5 Reasons Why You Should Incorporate Fermented Foods into Your Daily Diet  


In the past month or two I wrote a blog titled, 3 Reasons Why Gardeners Have Better Gut Microbiomes, which got bit more immediate attraction than most of the other blogs I post on my website. I believe that this is due to the mystery which surrounds microorganisms and their interaction within the human body as Western culture is really focused on cleanliness and overemphasizes the need for sanitation, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.

I don’t believe that I specified the reasoning behind why this topic is so important to me in my previous blog, but I will elaborate further on this post. As a child I was raised in a relatively clean environment, free from pet dander, smoke, and other environmental irritants (that I know of) as I was born with asthma and was frequently ill during my childhood. My mother was not the cook that she is now and would feed me highly processed meals throughout my childhood. Fast forward to my teen years, I was active running track and playing soccer for my high school and in the best cardiovascular shape of my life. My diet was still poor as I relied on heavily processed/sugary breakfasts and low fiber meals to get me through the days.

Despite being in the best shape of my life (cardiovascular wise), my body was still in poor condition due to my dietary choices/options. During the Christmas break of my sophomore year of high school I remember indulging myself on cookies, candy, pies, cheeses, and salty red meat products (as is normal for most holiday traditions here in the US). Throw in a sedentary lifestyle due to the cold weather and my teenage habits of playing video games with friends in my free time, this perfect storm of poor choices started slowing things down in my digestive track, leading to some inevitable issues. I eventually developed a sharp pain around my belly button which moved to the bottom right section of my torso after a few days. I lost my appetite and would vomit if I tried to eat any food besides water.

I remember waking up in pain during the middle of the night because of the sharpness of the pain. The pain progressed to the point of needing to go to the emergency room where they took a scan of my body cavity and signed me up for surgery that night.

Fast forward nine years later, now there is more compelling evidence suggesting that the appendix is not a useless/vestigial pouch leftover from evolution. It actually plays an important role in maintaining our immune system and housing beneficial bacteria during times of infection. This has caused some doctors to recommend using a dose of antibiotics or even probiotics to treat acute appendicitis rather than jumping straight to surgery.

To this day I hold some degree of guilt when I reflect on this event in my life or see the scar tissue from the surgery.  I wish I could go back and tell myself and my family to make better dietary choices to prevent the event from happening. Many of us here in the United States lack a true understanding of the significance in regards to a correlation between our gut/dietary health and other health issues such as allergies or even asthma. 

Due to my obsessive research about the purpose of the appendix as I got older, I recall making various decisions such as going vegetarian for a year in college to increase my dietary fiber intake to help bolster my microbiome, though I ran into a question that I couldn’t answer which was, “what is the benefit of this if you are eating relatively sterile food in a relatively sterile environment?”, you are introducing little beneficial bacteria to your system if eating food bought from the store. This is where lifestyle and fermentation come into play.

Sure you can go buy any combination of probiotics, but what is the incentive of eating expensive pills full of bacteria if you aren’t eating them with the food they need to survive both the harsh conditions of the stomach and within the gut? Fermented foods fill this gap and offer a diverse range of benefits that are just now being recognized in scientific literature. This is why I will showcase the 5 reasons why you should incorporate fermented foods into your daily diet as there is evidence that they increase the diversity of the average microbiome, reduce risk of colon cancer (which is increasing in younger ages now), improve immune function, reduce inflammation, and expose you to a diverse array of foods and cultures from around the globe.

1. A More Diverse Microbiome

As I mentioned above, fermented foods introduce microbial life into your digestive track. For those who do not know, fermented foods rely on bacteria or yeast to convert carbohydrates into alcohol or an organic acid within anaerobic conditions. Since the microbes are never removed from the food and are actually what creates the distinct flavor of many fermented foods, the food is innately a probiotic. Fermented foods have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. It would be ridiculous to insist that there are no negative impacts from the removal of these foods from our modern diets.

There have been numerous studies showing the differences in gut diversity when comparing groups who eat fermented foods and those who do not. Often, diversity is measured/compared using three variables, alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha diversity is associated with the number of taxa (group in biological ranking) or relative evenness of taxa, beta diversity is associated with the variability of taxa composition, and gamma being the overall total observed richness.  

