(p.s – they’re a lot tastier than you may think!)
Don’t worry, I crinkled my nose up in disgust the first time someone suggested I should be adding some fermented food to my diet, too. But then it dawned on me that one of my all-time favourites (yogurt!) IS in fact fermented! So, I thought, surely fermented foods can’t be as bad as they sound…
After listening to some fascinating podcasts on iTunes by “The Good Doctors” (Dr. Ron Ehrlich and Dr. Michelle Woolhouse… totally worth checking out by the way); picking the brains of my wonderful local Naturopath, and doing some light reading (ha!) on research about fermented foods online, I was converted! Here are some of the reasons that changed my mind on the whole fermented food thing (and hopefully they might change your mind, too):
Fermented foods are generally more nutritious (especially foods like vegetables, natural yogurt and kefir) than their original, ‘fresh’ form. This is because they now contain wonderful probiotics (or ‘good bacteria’) that are essential for maintaining good gut health, as they replenish and diversify the beneficial bacteria in our gut (this means boosting your immune system and improving your general wellbeing). Examples are Bifidobacterium unimalis ssp. Lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus, both found in yogurt. Also, fermentation not only preserves the nutrients in food, it can even boost the levels of vitamins and minerals in it naturally!
Easier to digest:
The reason some vegetables are easier to digest once fermented is that during the fermentation process, certain microorganisms that are present produce enzymes that help break down cellulose, which we humans can’t digest. Also, research has shown that fermentation of cow’s milk reduces the level of lactose (a natural sugar in dairy products and can cause a problem for people who can’t digest it) hence meaning that some lactose-intolerant people can eat a small amount of cheese without getting symptoms, even though they can’t have milk. Cool, right?
Common fermented foods you might know:
include yogurt, bread, alcoholic beverages (beer and wine), cheese, cured meats (e.g. salami), soy sauce, kimchi, sauerkraut and even chocolate! Kefir and kombucha tea are two less well-known fermented goodies, and both have health benefits due to their probiotic qualities. Give them a try! (p.s – I’ll be doing some more in-depth articles on kefir and kombucha tea and probiotics in the near future, so stay tuned to find out more!)
Want to give making your own fermented food a try?
Fermentation specialist and author of “The Art of Fermentation” Sandor Katz recommends starting with fermenting vegetables if you’re interested in making your own fermented goodies, simply because they’re really nutritious, easy to do and you don’t need any special starter-cultures.
Although almost any vegetable can be fermented, cabbage is probably a good one to start with. It’s so simple, all you need is a cabbage (preferably green, not red), a sterilized jar, some salt, water and a pinch of the seasoning of your choice (optional).
- 1 green cabbage
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- a 1 litre sterilized jar
- a pinch of your favourite seasoning, if desired (I like to use chili seeds, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, but you can experiment with what you like!)
- Step 1: Chop your cabbage finely, to expose the maximum amount of surface area, then transfer your chopped cabbage into a bowl and massage it to squeeze its natural juices out. (Keep these juices in your sauerkraut mixture)
- Step 2: Add your salt and spices, and massage into the cabbage (Hint: I really do mean just a pinch, as the flavours intensify during fermentation!)
- Step 3: Now put your mixture into your jar, fill with water so that the cabbage is fully submerged and leave it on the counter for a few days (between 2-5 seems to work nicely) at room temperature.
- Now you have your very own sauerkraut! Transfer your jar to the fridge and enjoy!