The next superfoods: traditional fermented foods

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were an inexpensive, yummy superfood? If I could design my own superfood I’d order up something that is tasty, accessible to everyone, full of micronutrients, maybe a little probiotic, and hey, how about some anticancer effects? Well, guess what, lots of traditional fermented foods boast all of these properties.

Recent research has been confirming the health-boosting properties of these often potent, flavorful foods. Various traditional fermented foods have been shown to have anti-tumor, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-oxidant, digestion supporting, immune boosting, probiotic properties. Powerhouses! Various fermented foods have also been researched for their ability to lower cholesterol, provide immune modulation, influence mental health, reduce risk of dental caries, reduce risk of type II diabetes, inhibit harmful bacteria and inhibit unhelpful fungus.

Just a few examples of traditional fermented foods include:

  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Natto
  • Pickles
  • Injera
  • Kvass
  • Yogurt
  • Tofu

This is a very short list, considering the hundreds of known traditional fermented foods. You can find a more complete list here.

The next superfoods

Unfortunately, the standard American diet is almost devoid traditional fermented foods, but these superfoods have been a feature of local food communities for thousands of years, on every continent. If you’re lucky enough to have a link to your culinary heritage, get out the old recipe books and see what grandma was fermenting for the family. Chances are it was an important part of keeping the family healthy. For the rest of us, recipes for these traditional fermented foods abound online. Maybe it’s time for a new family tradition?


1 Subramanian Dharaneedharan and Moon-Soo Heo. Korean Traditional Fermented Foods – A Potential Resource of Beneficial Microorganisms and Their Applications. Journal of Life Sci. 2016;26:496.

2 Mokoena MP, Mutanda T, Olaniran AO. Perspectives on the probiotic potential of lactic acid bacteria from African traditional fermented foods and beverages. Food Nutr Res. 2016;60:29630.

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