What are fermented foods?
Fermented foods are foods that are produced/preserved by microorganisms. These microorganisms (probiotics) serve as the life force to your gut and health, which is why probiotics are such a huge hit on the market right now. Fermented foods naturally have probiotics and they are pre-digested foods, which takes a lot of strain off of your body to digest them and inoculates your gut with good bacteria!
Why is having a healthy gut so important?
A healthy gut provides so much more than just good digestion. 90% of our serotonin is actually created in our gut! No wonder our GI tract is referred to as our ‘second brain’.
A healthy digestive system also allows our bodies to absorb the vitamins and minerals in our food, unlike a toxic colon which sends toxins back into our blood streams causing illness. Eating fermented foods leads to an increase in B Vitamins (B12 included because it is created in small amounts in a healthy gut environment), omega 3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid, as well as other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria, even cancer cells.
Also, it is estimated that 80% of our immune system lives in our gut! Within our small intestine alone resides 100 trillion living bacteria, woah! When these bacteria are outnumbered by ‘bad’ bacteria such as streptococcus, we get sick.
So how do we take down these bad guys? With probiotics, or beneficial gut bacteria. Although there is now a myriad of synthesized probiotic capsules on the market today, there are food sources that are more bioavailable and delicious, all thanks to fermentation!
Pickled ginger with the leftovers used for tea!
Fermented Foods and Blood Sugar
When you eat sugar it is good to accompany it with a fermented food. This food will eat the sugar and turn it into the good bacteria instead of being digested in the gut with the bad bacteria, which actually promotes more bad bacteria. There was even a recent study about the benefits of drinking raw apple cider vinegar in water before a sugary or carbohydrate rich meal. Doing this helps to digest the sugar and slow the way it enters into the blood stream, which is great for regulating blood sugar. So go ahead, enjoy some fermented foods and boost your immunity and health!
Fermented Foods and Weight Loss
Fermented foods are typically low in calories and are great if you are trying to lose weight. They will also improve your digestion with their large amounts of fiber, as well as the probiotics and enzymes present. Many studies have shown a correlation between healthy bacteria and a slim waistline, and fiber is also known to help curb your appetite and keep you slim!
Some Great Fermented Items to Make/Buy;
Miso (great in salad dressings and miso soup!)
Raw apple cider vinegar (great to drink in water as a pick me up and an amazing way to spice up salads or marinades! Check out our Fire Cider recipe for an amazing immune tonic)
Tempeh (great source of vegetarian protein-it is soy, but the fermentation makes the nutrients and protein bioavailable and destroys the toxins typically present- just make sure to buy organic!)
Water and Dairy Kefir (contain a wide spectrum of probiotics)
Pickled anything (you can pickle that!)
Yogurt & Cottage Cheese (look for ‘live and active cultures,’ and buy organic, with little to no added sugar)
Wine (not quite as nutritious, but hey! Red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol..)
Beer (along the lines of wine, but high quality, craft, unpasteurized beer contains beneficial bacteria and yeast strains, especially sour beer!)
Chocolate (bet ya didn’t know that one- but it is highly processed after the seeds are fermented, so you don’t get the same benefits)
Some Bread (such as sourdough)
**Always look for un-pasteurized or items that say ‘live and active cultures’, since probiotic strains get killed off at a temperature of 117°F or above!**
You can also…MAKE YOUR OWN! I love to make my own sauerkraut and it is probably one of the easiest things to ferment! Plus, it is a great way to preserve cabbage when there is an abundance of it in season!
Wanna learn how to make more these fermented goodies?! Check out if a city near you hosts any fermentation festivals. Some top ones are Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg, WI, Farm to Fermentation Festival in Santa Rosa, CA, and Oregon Fermentation Festival in Portland. You can also check out the book Nourishing Tradition by Sally Fallon, as well as The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz.
And, stay tuned for more from me, your HR ‘Fermentation Queen!’ I will be providing recipes, pictures, and motivation to get you fermenting like a boss. xoxo, Jenna