Getting Started With Fermented Foods Part 1: Buying Guide

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If you want to start including fermented foods in your diet, there are 3 ways you can go about it:

You can:

  1. Buy them

  2. Use a starter culture

  3. Make them from scratch

Or you can do a combination of them all.

In the next 3 posts I’m going to walk you through the 3 options, so you can choose which works best for you.


Buying Ferments

If you aren’t feeling super confident to make your own ferments, then your next best option is to buy them ready made. This is a great way to get a taste for what you and your family like before you learn how to make them yourself.

Even if you do make all your own ferments, store bought versions are great to try for inspiration.

Unfortunately a lot of ferments you see on the shelf are mass produced and don't contain the benefits traditional ferments do . The ferments you want to eat are the ones fermented with traditional techniques. These are good for your guts and full of beneficial bacteria, vitamins and minerals.

The best place to look for these is at your local health food store in the fridge section.

Here’s a run down on what to look out for when buying your next ferment:

(Please note I am not affiliated with any brands mentioned in this post. These are products that I personally use and recommend).


Cultured Vegetables (Sauerkraut and Fermented Whole Vegetables)

  • Always choose cultured vegetables from the fridge section. These ones are full of live bacteria (like a probiotic) that are good for our guts. Steer clear from your supermarket ones on the shelf. These have been pastuerised (heated) which kills all the beneficial bacteria.

  • The only ingredients on the label should be vegetables/herb/spices and salt - no sugar or vinegar.  

  • Some brands add starter cultures for consistency in their products and this is normal. 

  • My favourites: Nourishing Wholefoods, Gutsy Ferments, Lewis & Son, and Peace Love and Vegetables


Kombucha/Kefir

  • Always choose a kefir or kombucha from the fridge section (the ones on the shelf have been pastuerised which kills all the beneficial bacteria). 

  • The only ingredients on the label should be tea, sugar, water, fruit/roots/spices to flavour and kombucha/kefir culture.

  • Sugar is a normal ingredient needed for the fermentation process. It provides a fuel source for the culture to convert it to beneficial bacteria.   

  • My favourites: Buchi Kombucha, Nourishing Wholefoods and Remedy.


Yoghurt (Coconut or Dairy)

  • Choose a plain variety with no added sugar.

  • The only ingredients on the label should be milk and live cultures (except for coconut yoghurt which usually contains tapioca starch to thicken and a natural sweetener).

  • The more variety of live cultures listed the better. Lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus bulgaricus, bifidus and streptococcus thermophilus are the most common.

  • Choose organic when possible to ensure you are getting yoghurt from happy, healthy cows (or coconuts). 

  • My favourites:  Coconut - Born Cultured or Coyo, Dairy - Barambah and Jalna.


Other ferments made with traditional techniques

  • Miso - look in the fridge section of your health food store. The only ingredients on the label should be rice, soy beans, salt, koji starter, and perhaps other grains or vegetables depending on the variety. Avoid any miso paste containing preservatives, additives or sugar. These have most likely been pasteurised which destroys all the beneficial bacteria. My favourite brand is Meru Miso.

  • Cultured dips/vegan cheeses - Look for these in the fridge section of your health food store. Botanical Cuisine make the most delicious variety of vegan cheeses and cultured dips. Other great brands to look out for are Peace Love and Vegetables and Nutty Bay.


The best place to buy them

  • Farmers markets - This is the best place to get your hands on locally produced ferments and speak directly to the producer.  

  • Health food stores - Check the fridge section for what's on offer, look for a locally produced product or ask staff for their recommendations.


Where to from here?

Once you find a favourite ferment (or two), that you and your family love, the next step is to learn to make it yourself.

In the next 2 posts I’ll run you through the options for making your own ferments.

5 Things I'm Doing For My Gut Health This Pregnancy

I first became interested in gut health before getting pregnant with Anjali. As soon as I learnt that a babies gut health is influenced by their mothers I wanted to do everything I could to ensure my gut was in the best shape it could be. This is what started my journey into health and led me to fermented foods.

