3 Essential Fermented Foods for Your Health

Introducing the super-foods Kefir, Sauerkraut, and Kombucha!

Fermentation!  One of my favorite topics.  Eating fermented foods has improved my digestion and is my main source of micronutrients and vital energy.  Preparing your own fermenting foods at home is easy and fun, and can be done year round.  Eating a regular diet with fermented foods can heal your gastro-intestinal track from digestive disorders, can prevent allergies, and it’s a raw food product, which means it is micronutrient dense and aids in the process of detoxification and elimination of toxins from the body.

Why is Fermentation Healthy?

Fermentation is so great because it makes food more nutritious.  The culturing process creates new nutrients.  As foods goes through their life cycles, microbial cultures in food create B Vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and biotin.  Lactobacilli, a common product of fermentation, create omega-3 fatty acids, essential for cell membrane and immune system function.  The naturally occurring detoxifying compounds like glutathione, phospolipids, digestive enzines, and beta 1, 3 glucans are also generated from the culturing process.

Fermentation also removes toxins from foods.  We soak our grains before we cook them in order to remove a harmful toxic coating called physic acid, which blocks absorption of zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, and other minerals.  Fermenting grains before we cook them neutralizes physic acid, rendering the grain far more nutritious.

Fermented foods tend to have a sour taste, so I understand if not everyone can be as excited about eating fermented foods as I am.  However, there are a variety of healthy fermented food items to choose from, so I strongly believe there is something for everyone.  Finding one or two fermented foods you love and keeping them around for daily consumption is a great way to stay healthy all year round.

I eat something fermented at least once a day.  I like a side salad of cabbage, fennel, carrot, & ginger Sauerkraut with my rice and beans.  At night before I go to bed I drink a glass of fermented milk, or kefir, to coat my digestive track and jump-start my liver’s natural mechanisms for detoxification.  I also like to drink a small small glass of Kombucha before my morning yoga practice to start the day off right!

Here are a few more benefits of eating fermented foods that I have personally experienced:

  • It has an alkalizing effect on the body
  • It can help rid your body of unhealthy bacteria that is causing irritable bowl syndrome, allergies, or auto-immune system disorders
  • It preserves the vitamin and mineral content of raw vegetables
  • Vegetables don’t go bad if you ferment them!
  • It enhances the vitality of food by introducing probiotic nutrients
  • It strengthens the tissue lining of your gastro-intestinal tract to heal leaky-gut syndrome, which in turn enhances your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from your food
  • It promotes regular elimination
  • It relieves gas and bloating
  • It improves digestion
  • It has a calming effect on the nervous system
  • it’s bubbly and fun!

The 5 essential fermented foods for your health are sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha.  

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is vegetables plus salt and water.  The salt is used to draw the water out of the vegetables to create a brine so that the vegetables can ferment under the protection of this water/salt solution.  Brine is full of healthy bacteria that occur naturally in the air and on the surface of the food.  I do a lacto-fermented sauerkraut, which means that the vegetables soak in their own juice, which is made by salting the vegetables and squeezing juice from them.  This style of fermentation is considered more beneficial for your health than the pickling method.   Brince from sauerkraut can be drunken alone as a liquid tonic for relieving gas or bloating and to aid digestion.

I want to help reverse a cultural paradigm that bacteria is bad.  Bacteria synthesize nutrients, break down nutrients, protect us from harmful bacteria, and mediate immune responses and other physiological responses and infections.  I encourage you not to shy away from making sauerkraut because it involves letting vegetables sit out in room temperature and basically brew their own bacteria and micro-organizms.  My fermentation guru Sandor Katz reminds me that all life is descendent from bacteria and that co-existing with micro-organisms is a biological imperative.  We evolved w/ bacteria!

Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk.  It is one of the best sources of probiotics.  The kefir cultures enrich your milk with vitamin B and other nutrients.  It introduces good bacteria, such as lactobasilicos, which bring balance to the gastrointestinal track and gut flora.  It is similar to yogurt however it is made with a different culture.  The Kefir culture produces a slightly more sour drink.  A serving of kefir contains 10-2 live active cultures, compared to 1-6 live active cultures in a serving of yogurt.

I started drinking Kefir when I was still lactose intolerant because I loved the tranquilizing effect it had on my nervous system.  In India they also recommend drinking milk at night because it coats the stomach and soothes the mind.  I was thrilled that the fermented milk did not make me gassy or bloated like regular milk did, which I learned was because all fermented products are essentially pre-digested for you by the live cultures.  I later found out that kefir is easily digested by lactose intolerant folks because it produces lactase, an enzyme that consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process.  It is recommended as beneficial for people with sleep disorders, depression, and ADHD.

Now I drink Kefir regularly to combat Candida, a harmful yeast in my GI track that creates an imbalance in my gut flora.  It is so simply to make, and it can possibly last forever!  You combine milk (preferably raw whole milk) with a tablespoon of kefir grains.   Voila!  A gut enhancing tonic for life!

Kombucha

Kombucha is an ancestral drink and popular remedy made from black or green tea, sugar, and a “colony” of kombucha.  This “colony” is called a SCOBY – Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.  That basically describes it!  The fermentation of sweet tea w/ the kombucha culture produces essential nutrients, such as active enzymes, probiotics, lactic acid, amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.  Kombucha is also food for detoxifying the blood, kidney’s, and other organs.  It balances the body’s metabolism, brings energy and vitality to the body, regulates intentional flora, actuates the body’s natural defenses,and increases feelings of well being.

Don’t be intimidated at first sight of the Kombucha SKOBY.  It is a wild and live culture and has small pieces of yeast floating below a stringy and gelatinous mass.  You don’t eat the SCOBY, though I have heard of people cooking it and even making clothes out of the Kombucha culture.  What is love most about the Kombucha culture is that every time you brew a new batch of Kombucha tea, a new culture is born.  Magic!  You now can share the wonders of kombucha with all your friends and family.  Gift the SCOBY and spread the love!

Contact me if you need a Kombucha recipe!  Or Join me in one of my workshops locally.

Learn More

I belong to the Hudson Valley Fermentaiton Group.  Every month we get together for a skill share around different ferments and have a fermentation pot-luck.  I also run a small fermentation school with my friend called Fermenterie.  We do workshops at my home kitchen, the local libraries, schools, Farmers Markets, etc.   We focus on how to prepare these fermented foods.  The best part of our workshops is you get to take home a starter kit to brew or ferment on your own! Join us and join in the fun!

In the words of my fermentation guru Sandor Katz, “The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved!”

Eat your Ferments!

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