Powerful Health Benefits of Probiotics, Fermented Foods & How To Get Them

Boosting Immunity, Diabetes Nutrition, Gut Health

Explore some of the most common fermented foods and the potential health benefits they bring. From enhancing gut health to uplifting your mood, these functional foods are more than just a culinary delight; they’re a natural powerhouse of probiotics and enzymes.

Dive in and discover how these unique foods can be a game-changer for your health and overall well-being.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, mainly beneficial bacteria and yeast, that may provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. These microorganisms are similar to the beneficial microbes that naturally reside in the human digestive system.

When ingested, probiotics can positively influence the balance of the gut microbiota, promoting digestive health and contributing to overall well-being. They are commonly found in fermented foods and dietary supplements.

Fermentation, a natural occurring process, involves the transformation of food with the help of beneficial microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, or fungi. These microbes feast on sugars and other compounds within the food, creating byproducts such as organic acids, gases, and alcohol.

This not only results in distinct and delicious flavors but also acts as a form of preservation, extending the shelf life of the food. What’s so interesting are the benefits of these functional foods. The fermentation process infuses the food with probiotics and digestive enzymes that can have many health benefits.

Quick Facts:

  • Probiotics: These are the beneficial bacteria introduced or generated during fermentation.
  • Enzymes: These are proteins that speed up chemical reactions, aiding in digestion.
  • Preservation: The acidic or alcoholic environment created by fermentation deters spoilage.

Potential Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Gut Health

Your gut is not just a digestive organ; it’s a complex ecosystem packed with trillions of microbes. Probiotics found in fermented foods contribute to this ecosystem. Fermented foods benefit gut health by introducing probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, which contribute to a balanced gut microbiome.

These probiotics aid in digestion, nutrient absorption, and maintaining a healthy microbial ecosystem. They also out-compete harmful bacteria, maintaining a balanced gut microbiome, which is crucial for overall health.[3]

Immune Health

Probiotics and a healthy gut microbiome play a crucial role in supporting the immune system. The gut is a significant part of the body’s immune network, housing a large portion of immune cells.

Probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods, help maintain a balanced and diverse gut microbiome. This balance is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. Probiotics contribute to immune defense by:

Enhancing Gut Barrier Function: A healthy gut barrier prevents harmful substances, including pathogens, from entering the bloodstream. Probiotics contribute to maintaining the integrity of the gut lining, strengthening the barrier against invaders.[1]

Competing with Harmful Microbes: Probiotics compete with pathogenic (harmful) bacteria for space and resources in the gut. By outnumbering and outcompeting harmful microbes, probiotics help prevent infections.[2]

Modulating Immune Response: Probiotics can influence the activity of immune cells, helping to regulate the immune response. They promote a balanced immune reaction, preventing excessive inflammation and supporting a more effective defense against pathogens.[4]

Producing Antimicrobial Substances: Some probiotics produce substances with antimicrobial properties, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and providing an additional layer of protection.[5]

Improving Antigen Presentation: Probiotics may enhance the presentation of antigens (substances that trigger an immune response) to immune cells, improving the immune system’s ability to recognize and respond to potential threats.[4]

Overall, a well-balanced gut microbiome, supported by probiotics, is vital for a robust and effective immune system.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism, but chronic inflammation can lead to various diseases. Probiotics and other bioactive compounds in fermented foods have anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage conditions like arthritis and even heart disease.[3]

The anti-inflammatory properties of probiotics contribute to overall health by helping to manage inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to various health conditions, and probiotics play a role in modulating the body’s inflammatory response. Here’s how the anti-inflammatory properties of probiotics can benefit your health:

  • Balancing the Immune System: Probiotics support a balanced immune system. By promoting a state of immune balance, they help prevent excessive inflammation that can lead to chronic diseases.

  • Regulating Inflammatory Responses: Probiotics interact with immune cells and other components of the immune system, helping to regulate and modulate inflammatory responses. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with conditions related to inflammation, such as arthritis.

  • Reducing Systemic Inflammation: Probiotics may help reduce systemic inflammation, which is inflammation that affects the entire body. By doing so, they contribute to a healthier internal environment.

  • Protecting Against Inflammatory Diseases: Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to many diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and certain cancers. The anti-inflammatory effects of probiotics may help protect against the development of these inflammatory diseases.

It’s important to note that the specific mechanisms through which probiotics exert their anti-inflammatory effects can vary depending on the strains and the individual’s health condition. Including a variety of probiotic-rich foods or supplements in your diet may contribute to a more balanced and less inflammatory internal environment.

Regulate Blood Sugar

Research suggests that a balanced gut microbiome may have a role in managing blood sugar levels. Fermented foods like kefir and yogurt are shown to have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, which can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.[7]

Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that support gut health, may play a role in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Here’s how probiotics can contribute to better blood sugar control:

  • Fermentation of Dietary Fibers: Probiotics in the gut can ferment dietary fibers, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs, such as butyrate, have been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for the proper utilization of glucose.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Chronic inflammation is linked to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. Probiotics contribute to a less inflammatory environment in the gut and the body, potentially improving insulin sensitivity.

  • Influence on Enteroendocrine Cells: Probiotics may interact with enteroendocrine cells in the gut, affecting the secretion of hormones involved in appetite regulation and glucose metabolism. This interaction can contribute to better blood sugar control.

  • Metabolism of Bile Acids: Probiotics can influence the metabolism of bile acids, which play a role in fat digestion. This interaction may indirectly impact glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

  • Production of Bioactive Substances: Some probiotics can produce bioactive substances, such as bioactive peptides, that may have insulin-like effects or help regulate glucose metabolism.