There have been studies comparing the alpha diversity of groups who ate fermented foods and groups who only ate a high fiber diet. The study described in the Natasha Leeuwendaal, (et, al.) journal article titled , Fermented Foods, Health, and the Gut Microbiome, showed an increase in observed alpha diversity within the groups that ate fermented foods than those who didn’t. This was even continued after the amount of fermented food(s) consumed decreased, showing the long term impact of the foods on the gut microbiome overtime.

2. Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer

With this higher diversity of bacteria in the gut there are many different benefits correlated with this observation. It is wise to remind readers now that correlation does not always equal causation. Studies are still being done and a lot of this information is still new. That being said, I don’t want to take away from the evidence presented in these papers/journals as it makes sense logically if you try and understand how our ancestors were living and the incline of disease/GI issues in the modern world.

For those who are unaware, there has been an increase in colorectal cancer among young adults (55 and younger) and scientists do not know what the main cause of this trend is. Many speculate that it is due to things such as obesity, sedentary lifestyles, excess dietary sugar consumption, alcohol consumption, etc. The most likely answer is that it is a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors.

The consumption of kimchi (a fermented Chinese cabbage dish) has been shown to help prevent cancer from developing in the stomach and intestinal tract. This is due to the compounds contained within kimchi and some of the probiotics/lactic acid which it presents. Obviously kimchi isn’t the only fermented food that helps prevent cancer. There are other studies involving kefir (a fermented drink made with milk and kefir grains) that show similar results in regards to preventing colon cancer.  

3. Better Immune Function

The incentive to cultivate a more diverse gut does not stop at a reduced risk of various cancers. It has been shown that gut health/diversity is associated with overall immune function. There is an interesting study where mice were given a few strains of bacteria commonly found in a fermented food. The introduction of the bacteria species to their system was shown to actually improve their immune response to an influenza strain when compared to the control population. This lead scientists to observe the link and actually consider using probiotics to help fight off future virus epidemics after reflecting on the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on the world.

It is insane for me to try and wrap my head around the idea that we as humans not only rely on our physical environment to help keep us safe and healthy, but we must also nurture our internal ecosystem to help keep our body running at its best over time. I often speculate/question if the major roots of our health issues today are correlated with our broken relationship with the Earth and our food, leading to a broken relationship within us.

4. Reduced Inflammation

Despite the increase in immune function there seems to be no hyperactivity associated with this attribute that could lead to an immune system that attacks itself. Actually, the increased diversity of the gut is actually associated with a minimized inflammation response within the gut. Indicating that fermented foods could be beneficial for people who struggle with autoimmune diseases and also help those who struggle with things with acid reflux, IBS, and even Crohn’s disease.

If you would like to read more about how increased gut diversity can decrease inflammatory responses I encourage you to check out some of the previously mentioned hyperlinks or do a bit of research on your own as there seems to be a good chunk of information about the subject online.

5. Exposure to More Food and Culture

After discussing the numerous health benefits associated with fermented food given the recent studies, I wanted to try and offer another more obvious reason why you should incorporate fermented foods into your daily diet. That being due to the immense diversity of dishes, drinks, and cultures that have used fermented foods to increase their quality of life and the nutrition that they were able to obtain. I will also note that fermenting foods increases the shelf life of many foods at room temperature, making it ideal for people living without the conveniences of the modern world.

I recently bought a book titled, The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz which opened my eyes to the various foods that you could ferment and the drinks you could make at home. Though the book itself is not really a traditionally recipe book, it does offer some guidance in the typically processes required to produce a fermented product. He makes some recommendations to what tools/items would be beneficial/needed and why, but I haven’t really taken the time to read through the entire book yet to give a full review.


Fermented foods offer a broad array of incentives to improve your gut health as well as your quality of life. Not only can it greatly impact your own health/nutrition, but it also allows one to eat unique foods and expand their world view. I believe that the closer we are to emulating a more natural diet, similar to that our ancestors were eating will we begin to lead a better quality of life. I am not saying that without the addition of fermented foods to your diet that this is impossible, but that with the addition you end up filling in gaps where current diet trends/lifestyles seem to fall short.

I hope you learned something interesting with the information provided and consider making a change in your diet. Fermenting foods seems scary and difficult buy I can assure you that with a bit or research and you will find that a majority of the dishes require little skill/effort to make at home. As always, thanks for reading!

Work Cited

Leeuwendaal, Natasha K et al. “Fermented Foods, Health and the Gut Microbiome.” Nutrients vol. 14,7 1527. 6 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14071527

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