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Fermented foods are more common than you realize. You may be eating fermented foods on a regular basis with no idea that you are, and very few people know just how fantastic they can be for your health! Listen up, because we are going to explain to you exactly why you should be eating fermented food. We’ll also share the basics of how to make it. Fermentation is, very simply, the creation of an anaerobic, or airless, environment within which complex food molecules are broken down and probiotics are allowed to thrive. It can be overwhelming to get started though, so we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to fermentation.
Many people consider fermented foods just to be rotten, full of nasty bacteria and ready for the trash. However, when purposefully and correctly fermented, these foods are full of extremely good bacteria, like Lactobacilli, that are actually beneficial to our health. You may have heard of them being described as “friendly bacteria” on commercials for pro-biotic yogurts, drinks, or similar store-bought products.
What Makes Friendly Bacteria Friendly?
The word bacteria conjures up all sorts of negative images, like little wormy looking creatures with sharp teeth and beady eyes. We almost instantly associate it with ill health and germs. However, friendly bacteria really do exist, and they are vitally important for our stomach health. Our natural probiotic system, sometimes referred to as our microflora, is comprised of various microbes including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Maintaining overall good health requires delicately balancing of your microflora. Healthy bacteria that are created in the fermentation process, like Lactobacilli, assist in this balancing process.
Friendly bacteria have been known to support our immune systems, aid the digestive process and promotes weight loss, and some studies have shown they could help prevent numerous chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Have you noticed how you can become short-tempered and irritable when hungry? This is also because your microflora have become unbalanced. Our stomach health directly affects our behavior, so maintaining a balanced microflora can also help stabilize our moods and behavioral patterns.
What Types of Foods Are Fermented, and Why Is Fermenting My Own Better?
As we have said, you may not even realize how many food products you currently consume are already fermented. Examples include cheese, chocolate, yogurt, wine, tea, coffee, sauerkraut, and pickles. However, many store bought, commercially produced ferments lack the benefits of traditionally fermented food. For instance, the majority of store bought jars of pickles are preserved in vinegar rather than using the traditional fermenting ingredients of water and salt; as such, they are bereft of probiotic nutrition. By making your own ferments you can guarantee not only the use of completely natural products, but you will also be able to ensure you receive the maximum health benefits possible.
Basic fermented foods have a very long history. There is one biblical story that tells of Jesus turning water into wine, a ferment! Fermented foods are also extremely popular in some cultures; for example, fermented dairy is a staple in the Masai diet. We likely evolved to eat them naturally. After all, it wasn’t until the last century that people really became aware of certain ways in which to store and cook food to ensure that bad bacteria were held at bay or killed off entirely. Certainly, many of our ancestors had no concept of sell-by dates or sterility. So despite any connotations of spoiling or germs, we can actually eat most fermented foods safely.
How Do I Start Fermenting?
The basics of fermenting are very easy, relatively inexpensive, and require very little equipment. An airtight jar or container, a fermenting medium like water and salt, the food you want to ferment, a seal, and a pressure valve is all that you really need. Amazon does sell specialized fermentation crocks that have built in pressure valves. These may be a wise purchase if you intend on doing a fair amount of fermenting. There are a number of different options to seal the ferment. I prefer to use 100% organic olive oil, but other common seals are made from cabbage leaves and plastic lunch bags.
In terms of the actual process, it is as simple as putting the item you wish to ferment, for example carrots, into a jar filled with water and salt, sealing with your choice of seal, and storing at room temperature for a minimum of three days before transferring to cold storage. There are dozens of recipes online that explain how to make everything from sauerkraut to fermented tomato ketchup!
How Can I Incorporate My Ferments into My Usual Meals?
It is extremely easy to incorporate fermented fruits and vegetables into your usual meals. Add fermented berries to your morning smoothie, or to your desserts as a garnish or sauce. Fermented vegetables can easily be added to sandwiches and wraps, included in salads and side dishes, or even pureed to turn into a dip. Some are also popular as standalone snacks, such as pickled gherkins, onions and carrots.
Can I Give Fermented Foods to My Children?
The idea of giving fermented foods to kids can be a little scary, thanks to the perception of the foods being spoiled and not fit for consumption. The reality is that they can be just as beneficial to children as they are to adults, particularly in building up your child’s immune system. It may take a little while for them to get used to the stronger tastes, but ideally, we should introduce fermented foods to our children just as we would any other new source of important nutrition.
The Bottom Line
Consuming fermented foods is an ancient practice that currently enjoys a surge in popularity. This is largely because we are now aware of their nutritional value as a source of balance in our bodies, maintaining our immune system, and cleansing our gut of viruses and bad bacteria. The huge range of health benefits linked to fermented food consumption includes everything from weight loss to lowering our risk of serious health conditions. Eating them allows us to heal our bodies naturally and maintain optimum health.
Fermented foods are easy and cost effective to produce ourselves, meaning that we no longer need to rely on mass-produced versions that focus on profits rather than nutrition. By making them ourselves, we can control exactly what goes into them, ensuring that they are made completely naturally and can provide the optimum health benefits possible.
If you are looking for a simple and effective way to boost your own and your family’s health through the power of probiotics, then fermented foods are a fantastic place to start.
If you want to learn more about how to harness the power of fermented foods at home, check out ebook, Simple Fermented Foods: An Easy Guide to Great Taste and Good Health, available on Amazon.