  • Influence on Gut Microbiota: Probiotics help maintain a balanced and diverse gut microbiota. A healthy gut microbiota is associated with improved metabolic health, including better blood sugar regulation.

While research suggests a potential link between probiotics and improved blood sugar control, individual responses may vary. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods or supplements into a balanced diet may be a supportive strategy for those looking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

However, individuals with diabetes or other health concerns should consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice.

Mood Enhancer

The gut-brain axis is a hot topic in scientific research. A balanced gut microbiome may impact neurotransmitters and mood-regulating hormones, potentially acting as a natural mood enhancer.[6]

The connection between probiotics and mood enhancement is linked to the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain. Here’s how probiotics may act as mood enhancers:

  • Neurotransmitter Production: The gut is home to a large portion of the body’s neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which plays a key role in mood regulation. Some probiotics, especially certain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can influence the production and availability of neurotransmitters in the gut, potentially impacting mood.

  • Hormonal Regulation: Probiotics may influence the production and regulation of hormones, including those that impact mood. For example, the gut microbiota can interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a role in stress response and mood regulation.

  • Short-Chain Fatty Acid Production: Probiotics can ferment dietary fibers to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs may have a role in supporting the gut-brain axis and influencing neural function, potentially affecting mood.

  • GABA Production: Some probiotics have been shown to produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter with calming effects. Increased GABA levels may contribute to a more relaxed mood.

  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation: The vagus nerve, a major component of the parasympathetic nervous system, connects the gut and the brain. Probiotics may stimulate the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the gut and the brain and potentially influencing mood.

Keep in mind, while there is evidence suggesting a connection between gut health, probiotics, and mood, individual responses may vary. Factors such as the specific strains of probiotics, overall gut health, and an individual’s existing mood conditions can influence the outcomes.

Incorporating probiotic-rich foods or supplements into a balanced diet may be a supportive strategy for those interested in promoting both gut and mental health.

However, individuals with mental health concerns should consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice and treatment.

Types of Fermented Foods

If you’re new to the world of fermented foods, you’ve been missing out on lots of flavor and health benefits. Here are some popular options: [8]

  • Kimchi: A traditional Korean dish made of fermented vegetables, commonly cabbage, with a mix of seasonings.
  • Sauerkraut: German for “sour cabbage.” Unlike cabbage packed in vinegar, this fermented version consists of finely chopped cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria.
  • Yogurt: Fermented milk or dairy free products enriched with beneficial bacteria.
  • Kefir: A fermented milk drink, similar to yogurt but with a thinner consistency.
  • Tempeh: A fermented soy product that is a good source of complete protein.
  • Miso Paste: A Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans.
  • Kombucha: A fizzy drink made by fermenting sweetened tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
  • Pickles: Fermented cucumbers in a brine of water, salt, and spices.

Simple Recipes with Fermented Foods

Kimchi Fried Rice

You’ll love this plant based kimchi fried rice that’s full of spiciness and flavor made with only 10 ingredients.

Plant-Based Yogurt Ranch Dip

This dairy free good-for-you vegan ranch veggie dip is one of my favorites. With just a few simple ingredients, it only takes 5 minutes to make.

Kombucha Vinaigrette

This super simple make at home Kombucha Vinaigrette adds a little zing to any salad.


  • 1/4 cup kombucha (any flavor – we love raspberry]
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a jar with a lid, combine the kombucha, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and sweetener.
  • Seal the jar and shake vigorously until well combined. [Use caution when opening.]
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy with leafy greens or drizzle over your favorite plant-based protein for some zing.

Key Points To Remember

Incorporating fermented foods and probiotics into your diet is a proactive step toward nurturing your overall health and well-being. These nutritional powerhouses offer a multitude of benefits that extend beyond mere culinary delight.

Rich in probiotics, fermented foods play a pivotal role in maintaining a balanced and diverse gut microbiome, influencing digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall gut health. By including a variety of fermented foods in your diet, you not only savor unique flavors but also prioritize your overall well-being.

Are you looking for more guidance on improving your health with food? I’m here to help you meet your health goals. You can reach out to julie@corenutritionhw.com to schedule a consultation.


  1. Tamang, J. P., Watanabe, K., & Holzapfel, W. H. (2016). Review: Diversity of Microorganisms in Global Fermented Foods and Beverages. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7, 377.
  2. Rezac, S., Kok, C. R., Heermann, M., & Hutkins, R. (2018). Fermented Foods as a Dietary Source of Live Organisms. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9, 1785.
  3. Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., … & Calder, P. C. (2014). Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 11(8), 506–514.
  4. Mazziotta C, Tognon M, Martini F, Torreggiani E, Rotondo JC. Probiotics Mechanism of Action on Immune Cells and Beneficial Effects on Human Health. Cells. 2023 Jan 2;12(1):184. doi: 10.3390/cells12010184. PMID: 36611977; PMCID: PMC9818925.
  5. Fijan S. Probiotics and Their Antimicrobial Effect. Microorganisms. 2023 Feb 19;11(2):528. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms11020528. PMID: 36838493; PMCID: PMC9963354.
  6. Hemarajata, P., & Versalovic, J. (2013). Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: Mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 6(1), 39–51.
  7. Tilg, H., & Moschen, A. R. (2014). Microbiota and diabetes: an evolving relationship. Gut, 63(9), 1513–1521. 
  8. Marco, M. L., Heeney, D., Binda, S., Cifelli, C. J., Cotter, P. D., Foligné, B., … & Ouwehand, A. (2017). Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 44, 94–102.