Now that I've been on this journey for the last few years I feel like my gut is in pretty good shape but being pregnant again I want to ensure my gut is the healthiest it can be so I can pass on a good balance of microbes to the new baby. 

These are the 5 things I'm doing specifically for my gut health this pregnancy: 

1. Eating fermented foods

Fermented foods have been a regular part of my diet since my first pregnancy 3 years ago. I try to include something fermented at every meal whether it be a side of sauerkraut for lunch or dinner, a glass of kefir or kombucha with my meal or some coconut yoghurt dolloped on my breakfast.

Fermented foods work like a probiotic replenishing the gut with good bacteria and helping keep the bad bacteria away. Having a healthy gut helps support the immune system throughout the pregnancy and ensures you pass on a healthy balance of bacteria to your baby through the birth canal when they are born.

2. Increasing my intake of foods high in fibre

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Your gut bugs love fibre! It gives them fuel to grow and thrive. Foods like leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds, properly prepared whole grains and a small amount of fruit are a great source of fibre. Beans and legumes are not for everyone but if you can tolerate them they also provide a great source of fibre.

This pregnancy I'm making an effort to up my intake of leafy greens and vegetables. I try and fill half my plate with these then add a small serve of protein and a small serving of carbs. 

3. Reducing stress

Exposure to stress can change the balance of bacteria in your gut. When you are stressed the blood flow to your digestive system is restricted and overtime this can lead to a reduction in diversity and number of good bacteria in your gut. This in turn has an impact on your immune system which explains why sickness usually occurs during periods of stress.  

No matter how good a diet you eat if you have a high amount of stress in your life you will feel the affects on your health. I discovered this first hand after working in a high stress environment for years before having children. Now I find that stress affects me really easily. The slightest amount of stress and I feel my digestion slowing down, my stomach getting achy and my mood changing. 

Stress can be hard to avoid and for me this year is shaping up to be a pretty huge one. As well as being pregnant we are about to start renovating our unit we live in so I'm trying extra hard to keep the stress down and stay as chilled out as possible through this process! 

When I do feel stressed out I try and manage my stress levels as much as possible. The things that really help me are - practicing yoga, getting outside, walking in nature, taking time out for myself (this can be hard with a 2 and a half year old), writing in a gratitude journal or doing something creative like cooking, drawing or colouring in. 

4. Reducing my intake of sugary foods and refined carbs

The bad bacteria in your gut love foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. If you have a diet high in these foods it can cause the bad bacteria to grow and multiply leaving you with an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. When you've got a bad imbalance of bacteria in your gut it can cause you all sorts of problems such as low immunity, digestive problems, skin problems, sleep issues and allergies. Not to mention when you're pregnant you will transfer this bad balance of bacteria to your baby when they are born.

I generally consume a diet free of refined sugars and refined white carbs but I do love my sweets and often get into the habit of consuming lots of things with 'natural' sugars like honey, coconut sugar and dates. Too much of even these good natural sweeteners can also feed your bad gut bugs. So this pregnancy I'm making an effort to cut down on these sweet snacks and ease back on my sourdough addiction. 

5. Taking a high dose probiotic supplement

kultured wellness cultures

Generally I find the good bacteria in fermented foods enough to maintain my health but in certain times of need such as after recovering from an illness, taking an antibiotic or throughout my pregnancy I feel that the gut needs some extra support with high strength probiotics that traditional fermented foods don't provide.

After a bit of research I discovered Kultured Wellness cultures. These cultures are high potency and packed full of probiotics that have been specially formulated for gut healing. They come in 2 forms - coconut yoghurt and coconut kefir. They've got a higher count of good bacteria than your standard probiotics and I love that they are in a food form so you can make them into delicious ferments. I've been using both the coconut yoghurt and the kefir cultures for about 2 months now and I'm loving them so far! They are really simple to make and I feel like my digestion has defintely improved since taking them which is something that usually slows down during pregnancy. 

