Fermented foods are getting a lot of cred lately as superfoods. Here’s what makes them so healthy along with some ideas for how to eat more of them.
What’s so great about fermented foods? Fermentation used to be all about preserving foods, but it turns out that this process also yields some great health benefits. Fermentation basically means letting beneficial bacteria digest some of the carbohydrates and sugars in food. Fermented food can basically go two ways. Those beneficial bacteria either produce alcohol or acid.
Before you slam some beers in the name of health, I have bad news: alcohol’s negatives far outweigh any positives that you’d get from the probiotics. The most beneficial fermented foods are the ones that are low in or free of alcohol. The ones to choose are high in lactic acid.
Fermented Foods, Probiotics, and Lactic Acid
Chances are you know that probiotics are good for you. They support healthy digestion. You need those good bacteria in your belly, and eating fermented food can help set your belly straight. In fact, probiotics have been shown to even help with serious gut stuff, like IBS and leaky gut syndrome.So, what’s this lactic acid stuff? Some types of bacteria produce lactic acid when they digest sugars and carbs, and there’s research showing that lacitc acid fermentation is especially beneficial. They support healthy digestion and a strong immune system and may even protect your body from certain types of cancer. They also improve your body’s ability to absorb other nutrients in your food.Related Reading: Climate Change Making Our Food Less NutritiousSo, how can you eat more fermented foods? Here are five of the most beneficial ones out there and how to eat them!5 Best Fermented Foods
1. Raw Sauerkraut
What it is: Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, and like the name suggests it has a pleasantly sour tang. Not all store-bought sauerkraut is raw, so make sure you read those labels carefully.
How to eat it: Try it on your next sandwich. You can also ferment your own sauerkraut at home.
What it is: Another fermented cabbage condiment, kimchi packs a spicy punch along with that slightly sour taste. It can be an acquired taste, but it’s well worth the effort.
How to eat it: Stir a spoonful of kimchi into your soups, salads, or even pasta dishes just before serving. Or – if you’re a kimchi addict like I am – take a fork, grab the jar, and go for it.
What it is: Come on, y’all. We know what pickles are! Like sauerkraut, not all pickles contain that fermented goodness.
How to eat it: Ferment your own! Anna at Green Talk has a great video showing you how.
What it is: Fermented soybeans. Miso is very salty, and a little goes a long way.
How to eat it: Use miso as a base for soups and stews instead of vegetable broth. Tahini, miso, lemon, and water to thin it out also make a healthy homemade salad dressing.
What it is: A cold fermented tea. Kombucha has a vinegary taste up front, but once you get used to it, it’s delicious. I crave kombucha, especially on hot days!
How to eat it: OK, so technically you drink it. You can buy kombucha at health food stores and even some regular grocery stores. If you can’t find kombucha on the shelf, try brewing your own kombucha tea!
Image Credits: Sauerkraut photo via Chiot’s Run;Kimchi, Pickles, and Miso via Shutterstock; Kombucha photo by Becky Striepe
5 thoughts on “5 Best Fermented Foods for Your Health (and why you should eat them!)”
I’ve made yogurt my go-to breakfast food, and I’m certain that it (combined with a lot more physical activity) has helped with my recent weight loss. Planning to try to making my own… also want to try making ginger ale (though my wife’s giving me the raised eyebrow on that one). So, been getting kind of psyched about fermentation in general, too…
Oh man, I’ve been wanting to try home-made ginger ale for years! A coworker told me about it back when I worked at CNN. Do you have a jumping-off recipe that you’re looking at? He described his method, but it’s been so long I don’t remember anything except that it sounded super fun.
I do… and there’s a link to the ginger bug recipe (the starter): http://wellnessmama.com/8945/ginger-ale/
And I’ve really gotten a kick out of following r/fermentation at reddit… just followed so far, but a lot of the ideas just sound too good to not try… http://www.reddit.com/r/fermentation
Ooh thank you!