The time has finally come. This is the year I am going to put in a great effort to be more mindful of the foods I am consuming. Obviously, cutting out gluten and refined sugars are high priorities. However, before I focus on eliminating foods from my diet, I would like to start on a more positive note by including healthy foods in my diet. Foods which are fun, cheap and easy to make at home. Foods such as pickles, kim chee and sauerkraut. Yum! As scary as it may sound, I am going to try my hand at making my own fermented foods.
What are ferments? Fermented foods are live cultured foods. They are not the pickles and sauerkrauts you find at the grocery store. Those products are made with vinegar. Rather, they are foods which have been through a process of lacto-fermentation. To be clear, in this instance, lacto refers to the by-product, lactic acid. It has nothing to do with dairy. Lacto-fermentation occurs when using a salty brine in an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment. Lacto-fermentation is a process in which the natural bacteria found on fruits and vegetables feed on the sugar and starch in the food, thereby creating lactic acid. The lactic acid acts as an excellent preservative of food and maintains nutrients while breaking down the food to a more digestible form.
Rationale for eating fermented foods are numerous and include:
- Excellent source of B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Remove toxins found in/on food. (e.g., pesticides)
- Create a positive balance in gut flora, thereby repairing digestive disorders and keeping candida in check.
- Rich in enzymes, thereby increasing the bio-availability of minerals and nutrients found in food.
- Rich in various strains of probiotics. Probiotic-rich fermented foods can help immune and nervous system function (e.g., bloating, fatigue, allergies, headaches, inflammation, IBS, sudden sugar cravings).
- Can help with weight loss.
- Studies suggest a link between probiotic-rich foods and overall health.
- Association between diets high in fermented foods and improved mood.
So, start the New Year off right, get rid of the post-Christmas bloat and be kind to your gut…Ferment! If you are feeling inspired, here is an easy sauerkraut recipe to get you started. If you would like to learn more about fermenting, read Sandor Katz “The Art of Fermentation”.