Just like the excitement surrounding the Chicago Cubs vs. the Cleveland Indians this year in The World Series, fermented foods are making their mark in the big leagues. No longer a wild card on store shelves, consumers are adopting the probiotic and enzyme rich “living foods” and adopting a new playoff strategy for the battle of the braves going on in their gut.

Our digestive tract is home to trillions of teeny tiny bacteria, some good - some bad.

We ingest these little friends daily. They surround the surface of everything we touch. They are on the handle we use to open the door for a colleague, the toothbrush we use to freshen our breath, and the apple we send in our kids lunch box. Just because we cannot see them with the naked eye does not mean that they are harmful. It is quite the contrary.

These bacteria are essential to our health as the human race. They help to build a healthy immune system, digest the food we consume, decompose our waste products, among many other things. Some studies even suggest there is more bacterial DNA residing inside the human digestive tract then our own human DNA.

The problem we seem to be running into, however, is that we are over-sanitizing, over using antibiotics, and eating foods that lack fibre – essential food for the good bacteria in our gut. This is turn, leads to the problem. The underdogs are winning the battle and we need to get the crowd favorites back into the spotlight.

Fermented foods like Sauerkraut and Kimchi are the perfect candidate for this

Not only are they rich in digestive enzymes and beneficial “lactobacillus” bacteria, they are fibre rich so they feed the existing good bacteria in your gut. Nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins C & K can be found in the jar as well.

With sauerkraut and kimchi being high in naturally occurring lactic acid (the good bacteria found on the cabbage produce the lactic acid during fermentation), incorporating them into a balanced diet can also help our bodies maintain an environment hostile to parasites and yeast, but comfortable for good bacteria to thrive and survive. Along with supporting a healthy immune system, they can in turn help those of us battling candida overgrowth, and struggling to regulate blood sugar levels by dampening our craving for sweet foods.

Probiotic rich sauerkraut is NOT the same stuff you slap on your hot dog at the ball park…

It is important to look for a few key features, to make sure you’re putting your mouth where your money is.

Here are a few of the top label cues I search for when sourcing a quality fermented sauerkraut or kimchi are as follows:

1. It contains organic ingredients. This not only ensures that there are no harmful pesticides or herbicides in the product but also helps ensure that the mineral content of the food is high due to soil being nutrient (and bacteria) rich before processing.

2. The product is RAW or unpastuerized. Pasteurization is a form of destructive heat processing and kills all bacteria in a product. Through the process of lacto-fermentation, sauerkraut is kept “in a state of perfect preservation” when kept cold in the fridge.

3. It has a “sour” not a “salty” taste. My favorite brand for this is Karthein’s Sauerkraut and Kimchi brand (see above photo).

4. It is stored in glass jars. This is a general rule of thumb for most things, but fermented foods in particular. With live, active enzymes in a product we never know what can be leaching out of a container??? Once again my favorite brand for this is Karthein’s Sauerkraut and Kimchi.

5. Ingredients in general. RAW Cabbage on its own gets a bad rap for causing gas, bloating, and stomach upset, but fermented sauerkraut and kimchi are considered “pre-digested,” meaning they contain live enzymes that AID digestion not inhibit. Therefore, it should be very gentle to digest when consumed in small portions daily.