Fermentation Station

by Lauren Hannibal, RD, Clinical Dietitian   

There is a new body of research focusing more and more on our guts, specifically the kind of microbes that are living inside of our intestines. Microbes are tiny organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Scientists focus their studies on how bacteria in our intestines can be beneficial to our health. Researchers are focusing their studies on how gut bacteria effects obesity, cancer, and even if our gut microbiome effects our mental health and plays a part in autism.

When scientists or journalists write about gut bacteria they often call it the microbiome, specifically referring to the community of microorganisms that live in and on the human body. Our bodies have microorganisms that live on our skin and eyes and in our nasal passages and in our guts. The University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center compares the body and the environment that it creates with the earth’s ecosystem, meaning that certain microbes will only live and flourish if the conditions are right for them and people can influence that environment with the food that they eat.

We are what we eat for multiple reasons, but when it comes to gut health it holds a special meaning. The bacteria in our intestines help digest and absorb nutrients, combines chemical compounds to form vitamins, helps our immune system by preventing it from over-reacting, and may even help regulate our metabolism.  These functional foods are called prebiotics because they contain ingredients, mostly fiber, that gut bacteria can feed on and probiotics because they contain good gut bacteria. Eating a variety of plant foods can help diversify your gut bacteria which can help with your overall health.

In an article by Meghan Jardine called Seven Foods to Supercharge Your Gut Bacteria, she states that these seven foods can really boost your healthy gut bacteria and they are:

  1. Jerusalem artichokes because they contain a lot of inulin. Inulin is an insoluble fiber meaning that it does not get digested and makes its way to the colon where the inulin then begins to ferment and turns into healthy gut bacteria. Other foods that are good sources of inulin are asparagus, leeks, onions, and bananas.
  2. Bananas can help restore the health of good bacteria because they contain carbs that cannot be digested and supply food for good bacterial to grow.
  3. Polenta which is a cornmeal dish used in Italian cooking, also has fermentable component because of its insoluble fiber.
  4. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale contain a compound known as glucosinolates that are broken down by microbes to reduce inflammation. Glucosinolates help carry cancer causing agents out of the body.
  5. Blueberries can influence our gut microbiome by making it more diverse.
  6. Beans, nuts, lentils, and peas have short chain fatty acids that help strengthen intestinal walls, improve absorption of vitamins and can help with weight by enhancing satiety. Short chain fatty acids are believed to improve immune function by keeping it balanced and stopping it from over-reacting.
  7. Fermented plant foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and soy sauce act as a probiotic because they contain good gut bacteria and help your gut microbiome with diversity, and crowd out the unhealthy bacteria. Yogurt is another probiotic that can help diversify your gut microbiome.

Broccoli Salad with Honey-Toasted Walnuts Yield: Serves 6 to 8 people


  • 2 crowns broccoli, chop-ped into florets (7 cups)
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4.5 ounces fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Honey-Toasted Walnuts:

  • 2/3 cup raw walnut halves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


To Prepare the Honey Toasted Walnuts:

  1. Add all ingredients for the walnuts to a small skillet and heat over medium. Cook 5 to 8 minutes until mixture is very bubbly and walnuts have caramelized and turned golden-brown. Set aside and allow to cool. Chop the walnuts when cool enough to handle.

To Prepare the Broccoli Salad:

  1. Chop the broccoli crowns into small florets, and chop the broccoli stems. Add stems and florets to a large serving bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, honey, and salt.
  3. Pour this mixture over the broccoli and stir well to coat all of the broccoli with dressing.
  4. Add the red onion, blueberries, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts. Toss everything together and serve with your favorite entree.

Please email me with questions for the next article at lhannibal@unhsinc.org

Leave a Reply