We’re all about gut health. Within the last couple years the probiotic scene has blown up, with every market stocking its shelves with the latest and most effective probiotic supplements. The probiotic craze is all about replenishing the lining of your gut with “good” or “helpful” bacteria and yeasts. This good bacteria helps with digestion and the overall balance of bacteria in your intestines.
Each probiotic supplement claims it has the best strains of bacteria you won’t find anywhere else… giving them the right to charge you $60.00. But the truth is, there are other ways to give your gut the TLC it needs without dropping your entire paycheck on supplements.
Enter Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are the easiest and most cost-effective way to keep your gut healthy, and best part is you can make your own at home. Before we get into a DIY, let’s go over the fermentation process, so you don’t end up with any exploding jars.
How does fermenting work?
Fermented foods can be any food that has gone through the lactofermentation process, meaning natural bacteria feeds on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. When fermenting vegetables, the bacteria thrives on excessive amounts of sugar and an oxygen-starved environment.
This process preserves the food, while also making minerals from the food more readily available for digestion.
Health benefits of fermented foods
Most people turn to ferment foods because they’re a natural and cheap way to get your good bacteria, but there are tons of other benefits to eating fermented foods. In addition to various strains of probiotics, fermentation creates enzymes, B-vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids, which help with heart function and blood flow.
Fermented food also keeps your body’s yeast to bacteria ratio in check. For all you ladies that struggle with yeast infections, fermented foods will help your body prevent yeast overgrowth. So if you’re feeling funky, find a good fermented snack.
Also, you’ll look like a cool witch with mason jars of god knows what laying around your kitchen.
You probably already incorporate fermented foods into your diet without realizing it. Food fermentation is practiced across many cultures, starting as an easy way to preserve food without a refrigerator. But the fermented dishes have outlasted the fridge because they’re delicious and nutritious.
Our Favorite Fermented Foods
Originating in Germany, sauerkraut is just cabbage and salt that has gone through the fermentation process. Not only is it good for the gut with all its probiotics, but it’s also a great source of fiber. When you can opt for the refrigerated sauerkraut over the shelved ‘kraut, for more probiotic benefits.
Kimchi is the Korean sauerkraut. It essentially has the same benefits as sauerkraut since it’s also fermented cabbage, but this dish is spicy. With the Korean flair of red peppers this fermented food will clear out the sinuses too.
Yogurt (fermented milk) is loaded with probiotics. Yogurts that are labeled with “Live and Active Cultures” are guaranteed to have 100 million probiotic cultures per gram at the time of manufacturing, although yogurts without the label still contain cultures. Yogurt is an easy fermented food to incorporate into your diet. Some lactose-intolerant people use it as a dairy substitute since the probiotics help you digest the sugar in the milk (lactose).*
*Not everyone who is lactose-intolerant is able to digest yogurt, but it’s worth exploring.
Kefir is another form of fermented milk, very similar to yogurt, but a more drinkable consistency. It’s a great source of calcium and can be made from any milk product. Health food stores generally carry cow kefir, as well as goat kefir. While some people drink kefir by itself, the taste can be a little overwhelming, so we recommend adding it to your smoothies.
Kombucha is one of the more popular fermented foods. There are many types of kombuchas, some coming from mushrooms others coming from tea. During the fermentation process a small amount of alcohol is naturally released. In recent years companies have been brew kombucha to release greater amounts of alcohol and selling it a kombucha beer. Even the beer contains probiotics, so drink up guilt free.
Miso is a fermented paste made from barley, soy beans, or rice. It is traditionally used in Japanese cooking and can be found in miso soup as a base for the broth. Another way to incorporate miso into your diet is adding it to salad dressings or creating a miso glaze that goes great on black cod.
You can pretty much ferment any vegetable you want, the process working better with vegetables higher in sugar. And fermented veggies are a great snack, garnish, or excuse to order another bloody mary. When you begin fermenting at home, vegetables are a great place to start.
DIY Veggie Fermentation
Like I said, the best part about fermented food is that you can do it yourself, with minimal effort. Here are some brief steps on starting your first fermentation.
- Prepare your veggies however you like. You can grate, chop, slice, spear, or leave them whole depending on how you want to eat them later on.
- Choose whether you’d like to use salt, whey, or starter culture to ferment your veggies. This is a matter of taste and dietary restrictions. To get a comparison check out this article.
- Use water to prepare the brine. If possible do not use tap water, because the less contaminants you have in your water the better the veggies will taste.
- Put your veggies in a mason jar or some sort of container with a sealable lid. Then add the brine to your jar, fully submerging the veggies within. You may need to weigh them down in the brine. Then seal the lid.
- Once your veggies finish culturing, you’ll want to move them to cold storage. Here are some tips on how to tell when they’re done.
Now that you’ve preserved your veggies, they’ll last you much longer and help you keep a happy gut.