Back to Basics: Fermented Foods for Better Health

The rates of chronic disease, like diabetes and heart disease, continue to rise in teens. According to the CDC, about 1 in 4 adolescents has a chronic health condition. Fortunately, many teens are exploring nutrition and wellness trends to gain control of their health. There are plenty of fad diets, workout routines, and an ever-growing list of supplements claiming to provide a quick fix. However, simply adding certain foods to your diet may help you in your health journey.

Fermented Foods

In recent years, fermented foods, including yogurt and kefir (a fermented milk drink), have become a superfood trend. But fermented foods are not new, they have been around for centuries. Going back to basics with fermented foods can boost your health.

Yogurt, kefir, sourdough bread, buttermilk, and kombucha are common examples of fermented foods. These foods are created by tiny, living organisms feeding on an initial food, like milk or sugar. Fermentation can change the taste and texture of the food, along with enhancing it in other ways like improving digestibility. For example, yogurt and kefir are thicker and tangier than milk due to fermentation, and most people who are lactose intolerant can digest them better than regular dairy because of the changes made by the beneficial bacteria.

The Benefits

Research has shown that fermentation can create substances known to improve blood pressure control, as well as increase nutrients known for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are important for preventing certain chronic diseases. By contributing beneficial bacteria to our digestive tracts, fermented foods also help support our immune systems. Because fermented foods provide potential benefits beyond basic nutrition, they can be classified as “functional foods.”

A perfect example of functional foods in action are fermented dairy foods. In addition to the immune-enhancing vitamin D provided by dairy foods, studies show an association between yogurt consumption and an improved gut immune response. Kefir has also been linked to several health benefits, including improved bone health, aiding digestion, and protecting against infections.

How to Implement

There are plenty of ways to incorporate fermented dairy foods into your daily routine! Enjoy buttermilk dressing with your salad at lunch, snack on probiotic-rich cheese varieties, like cottage cheese, mozzarella, or aged cheddar, or add kefir or yogurt to your morning smoothie.

To find the right fermented food for you, work with a registered dietitian and try our recipes at

Registered Dietitian |

Laura Marbury is a registered dietitian and serves as the Food and Nutrition Outreach Manager for The Dairy Alliance. She is responsible for implementing nutrition programs for health professionals, educators, and consumers, including conducting television, radio and print interviews on nutrition throughout the Southeast. Visit or follow @theDairyRD for delicious one-dish recipes and nutrition tips.

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