So these are the things that I'm doing to ensure I pass on good balance of bacteria to baby number 2. That is hoping I can have a natural birth this time. I had an emergency c-section with Anjali so she missed out on the good bacteria through the birth canal but this didn't mean all the good work was lost! I will share what I did in another post to increase the good bacteria in her gut after she was born. 


Do you have any other things you do for your gut health either during pregnancy or in times of need? I'd love to hear them! Share in the comments below. 

Gut Health and Pregnancy

Written by Talita Sheedy from Lahlita Natural Medicine

Mum’s gut health would be THE MOST important factor for pregnancy. Not only is this the place that all the nutrients are absorbed for the quickly growing bub, but it is also one of the lines of defence to reduce toxic load, plus the all important and sometimes overlooked MICRO-BIOME that is essential for the baby’s immunity and future health.

Ensuring healthy digestive function and bacteria status, will assist with Mum’s comfort through pregnancy and also prepare to pass on the glorious and priceless strong immunity during the birth to the baby. Healthy micro-biome (bacteria) in the body is also important to build within Mum so she is able to pass on this illness-saving bacterium during breastfeeding.

Healthy micro-biome within the body benefits many functions and systems for both mum and bub, including:

  •  Strengthens Immunity- to help reduce the instance of baby catching infections and viruses, also reducing the period of time that he/she may be sick. Therefore reducing the instance of fever and need for antibiotics.

  • Digestive function – helping absorb needed nutrients from the intake of food or breast milk, fighting off pathogens that may enter the gut, assisting to build a strong gut lining that will in-turn improve immune function, ability to reduce toxin absorption and enhance gut-brain connection.

  • Nervous System / Cognition/ Behaviour – more and more studies are proving the connection between healthy gut and bacterial function in relation to mood/cognitive behaviour in children, and adults. Neurotransmitter receptors (serotonin and GABA) are found in the gut and without the correct digestive nourishment this can influence the nervous system and its functioning. With childhood behaviour issues and mental illness on the incline this aspect alone is enough to motivate any person to ensure their gut health is correctly attended to. Research shows if the gut function and micro-biome is negatively altered and unbalanced this will increase the risk of cognitive disorders.

Signs that mum may experience during pregnancy that her gut bacteria is struggling:

  • Bloating / pain before or after eating / flatulence / constipation / diarrhoea/ potent smelling bowel motions / undigested food in the stool / Candida Albicans (thrush) / discoloured vaginal mucous / poor immunity

What can you do to improve your gut health for pregnancy and bub?

  • Provide foods high in good bacteria to repopulate the gut: FERMENTED FOODS- sauerkraut, kimchi, natural yoghurt or coconut yoghurt (not containing sugar or fruit), kombucha

  • Provide Prebiotic foods: Dandelion greens, bananas (don’t overdo though as they are also high in sugar), garlic, onion, leek, cacao, slippery elm.

  • Reduce the stress of digesting foods: by supporting with Apple Cider Vinegar directly before meals, which will assist the breakdown of the foods consumed and increase the absorption of nutrients. This will also reduce the instance of food that hasn’t been digested correctly from building up and providing a breeding ground for bad bacteria.

  • Avoid sugar and sugar producing foods: these foods will feed the bad bacteria in your gut, to which you will then have yourself a war going on with the battle of your good bacteria trying to overrule the bad bacteria. Such foods: refined or processed sugars, and grains, plus fruits high in sugar.

  • Seek a practitioner: if you struggle with digestive complaints, skin conditions, poor immunity or any of the above symptoms it is best to seek a naturopath or holistic nutritionist that is able to help you correct your digestive function prior to pregnancy. This can help reduce the risk of complications and assist a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby growing. If you are already pregnant and struggling with what advise to take it is always recommended seeking an integrated practitioner who specialises in pregnancy or digestive disorders so they advise you correctly and individually to your specific needs.

Yours in Health,

Talita Sheedy BHSc NAT

Talita is a qualified naturopath, aromatherapist, yoga teacher and owner of Lahlita Natural Medicine on the Sunshine Coast. She's currently pregnant and is sharing her week by week pregnancy journey and naturopath's perspective over at her Holistic Pregnancy Blog