of kimchi can reduce total blood cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol.

7.      Sauerkraut

It is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to shredded cabbage. It is popularly used as a spice, with low calories and high vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. It is also a great source of antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are associated with improved eye health and cancer prevention.


Fermented foods and drinks can help improve and promote your health in various ways. These foods contain healthy gut bacteria, fiber, minerals and vitamins, and potent antioxidants. They include kimchi, kefir, and natto.


We would like to thank the below contributors who have helped us to write this article:

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Nataly Komova

Nutritionist. Bluffton University, MS

In today's world, people's eating and exercise patterns have changed, and it is often lifestyle that is the cause of many diet-related illnesses. I believe that each of us is unique – what works for one does not help another. What is more, it can even be harmful. I am interested in food psychology, which studies a person's relationship with their body and food, explains our choices and desires for specific products, the difficulty of maintaining optimal body weight, as well as the influence of various internal and external factors on appetite. I'm also an avid vintage car collector, and currently, I'm working on my 1993 W124 Mercedes. You may have stumbled upon articles I have been featured in, for example, in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Grazia, Women's Health, The Guardian, and others.

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