There’s a huge amount of misinformation online about gut health, from fad diets to medical myths. But one trend that is proving particularly insistent is around using fermented food to boost gut health. Food trade analysts Upserve traced the roots of this to 2018, when restaurants in the US saw a rise of 149% in foods like kimchi and koji being ordered.
We sit down with our nutritional specialist, Dr Rizwan Khan, for his take on the subject.
There’s a huge amount online about the benefits for gut health of fermented foods. What’s the actual science behind that?
Currently, the research on the beneficial health effects of fermentation on humans is limited. Some studies have shown benefits from consumption of kefir, kimchi, yoghurt and other fermented dairy foods, although no conclusions can be drawn as the scientific evidence is not strong enough at present. More studies are underway and hopefully we can have some stronger evidence in the future.
If people are going to introduce these to their diet, how should they do it, and what would you recommend they start with?
Fermented foods can easily be incorporated as part of a healthy balanced diet. However, there should be caution applied to some types of fermented foods that may have a high salt content such as kimchi or sauerkraut. I normally enjoy coconut yoghurt with an assortment of different berries as a snack or part of my breakfast. Ready-made drinks such as kombucha are easily purchased from supermarkets. I would just be careful that the products have not been heavily processed with lots of added sugar or preservatives.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t be consuming fermented foods or is there any risk attached to them?
If you are planning to make fermented foods at home, make sure you practice good food hygiene and follow the correct guidance for that type of ferment! I think making fermented foods at home can be extremely creative and fun which in turn, improves our relationship with food. This is especially the case with children and can be a fun activity to organise with them.
How can (med)24 help if someone wants to know more about this subject?
I’m the in-house nutritional medicine doctor at (med)24 so anyone can come in to talk to me about anything nutritionally related.
For any diet-related queries, contact Dr Khan and his team on +44 (0)20 3873 6322