Cultured or fermented foods have a very long history in virtually all native diets, and have always been highly prized for their health benefits. The advent of processed foods dramatically altered the human diet, and we’re now reaping the results in the form of rapidly rising chronic health problems. I believe the shunning of traditionally fermented foods has a lot to do with this.

The culturing process produces beneficial microbes that are extremely important for your health as they help balance your intestinal flora. If you do not regularly consume the traditionally fermented foods below, a high-quality probiotic supplement will provide similar benefits:

Fermented vegetables
Lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner)
Fermented milk, such as kefir (a quart of unpasteurized kefir has far more active bacteria than you can possibly purchase in any probiotics supplement)
Natto (fermented soy)
When choosing fermented foods, steer clear of pasteurized versions, as pasteurization will destroy many of the naturally occurring probiotics. This includes most of the “probiotic” yogurts you find in every grocery store these days; since they’re pasteurized, they will be associated with all of the problems of pasteurized milk products and they typically contain added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, or artificial sweeteners, all of which will only worsen your health. You clearly want to avoid any milk that is laced with rBGH.

Fermented foods are also some of the best chelators and detox agents available, meaning they can help rid your body of a wide variety of toxins, including heavy metals.

When you first start out, you’ll want to start small, adding as little as half a tablespoon of fermented vegetables to each meal, and gradually working your way up to about a quarter to half a cup (2 oz to 4 oz) of fermented vegetables or other cultured food with one to three meals per day. Since cultured foods are efficient detoxifiers, you may experience detox symptoms, or a “healing crisis,” if you introduce too many at once.