Everyone knows there are only five basic food groups, right? Wrong. Along with fruits, vegetables and legumes/beans, grains, protein, and dairy and/or alternatives, there's one often forgotten food group that's extremely beneficial to your overall well being: fermented foods

What Are Fermented Foods?

juice, jam, condiment
Jessica Ciccarella

Fermented foods are whole, plant-based foods that undergo an anaerobic process called fermentation where microorganisms (good bacteria) are fed sugar in order to be converted into lactic acid. Not only is fermentation a great way to preserve food, but these foods become rich in probiotics.

Health Benefits

honey, pickled cucumber, marinated herring, salt, vinegar, vegetable, pickle
Jessica Ciccarella

Probiotics have been used in treating cancer, Crohn's disease, inadequate lactose digestion, hepatic diseases, and many other illnesses. They reduce blood pressure, improve digestive health, and increase your overall immune system. Additionally, fermenting foods increases the nutritional value by enhancing the nutrient absorption of these foods.

Must-Try Fermented Foods

sweet, coffee, milk, candy, chocolate
Jessica Ciccarella

Some sources of fermented foods include sourdough bread, coconut yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi—all of which I will be trying in the near future. Seriously, these foods are awesome. Run to your local supermarket or health food store and pick up a variety of these tasty superfoods today. I find the majority of my favorite products in the Nature’s Promise section of Stop and Shop.

Looking for a DIY? Try making some of these probiotic powerhouses from scratch. There are loads of videos and articles online that explain how to naturally ferment your own foods. I’m currently brewing my own fermented ginger lemonade. By doing so, I'm not only saving money, but I'm concocting the purest and most natural source of probiotics with my own two hands rather than a machine in a factory. Also check out the “Queen of Fermentation,” April Danann, an Irish woman who created her own West Cork “Mother” culture in her backyard to start fermenting apple cider vinegar.

#SpoonTip: My favorite fermented foods are tempeh, pickles, miso paste, and NuGo Free granola bars. My favorite fermented drinks are kombucha, sparkling probiotic drinks, green tea kombucha, fermented ginger lemonade, and apple cider vinegar.

Fermented Food Substitution Ideas

chocolate, candy
Jessica Ciccarella

Feel like you're coming down with a cold? Try steeping yourself a large mug of green tea kombucha instead of chugging orange juice (I think we’ve all been guilty of this). I’ve been actively incorporating fermented foods into my daily diet and I haven’t been sick this flu season.

I've also tried swapping tempeh for meat in a meal, making miso soup on a cold day, snacking on a NuGo Free granola bar between classes and sipping some kombucha instead of a soda at lunch. The ideas are limitless. I feel so healthy and strong and am really enjoying discovering and trying all these new foods. I’m definitely a fan of forgotten fermented foods.