Fermentation isn’t just good for making wine. Fermented foods, (often those jarred foods floating in their own juices that you see at grocery stores,) actually improve digestion due to the probiotics produced during the fermentation process. Natural fermentation preserves the nutrients in food, and breaks the food down to a more digestible form.
Fermentation Around The World
Fermentation is nothing new under the sun. Cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for years and reaping their benefits. For example, Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that is often consumed in the German community and was popular during the Roman era . A different variation of cabbage, kimchi, is a common food item in Korea.
You may have seen something called “fish sauce” in Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. This is made from mashed up whole fish that’s packed, salted and fermented, though some fish sauces are created through chemical processes, (avoid these kinds!)
Asian cultures in general often eat pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots.
Bulgarians regularly consume fermented milk known as kefir.
What’s Wrong With The Modern Western Diet?
Aside from the loads of sugar and additives, the technological advancements of the western diet have decreased the amount of probiotics and enzymes we would get from our foods. Pasteurized milk has replaced raw milk, pasteurized yogurt has replaced homemade yogurt, and other traditionally fermented foods have been replaced by lacto-fermented versions.
It’s time that we started adding these fermented homemade treats back into the western diet.
Additional Benefits of Fermented Foods
Budget – Fermented foods can contain up to 100 times more probiotics than a supplement! This makes these foods a more affordable probiotic source.
Nutrients – Some fermented foods are amazing sources of a rare to come by, but essential vitamin called vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 can help to prevent arterial plaque buildup and heart disease.
Vitamin K2 can also minimize the negative bone effects of nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes. Cheese curds, a byproduct of sour milk, is an excellent sources of probiotics and vitamin K2. You can also get many B vitamins from fermented foods.
Immune System – Did you know that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? The probiotics in fermented foods aid in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract, and aid in the production of antibodies that fight against pathogens.
Detoxification – The beneficial bacteria in fermented foods are highly potent detoxifiers that can draw out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals in the body.
The True Importance of Gut Health
There are a variety of areas where your gut plays a key role in that you probably wouldn’t expect! Here are some of them:
Behavior – a study published by Neurogastroenterology & Motility found that a lack of gut bacteria could change the neurochemical changes in the brain, provoking “high-risk behavior.”
Diabetes – A Denmark study indicated that type 2 diabetes in humans is linked to composition changes in intestinal microbiota.
Here’s a handy recipe to help you incorporate fermented foods into your diet. Always choose organic veggies to avoid harmful pesticides.
Fermented Vegetables Recipe
- 1 head of red cabbage
- 1 bag of carrots
- Pink Himalayan salt
- 1 apple
- 1 piece of ginger
You will also need mason jars.
- Set the outer leaves of the cabbage to the side. Wash, then shred, chop or grate your red cabbage and carrots (aside from the outer cabbage leaves of course.)
- Place your veggies in a big bowl and sprinkle pink salt on them.
- Massage your vegetables until osmosis allows you to see all the liquid from your veggies in the bowl.
- Take the apple, ginger and turmeric and blend them until you get a yellow paste. Turmeric stains, so be careful when handling it. You can wear gloves and an apron if you like.
- Mix the yellow paste with your veggies in the bowl, then transfer your mixture to the mason jars.
- Push your veggies down into the jar so that their juices rise to the surface. Leave a space at the top for your outer leaves.
- Roll or flow the outer cabbage leaves to fit inside the jar so that they act as a seal.
- Store your jars in a dark room at room temperature. Open the jar to release the gases every three days.
You will know that your veggies are ready by their smell. When you take the lid off after a few days, your jar will release a sour, but pleasant vinegary smell. Once the texture is to your liking, remove the outer leaves and start consuming your fermented veggies first by eating one to two teaspoons a day, then gradually building up to one to two tablespoons per day.
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