Some of our favorite foods and beverages are made through fermentation process – wine, beer, chocolate, cheese, bread, yogurt and others. Our ancestors relied on a fermentation process to preserve summer foods during winter.
Each of us has a different taste and we all prefer different flavors. Once we find flavor we love, nothing else can compare. Fermentation is a natural process that preserves food effectively and safely and takes between 3 to 21 days. The length of fermentation depends on the type of ferment you are making, ripeness of fruit or vegetables you are using, quality of the produce, the temperature at which food is fermenting and other factors.
Why fermented foods are good for you?
Fermentation process makes food more digestible and more nutritious. Fermented foods and beverages contain natural probiotics which are believed to have powerful therapeutic benefits. Some of the well-known benefits of fermented foods include: healthy gut, improved digestion, boosted immunity, healthy weight loss, fights allergies, improves cognitive function and others.
What fermented foods should I consume?
There are many healthy fermented foods and beverages and you won’t be able to introduce them all into your diet at once. With our busy lifestyles, it can be difficult to commit to regular cooking. The great benefit of fermented foods is that you can make them in batches which means that condiments/meals can last for up to a couple of months.
Here is a list of some of the healthiest fermented foods you can make at home and easily incorporate into your diet.
Yogurt is a cultured dairy product produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. It is usually made from cow or goat milk. When making yogurt use whole milk to give the yogurt thicker texture and better taste. Yogurt is a perfect breakfast and you can top it up with fresh or frozen fruits, nuts and muesli. Its intake has been associated with better overall diet and healthier blood pressure.
Recipe to try: How to make yogurt
Very similar to plain yogurt kefir is a fermented milk drink made of full-cream cow, sheep or goat milk and kefir grains. It tastes slightly sour and comes in drinkable form. You drink it as it is or add your favorite fresh or frozen fruits.
Kefir is a healthy natural probiotic drink rich in calcium, proteins and vitamin B. Probiotics in kefir may help reduce digestive problems, reduce allergic reactions and improve immunity.
Recipe to try: How to make kefir
Another cultured dairy goodness made usually from cow or sheep milk. There are many types of cheeses like fresh cheese, natural, soft white cheese, semi-soft, hard cheese, blue cheese and flavored cheese. Cheese is rich in calcium and vitamin B12.
Recipe to try: How to make soft white cheese
Sauerkraut is simply fermented cabbage made by fermenting fresh shredded cabbage and salt in the brine. It is a sour fermented vegetable complimenting a meat dish, bratwurst and can be used as lettuce replacement in a sandwich. You can make sauerkraut at home or purchase it from a local supermarket. If you are purchasing sauerkraut look for a traditional sauerkraut stored in a glass jar which contains three simple ingredients: cabbage, water and salt.
Sauerkraut is known for its health benefits like improved digestion, stronger immune system and stronger bones. It may also help reduce the risk of certain cancers and may help lose weight.
Recipe to try: How to make sauerkraut
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish served around the world. It is made of napa cabbage (Chinese cabbage) and different vegetables mixed in the same spicy brine. Essential spices include chili pepper, ginger and garlic. There are many varieties of kimchi, from sweet to sour and those in between.
Research shows that kimchi may provide health benefits that : contribute to prevention of cancer, obesity and constipation, and help reduce cholesterol, while promoting strong immune system and skin health.
Recipe to try: How to make kimchi
Kombucha is a fermented tea made of black tea and SCOBY which consumes the sugar in the tea. During the fermentation process a delicious effervescent and slightly sour drink is created. Kombucha keeps your gut healthy and immune system strong. The longer you ferment kombucha, the sourer the flavor. You can further change kombucha flavor by adding fresh fruits, herbs or spices. Kombucha can get fizzy – keep it botted on room temperature for a couple of days before placing it in a refrigerator. Get started making kombucha by choosing a perfect fermentation kit.
Kombucha contains a range of good bacteria and nutrients which help support and boost overall health. These include vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, B5 and B12, and amino acids and antioxidants. Researchers found that kombucha can also aid some ailments such as symptoms of arthritis, joint pain and gout.
Recipe to try: How to make kombucha
Miso is a salty paste made from a mixture of soybeans, barley or rice that has been fermented with salt, water and a fungus. It has quite a few health benefits and it’s packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. There are three varieties of miso including:
- white miso – mildest taste due to short fermentation time
- red miso – much saltier than white miso and has longer fermentation time
- mixed miso – combination of white and red miso, strong flavor and darker color.
Apart from making soup you can use miso in a glaze and as a sauce thickener.
Miso is a source of copper, manganese, vitamin K, protein and zinc.
Recipe to try: 15 minutes miso soup with greens and tofu
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made by combining yellow soybeans with a tempeh starter. It has firm texture and intense, earthy and slightly nutty flavor. It contains all essential amino acids and proteins, and is suitable for vegans.
Tempeh contains a range of vitamins including vitamin B5, B6, B3 and B2. Incorporating tempeh in your diet may help reduce cholesterol and increase bone density. Surprisingly tempeh has almost the same protein content as meat.
Recipe to try: How to make tempeh
Natto is a traditional Japanese fermented food made of fermenting soybeans and Bacillus subtilis. It is a part of a traditional Japanese breakfast served along with miso soup, fish and rice. You are unlikely to fall in love with natto the first time you try it due to its unique sticky,slimy texture and strong smell.
Some of natto’s health benefits include enhanced digestion of vitamin K2, and proven support for immune system and cardiovascular health.
Recipe to try: How to make natto
10. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
ACV is made by crushing fresh apples and letting them ferment in barrels with added yeast. During the fermentation process a ‘mother’ is formed which is the combination of yeast and bacteria. If you look at an ACV bottle you can see stands of the ‘mother’ either floating around or at the bottom of the bottle.
ACV is packed with vitamins such as vitamin A, C, E and many types of vitamin B. It is also rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, cooper, iron, magnesium, zinc and others. ACV is seen as a natural household remedy used for removing acne and dandruff, supporting digestion and weight loss, getting rid of sore throat and many other uses.
Recipe to try: Benefits of apple cider vinegar