Should You Eat Fermented Foods
what are fermented foods?
HOW ARE FOODS FERMENTED
Fruits and vegetables contain natural bacteria that, when deprived of air, can suppress and inhibit the growth of other microbes that would cause spoilage. During the fermentation process, these natural bacteria convert the carbs and sugars in whole food items, like vegetables or even milk, into an acid which then becomes the ideal environment to preserve that food. Lacto-fermentation, a process brought on through the presence of lactobacillus, gives fermented foods and drinks their signature tangy and sour taste, but also createsprobiotics that aids in digestion.
fermentation is a metabolic process whereby sugars are converted to acids, gases or alcohol. In the case of truly fermented sauerkraut or kimchi, the acidic medium in which the vegetables are cultured is a byproduct of the process itself. In DIY fermentation, should you be so inclined, it begins with filtered water and salt or a starter culture, and results in the presence of lactic acid, produced by the live (healthy) bacteria Lactobacillus. That’s the good stuff — it diversifies your gut flora, aids digestion and gives you a glow. (No wonder we included several strains of Lactobacilli in our Botanical Body probiotic supplement.) Lactic acid bacteria is pretty much the only thing that can survive in the highly acidic environment created by fermentation, so in that respect, this process also acts as a natural preservative, protecting the cultured veggies from rotting over time.
*IMPORTANT! If your fermented veggies aren’t found in the refrigerated section of the store, they’re of no use to you (beyond being tart, tasty condiments). These shelf-stable “ferments” are made using pressure and/or heat, and therefore don’t possess the live, active cultures that you’re in this for. And as always, organic is best!
FERMENTED VS. PICKLING
Pickling and fermenting are two methods for naturally preserving foods, and both produce some delicious, tangy results.
Pickling involves soaking foods in an acidic liquid to achieve a sour flavor; when foods are fermented, the sour flavor is a result of a chemical reaction between a food’s sugars and naturally present bacteria — no added acid required.
Pickling is a method of food preservation that works by immersing foods in an acidic solution, like vinegar, that changes both the taste and texture of the food. It also involves the use of heat, which serves to destroy and inhibit the growth of any microorganisms.
The fastest and easiest way is quick pickling, in which vinegar along with sugar, salt, and sometimes various herbs or spices are brought to a boil and then poured over fruits or vegetables that are left to soak for a short time.
And even though vinegar is a product of fermentation, pickled foods are not fermented by default, as they don’t produce the same probiotic and enzymatic qualities of fermented foods.
This is the process of preserving foods in an acidic medium, most often vinegar, along with herbs and spices. No live probiotics or enzymes are present in these foods because they’re heated for sterilization and preservation purposes, a process that kills off all the healthy bacteria (as well as diminishes the potency of nutrients like Vitamin C). It doesn’t mean a crunchy dill pickle isn’t delicious on a Sakara Buffalo Burger, but it does mean said pickle isn’t doing much for your gut health.
Q: What is pickled, but not fermented?
A: Shelf-stable pickles (and other veggies) in a jar
Yogurt hosts no surprise on being at the top of the probiotic list. There are more varieties than I can handle. Made from dairy, almonds, coconuts, you name it – Whole Foods probably has it.
Plain Greek yogurt goes with just about anything. I add it on granola, into creamy sauces, whip up dressings with it, and it’s a key ingredient in one of my favorite cake recipes. The sheer versatility of yogurt makes itself a staple in my fridge.
If you are buying a flavored variety make sure to flip the packaging to the back label. Ingredient lists are tell-alls. Check for added sugar in all forms. If you want to sweeten your yogurt add some fresh fruit or a dash of honey. Trust me it’s so much better than Yoplait.
5 Fresh Ways to use yogurt
Carbonated cows milk anyone?
What is it
How is it made
How to buy and store
How to consume
Flavor profile: a balance of salt, sweet, and umami
what is miso?
Miso is a paste typically made of fermented soybeans, although grains such as rice or barley may also be added. Miso literally beans fermented beans in Japanese. It has a robust umami flavor and can be added to almost any dish to lend a salty and savory flavor.
HOW IS MISO MADE
The process starts with soybeans. The soybeans are cooked then a bacteria culture called koji is mashed in with the soybeans. Koji is made from rice, wheat, or barley and has been inoculated with a fungus called Apergillus oryzae.
Once the bacteria is added to the soybeans the fermentation process is allowed to take place. The length of fermentation, type of grain, and amount of salt add all result in a variety of miso products.
GUIDE TO BUYING MISO
Typically the darker the paste the stronger the flavor will be. There are four main types of miso paste that can be purchased in North America.
