Some fermented foods don’t look very appetizing at first glance, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch.
Sauerkraut (translation “sour cabbage”) is one of the best known fermented food out there. It brings back interesting childhood memories for me. I remember watching my grandfather and father smother kosher hot dogs in sauerkraut. The more sauerkraut the better. The powerful smell and distinct taste is something that would literally make me run the other way.
Little did I know that this was one of many fermented foods that is a must in everyone’s diet.
What are fermented foods?
The process of fermenting our food isn’t a new one: History shows that early civilizations were making wine and beer between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago. Before refrigeration was available people would ferment food to preserve and extend the life of their food. When you ferment a food, you encourage growth of “good” microorganisms in it, while preventing growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms.
Why eat fermented foods?
Fermented foods are chock-full of probiotics or good bacteria. Probiotics are bacteria that help keep everything balanced in your intestines. The human digestive system is designed to have “good” and “bad” bacteria. Trying to maintain a balance between the two keeps our digestive system healthy. Studies show probiotics benefit everything from intestinal issues to allergies to weight loss.
Adding fermented foods to your diet
Just a little fermented food goes a long way. There’s no need to replace entire meals with fermented entrée. Instead substitute fermented foods for some of your favorite conventional foods. Here are a few examples to get you started.
- When you pick up a loaf of bread choose sourdough. Sourdough bread is fermented over several days by using a “starter” of combined flour and water.
- Use kefir and yogurt instead of milk in your smoothie.
- Try sauerkraut as a relish on hot dogs and hamburgers. Make your own if you’re feeling ambitious.
- Kimchi or kimchee is a traditional fermented Korean delicacy which is made from vegetables including cabbage and a range of spices and seasonings.
- Add pickles to everything. A few pickles go a long way.
- Try kombucha, a fermented drink you can find at the supermarket. If you don’t like it the first time, try it again.
- Have a bowl of miso soup before dinner. Or use miso as a marinade for fish and meat.
- Tempeh is one of my favorite fermented foods. Tempeh is relatively new to those of us in the west, but it’s been a staple for hundreds of years for many living in Asia. Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a rectangular patty. The consistency is similar to that of a veggie burger. Many use it as a meat substitute in dishes. I’ve used it in chili, stir-fry and on the grill. As with any soy product, it should be eaten in moderation.
If you’re interested in learning more about fermentation check out these books:
- Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes
- Fermented Foods for Health: Use the Power of Probiotic Foods to Improve Your Digestion, Strengthen Your Immunity, and Prevent Illness
What’s your favorite fermented food?
photo credit: Making and sharing kimchi in Gaemi Village, 1 December 2012 via photopin (license)
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