It’s time to get cultured, folks. We all know the daily battle to stave off those gnarly, mid-afternoon sugar cravings, but there’s one easy way to hop off the relentless give-me-sugar train — and it comes in a jar. Lately, fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha have really helped me regulate my appetite and sugar intake.
It works like this: Sugar is technically a nutrient, but it’s obviously not a substantial diet on its own. If you are solely consuming refined sugars, you’re missing out on all the other nutrients contained in real food, and it can actually send your body into a mild nutrient-deficient state. All those refined carbs and sugars taste good at the time, but essentially they are like “fertilizer” to the pathogenic (bad) bacteria in your gut. I found that when eating more sugary foods, I tended to crave them even more, which led to a vicious cycle.
When I started to introduce more fermented foods that contain probiotics, I felt my cravings start to naturally curb, and knowing that I was giving my gut all that good bacteria was even more encouraging.
What happens is, the fermented foods (or the gut warriors, as I like to think of them) contain lactobacillus bacteria, which weed out the pathogenic flora in your gut and add lactic acid, which is food for the good bacteria that help you digest foods. (One fun way to think about it is to picture all the bacteria in your gut wrestling with one another for resources — and you want to support the side that’s better for you. Go Team Lacto!) So if you eat enough of them, your gut will soon become an unwelcome place for the bad pathogens and just breed the good stuff.
Culturing your food is essentially “boosting” those foods with more nutrients, so your body will never go into that crave-ridden state of panic, which happens when you are lacking crucial nutrients. Who knew a little sauerkraut could go so far? But it can! Fermented vegetables contain tons more nutrients than their former selves, which basically makes them a superfood. Kimchi, for example, is far richer in nutrients (particularly vitamin A) than just plain cabbage — plus it’s a thousand times more tasty. Well-worth incorporating these hidden treasures into your diet, huh? Kimchi is just one of 15 foods that will help you improve your gut health even more.
Natalie Lobel is a Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal who enjoys navigating the food space with a compass and a wooden spoon. You can follow her food adventures and diet experiments on her Instagram @natlobel.
In this video, our team headed to NYC's Num Pang to get advice on how to pickle fruits and vegetables: