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Food Trends and Gut Health

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Vegan alternative delivers similar probiotic benefits

There are a few times of year when cabbage is the vegetable of choice.  It’s all about coleslaw during the summer months, Oktoberfest’s’ sauerkraut in autumn, and corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s day.  More recently, a new and trendy cabbage condiment has emerged.  It’s an everyday way to enjoy cabbage and it’s been making it to plates across the United States – kimchi.

This Korean dish that’s seeing such a growth in popularity, is simply cabbage that has been fermented with salt, vinegar, garlic, fish sauce and spices including chili pepper.  It is often enjoyed over rice or as an accompaniment to sandwiches or salads, anything really!  One of the benefits and reasons for its rise of popularity is like other fermented foods such as yogurt or kefir, it is a source of  probiotic, or “good” bacteria, which helps keep the gut healthy.

Because fish sauce is a key ingredient, kimchi has been off limits to vegans.  However, new research published in Food Microbiology, suggests that vegan-friendly varieties provide the same microbial benefits.  Researchers tested both traditional kimchi made with fish sauce, and a vegan version made with miso.   They observed that bacteria in both samples started off massively different, but through the fermentation process became almost identical.  They hypothesized that the bacterial community would be significantly different when using an animal ingredient like fish sauce, however that was not the case- adding another animal free alternative to the list of gut-friendly foods like sauerkraut and pickles.

As the probiotic and gut health trend forges forward, this research suggests that it’s possible to deliver the same probiotic quality with a vegan alternative.  Great news indeed for those on a plant-based diet.

Try enjoying kimchi as an accompaniment with our Dole Five Spice Pineapple Chicken, Spinach & Rice or our Thai Noodle Salad with Banana Peanut Dressing.  The savory and sweet combinations are sure to please!

Published October 1, 2018

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