The Scoop on Fermented Foods
We know that we should replace the “good” bacteria in our gut with probiotics. Most people do so by using a probiotic supplement and/or by eating yogurt. However, with the recent shift back to traditional whole foods, the terms “fermentation” and “fermented foods” are popping up everywhere.
Fermented Foods Are Not New
Although these are new terms in the media, fermentation is not a new concept. Fermentation was a mainstay of our ancestors as a method of preserving food with salt and/or whey. Fermented foods have been through a natural process of lacto-fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. “Lacto,” used in the term lacto-fermentation, refers to lactic-acid bacteria or lactobacillus. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that maintains the nutritional value of fermented foods while inhibiting the “bad” microorganisms. The same process applies to all fermented foods made from dairy, grain, vegetables or fruit.
There is more happening in this process than just the preservation of food. It also creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Sally Fallon in her book, Nourishing Traditions, wisely stated, “Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms? If so, the cure for these diseases will be found not in vaccinations, drugs or antibiotics but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world.”
With the advances in technology and food preparation of modern society, the time-honored tradition of fermented foods has been largely ignored in our society and with it the amount of probiotics and enzymes available in the average diet. Instead of the nutrient rich “live” foods full of enzymes and probiotics that our great-grandparents likely ate, the average diet today consists mainly of sugar laden, heavily processed dead foods.
Therefore, the greater the variety of fermented foods you include in your diet, the better! Each fermented food will protect your gut with a variety of “good” microorganisms and help you absorb more nutrients. So, although the term fermentation may be new to many of us, traditional cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for hundreds of years.
Here is a short list of some fermented foods worth trying:
- Kombucha – a fizzy, fermented tea
- Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage
- Kimchi – spicy Korean dish typically from fermented cabbage
- Miso – a paste made from fermented soybeans
- Kefir – fermented milk resulting in a type of drinkable yogurt. Look for brands that contain only cultures and milk.
Whether you pick up some up of these items at your local health food store or make them at home, learning how to incorporate fermented foods into your diet may provide some added health benefits. Give them a try!