03/10/2017 09:18 EST | Updated 03/10/2017 09:18 EST

Your Kids Should Eat Fermented Foods

Close up cabbage kimchi on table.
Namepic via Getty Images
Close up cabbage kimchi on table.

I've heard a lot of buzz lately about fermented foods. I know fermented foods are good for our gut health and that we should eat more fermented foods like kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. But I'd never once given any thought to how fermented foods could benefit my kids. I never even thought to have them try it.

That was until recently, when I had the chance to chat with two health-conscious moms Joanna Biafore and Marketa Mervart, founders of the fermented food company Just Shut Up and Try It Ferments.

The duo, who each have two boys between the ages of seven and 10, have been giddy to share their knowledge ever since the day they fermented their first batch of sauerkraut together, about four years ago. Their products became such a hit in their Toronto community that last year they began to bottle kimchi, sauerkraut and the probiotic-rich drink called jun. Whether you buy their products, someone else's or even ferment your own food, Biafore and Mervart want families to experience the many health benefits of these foods.

"Fermented foods are so good for you," says Biafore, a certified nutritional practitioner. "They are high in probiotics and its beneficial bacteria can help prevent illness. It balances hormones, strengthens the immune and digestive systems and helps manage chronic inflammation."

"They are high in antioxidants and in pre and probiotics," adds Mervart, who is well versed in the ancient art of fermenting foods.

Though fermented foods are mainly touted for adults, it's wise to start kids young. "You get to a certain age and you think about digestion issues, aches and pains and inflammation," says Biafore. "Why start late in life when you can start early? You can build and train their immune system and palate from childhood."

"Our message: start with little people and continue for life," says Mervart.

They've seen the remarkable impact on their own children and on Biafore's clients, including improvements in mood, increased ability to focus in school and a reduction in sickness. There's a connection between the gut and brain, and while these benefits aren't surprising to them, the impact is mind blowing. And they say it's easy to incorporate fermented foods into your family's life.

Here, they offer a few tips to help readers pack more probiotics into our diets, particularly when it comes to picky little eaters.

Tip 1: Start with a bit at a time

Kids will either love it or hate it, so you have to keep at it. They started by adding a bit of jun to their kids' morning smoothies. They top hamburgers with sauerkraut where the taste isn't as noticeable for fussy eaters, and they also ferment foods their kids like, such as carrots, celery and pickles. "That's how our company name started -- we had to tell our kids to just shut up and try it, and now they can't get enough," says Mervart.

Tip 2: Get kids involved

Mervart and Biafore get their kids involved by picking veggies from the garden or at the grocery store. Then they have their kids help them ferment these foods in jars. "You can ferment anything -- it's easy to do," says Biafore. Their job doesn't end there, however. "We explain to our kids that fermented foods are good for their tummies; then it becomes much easier to introduce," she says.

Tip 3: Make sure there's balance

When they started to incorporate more healthy foods into their diets, they also wanted to introduce the concept to their kids. Every month, they introduced one new healthy food and took away one old unhealthy food, like cookies or fruit-flavoured gummies. "Some parents stress themselves out so much about what their kids are eating that they make themselves sick," says Biafore. "That's why it's all about balance. It's OK to have treats sometimes, so on days when we know they're going to a birthday party, we try ensure they start their day with a healthy breakfast. Then we know they have something good in them."

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