Fermented Foods 101

Bacteria are everywhere. They cover every surface and live on every object and being, inside and out. 

These wee beasties were one of the first life forms on Earth and there are more individual bacteria than any other sort of organism on the planet.  They outnumber the cells in the human body ten trillion to one, so for every one human cell there are ten trillion bacteria! There are both helpful and harmful bacteria and most importantly, bacteria are essential for life on Earth.

When we ferment foods, we create conditions where these organisms thrive and proliferate. Fermentation preserves food by producing alcohol, lactic acid and acetic acid, breaks down nutrients in food into more digestible form, and creates new nutrients as a by-product of the bacteria. By eating fermented foods, we populate our gut with the beneficial bacteria that are necessary for good health. These bacteria are also known as probiotics. The process is actually called lacto-fermentation because the starches and sugars in the veggies are broken down by a group of bacteria called Lactobacilli. These healthy bacteria produce B vitamins and vitamin K. They kill bad bacteria in your gut, which helps eliminate yeast and decrease sugar cravings. They increase the biodiversity of the gut, which means increasing the variety of species, which is a good thing for your body!

Delicious and nutritious homemade fermented veggies

History of Fermentation

Fermentation has been happening since before writing and cultivation of soil. Every culture traditionally made a fermented food, mainly to preserve the food before refrigeration existed. Europeans have sauerkraut, Japanese eat miso, soy and pickled vegetables, Koreans love their kimchee, and Americans traditionally used fermented ketchup and cucumber relish.  What served as a natural means of preservation also offered protection from harmful pathogens and increase in health!

 

Are all fermented foods good sources of probiotics?

All are not created equal. Fermentation gives us many foods that we know and love, for example: bread, cheese, wine and coffee. Sadly, they all do not contain probiotics.

Bread
A yeast ferment and baked. No probiotics. SORRY!

Yogurt
Commercially made may contain a few strains, but only if added after pasteurization. Often loaded with sugars, this is not your best option. Also, dairy can cause inflammation in many people, so this defeats the purpose.

Coffee
The fruit is fermented off the beans to give us the delicious flavors, but unfortunately, no probies!

Kombucha
Yes, it contains probies! This can add more biodiversity to your gut. Not meant to be consumed in large amounts (like 12-16 oz bottles) due to toxic overload on the liver. Not good for people with candida issues because it still contains sugars.

Miso
Contains probiotics only if aged 6 months or more, unpasteurized and not heated too high.

Sauerkraut
Only gives us probies if it raw and unpasteurized and says on the label that it contains live cultures. OR you make it yourself

Allison Kirley, NTP, LMT of Delicious Life Wellness

If you want to learn more about fermented foods and how to make your own sauerkraut, I will be collaborating with The St. Johns Clay Collective on March 23rd for a workshop that combines food AND art: Fermentation and Crocks. I will do a demonstration on how to make a simple kraut recipe, then you will paint a cool crock to take home! There will be tasting samples and lots of fun to be had, so sign up today at St. Johns Clay Collective or contact me at Delicious Life Wellness.

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