Fermented foods aren’t something that immediately pops into my mind as health foods. But they are! Let me explain to you how important it is to begin eating fermented foods.
Health Benefits when you Begin Eating Fermented Foods
Before the age of refrigerators, freezers and canning, many foods were preserved by controlled fermentation. This means that salt was added, starter was added, warmth was added and things were sealed or packaged in a way to encourage the good bacteria to proliferate.
Salt, starter, warmth or packaging is what allows foods to beautifully ferment or rot. Of course, rotting is dangerous and tastes terrible. That’s why it’s important to follow a proven recipe when fermenting your own food.
All these good bacteria that are allowed to proliferate are essentially pre-digesting your food. Once the food enters your digestive tract through your mouth, it will break down much easier and nutrients will be more readily available for your body to uptake.
This pre-digestion also lowers the sugar content of the food. The bacteria that are fermenting and preserving the food must live off something. Sugar! It then turns into alcohol or acid and thereby preserves the food.
Not only is fermented food easier to digest, it also provides beneficial bacteria to the gut lining. Many varieties of probiotics keep your gut healthy and functioning properly. Your immune system starts in your gut, as well. So all the probiotics are boosting your immune system!
A Word of Caution when you Begin Eating Fermented Foods
Your gut is a constant battle ground for bacteria . I hesitate to call them “good” and “bad” bacteria because most bacteria present in your gut is beneficial for life. But bacteria are constantly competing for more space in your gut.
What makes bacteria “good” or “bad” is the amount present.
Your gut needs a balance of all these bacteria. Our bodies were created amazingly and know to constantly strive to keep this perfect balance.
But sometimes outside forces throw this perfect balance off and you need to use beneficial outside sources to reinstate this balance.
So don’t just go out and gorge yourself on all things fermented. Begin eating fermented foods slowly. Give your gut time to adjust to these new bacteria you are introducing.
Introducing fermented foods slowly creates more of a sneak attack effect rather than an atomic bomb effect.
How to Begin Eating Fermented Foods
1. Go Slow
If you’re like me, you discover the health benefits of something and you jump in whole hog.
Don’t do that with fermented foods!
Slowly adding fermented foods into your diet will give your body time to adjust to all the new bacteria you are consuming. Remember, you have a constant battle ground in your gut. Going slow reduces the amount of shock to your body.
2. Try Variety
Don’t get stuck on just one fermented food.
Right now, kombucha is all the craze and stocked at most grocery stores. But if you don’t like kombucha, try something else. Experiment with unsweetened kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kvass, unpasteurized wine or kimchi.
Also, each fermented food contains its own unique profile of bacteria. So if you only consume one type of fermented food, you are missing out on all the other bacteria available for your gut health.
Read More: How to Make Kombucha
3. Blend and Mix
If you don’t care for the straight version of a fermented food, experiment with blending and mixing.
Add some fruit juice to your kombucha. Mix in some spices or honey to your plain yogurt. Do a second ferment with fruit juice on your water kefir. Stir some sauerkraut into your lettuce salad or coleslaw.
4. Shop the Refrigerated Section
If you are choosing your first fermented foods from the store, make sure and mostly purchase items stored in the refrigerator. [Raw apple cider vinegar is one fermented product I can think of that doesn’t require refrigeration.]
Check the ingredients. Usually, traditionally fermented foods can be duplicated with vinegar. For example: pickled foods usually have vinegar on the ingredient list. This isn’t unhealthy, it’s just not fermented in the traditional pickling way.
5. Give Your Taste Buds a Second Chance
After you’ve been consuming fermented foods for a while, go back and try the foods that made your stomach turn.
When you begin eating fermented foods on a regular basis, your body will get healthier and your taste buds will adjust to this new palate of flavors.
How to Locate Quality Fermented Foods
Many health food stores or health minded grocery stores will carry a variety of fermented foods. Check these stores first if you don’t want to dive into making your own.
The Weston A Price Foundation is a great resource for locating fermented foods in your area or connecting you with people who can help you.
Weather you prefer to drink or eat your probiotics, dairy or non-dairy, there is at least one fermented food out there that you’ll grow to love.
Ease into fermented foods and have fun experimenting! When you begin eating fermented foods your gut and your health will thank you.