Sandor Katz, aka: the godfather of fermentation describes fermented foods as being ‘alive with flavor and nutrition’ and as a nutritionist I couldn’t agree more! The art of fermenting foods has existed for thousands of years and was prized by a number of ancient cultures. From east to west, north to south it appears almost every culture has some form of staple fermented food in their traditional cuisine. Eastern Europe has its sauerkraut, kimichi in Korea, Hawaii with its poi and even fermented fish in the Arctic!
What are Fermented Foods?
Long before the invention of the refrigerator, freezer or chemical preservatives our ancient ancestors required methods to store food during the winter months or between harvests in order to survive. It was discovered that under ideal conditions vegetables, fruits, milk, fish and meat could be encouraged to ferment and therefore produce natural bio-preserves which seems to retain nutrients and prevent spoilage.
It appears nothing is more hip these days in the health world than talking about the microbiome. At any given time 3 – 5 pounds of beneficial bacteria reside on and within our body, a large portion of it in our colon. These wonderful little guys are shown to support the body in a number of ways such as; producing serotonin (our feel good hormone), strengthening our immune system, promoting good gut health which in turn prevents allergies and food sensitivities, as well as assisting our bodies with detoxification.
Fermentation also pre-digests our food making the nutrients much more bioavailable as well as creating an abundance of B Vitamins for us to benefit from.
5 Easy ways to incorporate fermented foods into your diet
1) Unpasteurized Sauerkraut: fermented cabbage found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store made without vinegar. Place on eggs, rice dishes, steamed veggies, burgers and use the juice in salad dressing or sauces.
2) Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar: Use in salad dressings, sauces or dips. Apple Cider Vinegar can also be used as digestive aid especially for heart burn. Simply drink up to 1 oz. 30 minutes before meals to stimulate digestive juices and maximize your digestion.
3) Unpasteurized pickles: fermented cucumbers found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store made without vinegar. Top on burgers, sandwiches, wraps or simply eat on their own.
4) Kombucha: fermented tea found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. Kombucha is usually drank as is, or used to make salad dressings.
5) Consider your background: Does your culture have traditional fermented foods? Do you remember your parents/grandparents consuming certain ones? Many people find these foods the most familiar and therefore the easiest to adapt into their diet.
Remember to start slow when first introducing fermented foods into your daily diet and work your way up. Bacteria produce gas and eating too much too quickly may cause an increase in gas and bloating as the microflora re-colonizes.
Heather Woodruff CNP RNCP is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner who has seen firsthand how the food we consume has a direct impact on our overall health. Her appreciation of whole, fresh foods began while growing up in rural Alberta where her summers were spent helping in the garden; picking carrots, shelling peas and eating copious amounts of raspberries right from the bush. When she’s not puttering in the kitchen, Heather can be found surfing some North Pacific waves, fighting for good kale at the farmers market and perfecting her yoga asanas.