May 12th, 2015

Why I Eat Fermented Foods (and You Should Too!)

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Why I Eat Fermented Foods Groovy Green Livin

Some fermented foods don’t look very appetizing at first glance, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch.

Sauerkraut (translation “sour cabbage”) is one of the best known fermented food out there. It brings back interesting childhood memories for me. I remember watching my grandfather and father smother kosher hot dogs in sauerkraut. The more sauerkraut the better. The powerful smell and distinct taste is something that would literally make me run the other way.

Little did I know that this was one of many fermented foods that is a must in everyone’s diet.

What are fermented foods?

The process of fermenting our food isn’t a new one: History shows that early civilizations were making wine and beer between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago. Before refrigeration was available people would ferment food to preserve and extend the life of their food. When you ferment a food, you encourage growth of “good” microorganisms in it, while preventing growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms.

Why eat fermented foods?

Fermented foods are chock-full of probiotics or good bacteria. Probiotics are bacteria that help keep everything balanced in your intestines. The human digestive system is designed to have “good” and “bad” bacteria. Trying to maintain a balance between the two keeps our digestive system healthy. Studies show probiotics benefit everything from intestinal issues to allergies to weight loss.

Adding fermented foods to your diet

Just a little fermented food goes a long way. There’s no need to replace entire meals with fermented entrée. Instead substitute fermented foods for some of your favorite conventional foods. Here are a few examples to get you started.

  • When you pick up a loaf of bread choose sourdough. Sourdough bread is  fermented over several days by using a “starter” of combined flour and water.
  • Use kefir and yogurt instead of milk in your smoothie.
  • Try sauerkraut as a relish on hot dogs and hamburgers. Make your own if you’re feeling ambitious.
  • Kimchi or kimchee is a traditional fermented Korean delicacy which is made from vegetables including cabbage and a range of spices and seasonings.
  • Add pickles to everything. A few pickles go a long way.
  • Try kombucha, a fermented drink you can find at the supermarket. If you don’t like it the first time, try it again.
  • Have a bowl of miso soup before dinner. Or use miso as a marinade for fish and meat.
  • Tempeh is one of my favorite fermented foods. Tempeh is relatively new to those of us in the west, but it’s been a staple for hundreds of years for many living in Asia. Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a rectangular patty. The consistency is similar to that of a  veggie burger. Many use it as a meat substitute in dishes. I’ve used it in chili, stir-fry and on the grill. As with any soy product, it should be eaten in moderation.

If you’re interested in learning more about fermentation check out these books:

  1. Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & PastesFermented Foods Groovy Green Livin
  2. Fermented Foods for Health: Use the Power of Probiotic Foods to Improve Your Digestion, Strengthen Your Immunity, and Prevent Illness

What’s your favorite fermented food?

photo credit: Making and sharing kimchi in Gaemi Village, 1 December 2012 via photopin (license)


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7 Responses to “Why I Eat Fermented Foods (and You Should Too!)”

  1. Sourdough is definitely my favorite bread and I really like sauerkraut. Everyone in the family seems to like pickles (maybe too much!) and yogurt too. I would like to add some of the rest to our diet. Thanks for the great list and the book recommendations.

  2. I just bought sauerkraut today Marsha. I’m going to give it a try again. Have to admit that I’m NOT looking forward to it!

  3. Tempeh sounds kind of like tofu. Can you use it in stir fries? I need to try making kefir. I’ve heard it’s super easy – easier than yogurt.
    Betsy (Eco-novice) recently posted..30 Minutes in Nature Every Day with My Kids: Week 1 of the #30x30challengeMy Profile

  4. What a great article! My family is split down the middle on sauerkraut and pickles. I may have to try to encourage the sourdough bread 🙂

  5. We make fermented pickles, sauerkraut and sour dough bread and they are just so good. The flavor is far superior to anything from a store. We’ve tried fermenting other veggies but so far haven’t found anything that wows us … they all seem to end up tasting like sauerkraut and since we love kraut, we just stick with it. We make small batches (1 head of cabbage at a time) and during the warm months, keep the crock in the refrigerator. A comment on pickles … most store-bought varieties are pasteurized which basically kills all the good bacteria. Fermenting pickles is quick and easy and, again, the taste is great! Thanks for sharing this information!
    Cyndi recently posted..Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW) – Indoor plantsMy Profile

  6. Hey Lori! I have a fermented probiotic superfood which I take every day but I can’t say I’m as committed as you in your fermenting activities. I’m very impressed.
    Luke Shavak recently posted..OMG GMO!My Profile

  7. […] interesting food to our menu without any heavy sighs or groaning. I’ve been working hard to add fermented foods to my diet over the past few years. Some additions have been easier than others. There’s a large glass […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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