What are fermented foods & Why should you eat them?!
Am I about to tell you the benefits of eating a jar filled with bacteria?
Yes- yes I am. It's not as crazy as it sounds or looks.
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the starch and sugar in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, enzymes, and various strains of probiotics. Probiotics are essential for optimal gut health.
My boyfriend and I decided to give the most basic fermented food a try- homemade sauerkraut. Sauerkraut, a combination of the southern Austrian and German words “kraut,” meaning cabbage, and “sauer” meaning sour, literally translates to sour cabbage. It is created by fermenting cabbage over a long period of time.
We went to the grocery store and picked up a head of cabbage and some salt. At home, we have a fermentation kit that we use for the process. It's super easy and quick!
1. So first- buy organic produce!
2. After you get your veggies, you'll need a vessel. I like to use a Mason jar with one of the lids from the fermentation kit.
3. Wash your hands and cabbage head and start massaging and pulling it apart. Water will start to come out, and you'll use that in the Mason jar with your cabbage! Sprinkle some salt into the jar.
4. After massaging it into shreds and getting some water, start to fill up your mason jar with as much as you can. Tightly pack it into the jar and press down it down. Keep your ferment below the brine!
5. The process of the bacteria growth takes about 2 weeks depending on how intense you want the flavor to be. You'll want to leave the jar on the kitchen counter in room temperature. Take note of the date you started fermenting it.
6. After you received your desired taste, move your ferments to the fridge, and they will last about 8 months.
How much should you eat?
You have kraut for days and you're wondering probably how much of this is okay to eat. Well, starting out small is the best way to start incorporating fermented foods into your diet. Every human microbiome is different and if you eat too much, some people will find themselves making more trips to the bathroom. I like to put mine on top of veggie burgers, in Buddha Bowls, and on tacos! Eating a tablespoon a day is more than enough to receive the benefits.
Probiotics don't have to be capsules! You can make your own and also drink kombucha!
A 2006 report published in The Journal of Applied Microbiology states that probiotic benefits from cultured foods include:
Reduced overall inflammation
Better nutrient absorption
Prevention and treatment of diarrhea
Prevention and symptom reduction of food allergies, including lactose intolerance, milk protein allergy and others
Improvement of high blood pressure
Reduced risk of cancer
Alleviation of arthritis inflammation
Reduction of eczema symptoms
Natural remedy for the liver/brain disease
Making your own fermented food is fun, simple, and affordable! I can't wait to make dill pickles and kombucha. If you're ever feeling lazy (which I definitely do sometimes) and want to go buy your own probiotic products, I highly recommend Farmhouse Culture! They've got a whole line of kraut flavors available at stores like Whole Foods and have a great selection.