Fermented foods have been used for centuries as one of the oldest forms of food preservation. During times of economic hardship, fermentation has been a way to prolong the shelf life of foods and preserve their quality, without the need for added chemicals or refrigeration. The process of fermenting foods involves lactofermentation, during which natural bacteria feed on and break down the sugars in food, creating lactic acid. The lactic acid helps preserve the food and is responsible for the signature sour taste of fermented foods! The process of lactofermentation results in multiple health benefits including positive effects on GI health, easier digestibility, and increased nutrient absorption.
3 HEALTH BENEFITS OF FERMENTED FOODS
1. Improve GI Health
Fermented foods provide beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, to the digestive system. These good bacteria help balance the gastrointestinal tract and promote gut health. This is especially important if you are taking antibiotics, which not only kills the bad bacteria in your gut, but also the good bacteria. The gut is also the largest component of your immune system. Therefore, gut health is important to fight against illness, inflammation, allergies, and autoimmune disorders in the body!
2. Easy to Digest
Since the bacteria begin to break down the sugars and fiber, the gut doesn't have to work as hard. As a result, fermented foods are easier to digest. The probiotics in fermented foods also produce beneficial digestive enzymes that help break down food.
3. More Nutritious
As foods are fermented, their cell walls are broken down. This allows the nutrients in the food to be more easily absorbed. Fermenting also destroys anti-nutrients, natural or synthetic compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients!
There are many types of fermented foods that you have probably heard of or may already be eating. Some of the better known ones include yogurt, kimchi, miso, pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha tea, kefir milk, and tempeh. Unfortunately, most of the fermented foods that you buy in stores have been pasteurized and cooked at high heat, killing any friendly bacteria. They can also be a bit pricey! However, this shouldn't stop you from being able to include them in your diet and reaping all of their health benefits.
Here's how to make your own sauerkraut at home, with only a few simple items.
All you need is:
- 1 head green cabbage
- 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
- 2-quart wide-mouth mason jar
- smaller jelly jar that fits inside mason jar
- clean stones, marbles, or other weights to put inside jelly jar
- cloth or kitchen towel
- rubber band
Step 1: Wash everything including the cabbage, the jars, and your hands very well.
Step 2: Slice the cabbage into thin ribbons.
Step 3: Combine the cabbage slices and kosher salt in a large mixing bowl. Work the salt into the cabbage with your hands. Massage and squeeze the cabbage for about 5-10 minutes until it becomes limp like coleslaw.
Step 4: Pack the cabbage into the mason jar by grabbing handfuls. Every once in a while, push the cabbage down with your fist. Pour any remaining liquid in the bowl into the jar.
Step 5: Place the jelly jar on top of the cabbage and fill with clean stones or marbles to weigh it down.
Step 6: Cover the jar with the cloth and secure it with a rubber band. This will prevent insects or dust from getting into the jar, while still allowing air to flow in and out.
Step 7: Press down on the cabbage with the jelly jar every so often over the next 24 hours. The liquid should rise above the cabbage.
Step 8: Store the jar at room temperature, ideally between 65-75 degrees F and keep it away from direct sunlight for 3-10 days as the cabbage ferments.
Step 9: Beginning after 3 days, you can taste the sauerkraut to see if it tastes good to you. How long it ferments is up to you! Once you like the taste, you can remove the jelly jar, screw on the lid, and store in the refrigerator for several months.
Remember: fermented foods are alive and must be refrigerated to be kept alive!
What is your favorite fermented food?
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