Shiromiso = white miso
Shinsu = yellow miso
Akamiso = red miso
Kuromiso = black/brown miso
There are several miso flavored products throughout supermarkets. However, the probiotic benefits come from unpasteurized miso paste. Go straight to the refrigerator section and find one of these fantastic pastes. The great thing about miso is a little bit goes a long way. Leftover miso can be stored in an airtight jar in the fridge for several months.
why eat miso?
Besides the probiotic benefits, miso is a source of phytonutrients and antioxidants. It is a good source of copper, manganese, zinc, and virtually has no fat content. Think of miso as a probiotic with trace minerals and antioxidants.
HOW TO USE MISO
One of the largest pitfalls of miso is its inherent sodium content. The deep umami flavor doesn’t come without salt. One tablespoon of miso equals twice your daily allowance of sodium. Yikes.
This is why I use it as a salt substitute. If I’m making a bean and potato soup sometimes I will add a teaspoon of white miso right at the end (remember heat destroys probiotics).
If I’m whipping up a salad dressing a little dab of miso can transform the depth of flavor. Think of miso as a season that packs a probiotic punch – but don’t eat it by the spoonfuls.
A big ‘ol block of fermented beans.
Like miso, tempeh is primarily made of soybeans. You buy it in a firm block that looks a little funny and tastes earthy, nutty, and yet plain. Tempeh is best mixed with other foods or marinated for some added flavor.
HOW IT TEMPEH MADE
Unlike miso, when tempeh is made the soybeans are kept whole. The soybeans are cooked, fermented, and formed into a firm block or patty. The fermentation process is what binds the soybeans together. Some commercial varieties also add brown rice, millet, or other grains – so if gluten free is your thing check the ingredient list.
WHY EAT TEMPEH
Since tempeh is a bunch of beans that makes it a good source of vegan protein.
Tempeh is also a great source of manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and riboflavin.
One cup of tempeh has 25% the daily recommended amount of iron. It’s also very low in sodium, unlike is pasty counterpart miso.
HOW TO USE TEMPEH
Since tempeh is basically a block of flavorless fermented beans it’s best season this sucker.
The great thing about tempeh is that it’s a blank canvas for marinades, herbs, and spices.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes for tempeh:
Tangy, crunchy cabbage.
We are finally on my favorite fermented food. I’m German through and through. My love of sauerkraut was instilled in me at a very young age by my great Grandmother. I eat it on its own, in sandwiches, topped on salads – wherever, whenever – I’ll eat some kraut.
With that being said, most sauerkraut in groceries stores is not the real deal. These pasteurized, shelf stable varieties won’t be packed full of probiotics. Opt for the refrigerator section to find the crispiest, fresh fermented varieties. The tangy flavor will be a treat for your taste buds. Ok maybe not, but I beg you to at least try it!
HOW SAUERKRAUT IS MADE
It all starts with cabbage. The cabbage is sliced into small pieces, salt is added, and it’s pounded until the water within the cabbage is released. The cabbage then sits in this liquid while the lacto-fermentation process takes place. Hello, bacteria!
HOW TO EAT SAUERKRAUT
Besides desserts, there really isn’t anything I won’t eat sauerkraut with.
Traditional uses of sauerkraut might be added atop a hotdog or deep within a Reuben, but play around and have fun with it. Sauerkraut can be a welcoming tangy taste in an otherwise boring dish. Just try it.
If five years olds in Korea can eat it, you can too.
In Korea the fermented vegetables of choice is kimchi. A complex variety of flavors that will make your mouth sing. Spicy, sweet, and tangy are all words used to describe this fermented food. Not as versatile as sauerkraut because kimchi demands the spotlight as it’s a stand-alone dish in itself.
HOW IS KIMCHI MADE
Kimchi is a traditional dish made of fermented vegetables, spices, and salted seafood.
If fermented fish sauce makes your tongue get twisted, don’t worry, there are vegan varieties of this spicy side dish.
Much like sauerkraut, the process of making kimchi happens by the fermentation of the lactic acid bacteria from the vegetables.
WHY YOU SHOULD TRY KIMCHI
Napa cabbage and radishes are the base of many kimchi recipes, however, you will often find carrots, ginger, burdock root, celery, watercress, cucumber, parsley, chives, garlic, chives, mustard greens, and spinach. Essentially it’s a nutritional powerhouse full of dietary fiber and buttloads of good bacteria. Specifically, kimchi is high in vitamin A, K, C, and folate.
Like miso, kimchi also has a lot of sodium. Think of kimchi like a condiment that should be eaten in moderation. Its unique flavor doesn’t usually get paired with breakfast or burgers here in North America. But don’t let that stop you from sprinkling it in your diet here and there.
What it is in one sentence.
What is it
How is it made
How to buy and store
How to consume