Today let's learn how to enjoy fermented foods. We talked about gut health in a couple of our previous habits during this series. Your gut is vital to your health and well-being. Some call the gut your “second brain” as it produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has an enormous impact on your mood.
The idea of eating a fermented food may sound gross but if you've ever enjoyed a pickle you have tried a fermented food. Now, not all pickles are created equally but if done right, the fermentation process can take a regular cucumber and transform it into a virtual superfood.
Fermented food is not a new trend. Cultures all over the world have been doing it for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. So what does fermentation do to a vegetable?
Fermentation is the chemical transformation of organic substances into simpler compounds by the action of enzymes, complex organic catalysts, which are produced by microorganisms such as molds, yeasts, or bacteria.
To put it simply fermenting increases the number of good microbes that we need to keep us healthy. Fermenting food improves the health benefits of the food. When your body has a balanced microbiome it will keep your immune system, metabolism, mood and weight balanced as well.
A balanced microbiome regulates the immune system, metabolism, sustains the gastrointestinal tract, supports mood and brain function, produces crucial vitamins and nutrients, and helps us maintain a healthy weight. In addition, fermented foods have detoxification properties as well as chelation properties, meaning that your body will be able to release toxins easier.
If you are working on weight loss, you will definitely want to include fermented foods and beverages. Such as these:
Kombucha – a beverage made by fermenting tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY)
Kimchi – is a spicy fermented cabbage, and is the national dish of Korea
Sauerkraut – pickled cabbage, popular in Germany
Sourdough bread – bread made by fermenting dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast
Water kefir – symbiotic grains of bacteria and yeast fermented in a liquid, sometimes coconut water
Salsa – some forms of salsa are fermented for preservation thereby increasing the probiotics (see this recipe)
Cultured vegetables – are vegetables that are preserved by Lacto-fermentation, which actually enhances the nutrient content of the food, partly because it makes the minerals more available to the body.
Chutneys – like salsa, chutney is sometimes cultured (fermented) to preserve it longer. Try recipes like this Mango-Ginger Chutney
Once you get the hang of fermenting foods, you will enjoy the process as well as the product. You'll also be doing your body some good by consuming these foods on a daily basis. Eating fermented foods is an inexpensive way to improve and maintain your health.
You'll find lots of interesting and delicious recipes on the web or here but if you are not interested in making your own fermented or cultured foods, try looking for them in your local health food store. Look for brands, such as Bubbies, that have not been pasteurized, which removes most of the beneficial bacteria.
We have made our own kimchi using recipes we found on youtube. It looks and tastes great and is another way to eat garlic, as kimchi has a good bit of garlic in it. I have also made gallons upon gallons of kombucha, which you can now buy in stores for about $4 per 16 ounces! I didn't realize when I started out making kombucha what a gold mine I was sitting on!
If you've never tried a fermented or cultured food before, I'd like to challenge you to start trying them until you find one you like. If you already enjoy a fermented food, I would challenge you to explore other varieties.
Books you might enjoy about fermenting include:
Let me know what you think! If you enjoy a fermented food that I haven't included here please feel free to share in the comments! The entire #31habits series can be found here.