You might have heard of fermented foods, as the health benefits are becoming more widely known. Turns out… it’s true! There are some amazing benefits that other foods just can’t offer. Read on to find out all about fermented foods, from what they are and how they can help you and your family’s health.
Fermented foods, from kimchi to soy sauce, go through a process called Lactofermentation. This is a natural process in which bacteria feed on sugar and starch to create lactic acid. The idea of bacteria feeding on food might sounds a little scary, but stick with us. This process works by preserving the food’s nutrients, which might have otherwise been destroyed before consumption, adding lots of nutritional value. Lactofermentation also creates extra omega-2 fatty acids, b-vitamins, various enzymes and probiotics, all of which are essential to great overall health.
Fermented foods are also rich in probiotics, or ‘good bacteria,’ known as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, which help balance the bacteria in your stomach. When the “friendly” bacteria in your stomach is in perfect harmony, you are better able to break down the foods you eat into a more digestible form and absorb key nutrients – all fantastic for gut health! These probiotics can also improve brain health, digestion, immunity and may even help treat certain diseases.
Bonus… Eating fermented foods can also improve your mood. The gut and the brain are linked through the enteric nervous system – your gut is lined with neurons that can influence your emotions and feelings. In addition, serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood, is made in the gut. Research shows that a healthy gut is linked to a healthy mind.
Think you’re ready to try fermented foods? It might difficult to know where to start. Try adding just one serving a day from any of fermented foods below for maximum health benefits:
- KEFIR is a probiotic drink that contains multiple strains of bacteria and yeast. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals, including B and K vitamins.
- KIMCHI is a Korean culinary tradition with a 1,5000 year recorded history, developed as a means to preserve cabbage. This spicy cabbage is rich in vitamins B1, B2, C and A, as well as calcium, selenium and iron. Try Mrs. Kim’s Kimchi and Mother in Laws Kimchi
- KOMBUCHA is a fizzy fermented black tea. The natural yeast turns sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and then turns into acetic acid by a bacteria called acetobacter. Try Heath Ade and GT’s Kombucha
- MISO is a traditional Japanese paste, made from grains and fermented soybeans containing millions of beneficial bacteria. It’s also rich in minerals, folic acid and vitamins B, E and K. Try Hikari Organic Miso
- SAUERKRAUT is fermented cabbage, high in fiber, vitamins K, C, A and B. It’s also high in copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and sodium.
- SOURDOUGH BREAD is made from three simple ingredients and left to rise naturally for 12 hours or more with the help of fermented cultures. Long fermentation in sourdough helps lactobacilli bacteria break down gluten proteins into smaller molecules, making it easier for the body to digest. Fermented sour dough could be a great solution for those who are gluten sensitive. Try Runner and Stone, She Wolf Bakery and Tartine Bakery
- Traditional SOY SAUCE in Japan is made with the traditional fermentation process, aged in cedar wood kegs in small batches. Look for naturally fermented or unpasteurized soy sauce like Ohsawa Organic Nama Shoyu Soy Sauce with all of those beneficial bacteria and enzymes (like lactobacillus).
- YOGURT is live bacteria that naturally occurs due to Lactobacilli bacteria converting lactose sugar in milk into glucose and galactose, which breaks down into lactic acid.
Fermented foods have been used by cultures around the world for many years. Curious to know where to go to stock your kitchen with these wonder foods? Check local health food stores like Whole Foods for a plethora of products. Artisanal fermentation companies like Ferments and specialized stores like Fermentation Farm seem to be popping up all over. You can also try making your own fermented foods at home, as they have an incredibly long shelf life.