Sandor Katz, aka: the godfather of fermentation describes fermented foods as being ‘alive with flavor and nutrition’ and as a nutritionist I couldn’t agree more! Ancient cultures have consumed fermented foods for many generations. From east to west, north to south it appears almost every culture has some form of staple fermented food in their traditional cuisine. Eastern Europe has its sauerkraut, kimchi in Korea, Hawaii with its poi and even fermented fish in the Arctic!
What are Fermented Foods?
Long before the invention of the refrigerator, freezer or chemical preservatives our ancient ancestors required methods to store food during the winter months or between harvests in order to survive. It was discovered that under ideal conditions vegetables, fruits, milk, fish and meat could be encouraged to ferment and therefore produce natural bio-preserves which seems to retain nutrients and prevent spoilage.
It appears nothing is more hip these days in the health world than talking about the microbiome. At any given time 3 – 5 pounds of beneficial bacteria reside on and within our body, a large portion of it in our colon. These beneficial bacteria produce serotonin (our feel good hormone), strengthening our immune system, promoting good gut health which in turn allergies and food sensitivities, as well as assisting our bodies with detoxification. Fermentation also pre-digests our food making the nutrients much more bioavailable as well as creating an abundance of B Vitamins for us to benefit from. You can learn more about supporting your microbiome through my free ebook: 6 Ways to Beat Bloating.
5 Easy ways to incorporate fermented foods into your diet
1) Kombucha: fermented tea found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store but be sure to watch the sugar in store bought brands as sometimes they are not allowed to ferment long enough or sugar is added afterwards, 2g of sugar or less per cup is usually a good goal. Or better yet, brew your own via a Brew Your Bucha Kit!
2) Unpasteurized Sauerkraut: fermented cabbage found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store made without vinegar. Eat alongside eggs, rice dishes, steamed veggies, burgers and use the juice in salad dressing, soups or sauces.
3) Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar: Use in salad dressings, sauces or dips. Apple Cider Vinegar can also be used as digestive aid especially for heart burn. Simply drink up to 1 oz. 30 minutes before meals to stimulate digestive juices and maximize your digestion.
4) Unpasteurized pickles: fermented cucumbers found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store made without vinegar. Top on burgers, sandwiches, wraps or simply eat on their own.
5) Consider your background: Does your culture have traditional fermented foods? Do you remember your parents/grandparents consuming certain ones? Many people find these foods the most familiar and therefore the easiest to adapt into their diet.
Remember to start slow when first introducing fermented foods into your daily diet and work your way up. Bacteria produces gas and eating too much too quickly may cause an increase in gas and bloating as the healthy microflora re-colonizes. Check out 6 Ways to Beat Bloating if your gassy gut is an issue for you in your daily life.
Heather Woodruff, CNP RNCP
Certified Nutritional Practitioner & Digestion Guru