Back when I left high-school and headed to University, I was a sucker for the ‘low-fat’ low nutrient menu that we were sold back in the 90’s as a hangover from the 80’s.
I was drinking skinny latte’s and diet coke (it’s true) and every night I was plowing into a plate of pasta with red sauce and low-fat cheese on top. Because bread and pasta were ‘fat-free’ I thought I could just eat MOUNTAINS of the stuff.
At the time though I didn’t realise that one of the reasons that I couldn’t lace my shoes up without being in pain and doubling up like an 80 year old woman was that my blood was inflamed thanks to a genetic predisposition to Rheumatoid Arthritis and Arthritis.
I was also drinking a lot of alcohol, which didn’t help.
In fact, if you were to look at the ‘most inflammatory’ list AKA gluten, sugar, dairy and preservatives, I was mainlining petty much the whole kit and caboodle.
If you had have added some kimchi or sauerkraut to my plate or pass me a glass of kombucha, I would have screwed up my face in distaste.
Fast forward a few years and I can’t imagine a plate of warm food without the cool crisp taste of sauerkraut or not having a glass of kombucha a day to help support my stable health.
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermentation in food processing is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions (without oxygen).
Humans have used fermentation to produce food and beverages since the Neolithic age. For example, fermentation is used for preservation in a process that produces lactic acid as found in such sour foods as pickled cucumbers, kimchi and yogurt, as well as for producing alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer. Fermentation can even occur within the stomachs of animals, such as humans.
In the days before pre-industrialised revolution, grains were often fermenting in the field with damp before they were harvested and flour was often fermented (such as in sourdough bread) before being used in baking or cooking, which made them more gentle on our digestive system.
Milk and dairy products were often soured and were left in their raw state.
Now foods that used to be lacto-fermented are heat pasteurised. Milk is heat treated and pasteurised at high temperatures, as are the pickles and sauerkraut that we see on supermarket shelves (if it’s not in the fridge it’s been heat treated and therefore healthy bacteria is lost).
Why Should We Eat Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods can take a little to get used to if your palate is used to dead filler foods, but there are amazing benefits of adding fermented foods to the diet.
- Packed with healthy enzymes and probiotics – Adding fermented foods to your diet or drinking fermented drinks like Kombucha will add beneficial probiotics and enzymes to your gut flora, increasing the health of your gut microbiome. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
- Help to heal the digestive tract, supporting a healthy immune system – Eating a diet rich in probiotics and enzymes helps to heal damage caused to the digestive tract by the modern lifestyle such as eating inflammatory foods, drinking alcohol smoking or taking antibiotics. When the digestive system is healthy and free from toxins the immune system can function at its best and the whole person becomes more well.
- Perfect for the budget conscious – Buying a jar of sauerkraut from the health food store can cost up to $24. Making 6 jars at home may cost you $5. A 300ml bottle of kombucha may cost you $3.50-$5 and you can make 2 litres of it at home for under $1. Purchasing over the counter probiotics can be very expensive – up to $60 a bottle. It is much better for a person (who can) to heal their body or prevent disease using food and nature as medicine. (recipe for sauerkraut)
- They make food taste great – Sauerkraut or kimchi has a tart taste and can be flavoured using many spices and herbs. Coupled with a hot stew, warm salad or on free-range meat dishes it tastes delicious. Fermented cheese can be used to dip vegetables in or spread on crackers. Drinking effervescent kombucha tea that can be flavoured with many fruits and herbs and makes a delicious and healthier choice than alcohol, juice or fizzy drink (soda).
So get some fermented foods in your diet today!
You can also incorporate delicious fermented drinks like Kombucha which are inexpensive to make and can be carbonated like soda!
Do you like fermented foods? Which are your favourites?