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What You Need to Know About Fermented Foods

Have you heard of fermented foods and wondered – – A) What the heck are fermented foods? B) Where can I find fermented foods? C) Will my family even eat fermented foods?

fermented foodsGood.  You are normal.  I wondered all of those things too.  The good thing is, there is a lot of good information out there about the benefits of fermented foods and how to get these awesome goodies into our bellies AND the bellies of our kiddos.  I am gonna break it down into what you need to know – to keep it simple.  I am all about easy.  Or I won’t do it.  I mean, who has time for complicated when we have tiny humans to raise??  I certainly don’t!  

What are Fermented Foods?

Guess what?  Chances are you probably already know of a few fermented or cultured foods.  You might even eat or drink them!  Some examples include, sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough, yogurt, kefir, sour cream, cream cheese, kombucha, and kvass.  Have you ever had beet kvass?  I made it for my family and these were their thoughts:

That was 3 years ago.  To be honest, I haven’t made kvass since.  I’d rather just juice the beets and use them in smoothies!  However, kvass is AMAZING for the liver and gut.  

Now for the science!  What exactly is fermenting or culturing food?  The terms ‘cultured’ and ‘fermented’ can be used interchangeably.  Fermentation is actually a sort of pre-digestion that takes place when naturally present bacteria, usually of the lactobaccillus or bifidus strains, or sometimes yeasts, begin breaking down the sugars and starches in the food. As these bacteria divide, the process forms lactic acid and sometimes acetic acid or alcohol which halts the growth of the ‘bad’ or putrefying bacteria. This acid is also responsible for the sour taste that comes along with fermented foods.

As long as the foods are kept under a brine or a liquid, and in cool storage the product will last for months and months, sometimes years. I currently have jalapeños that are over 6 months old in my refrigerator and they are still delicious!

The Benefits of Fermented Foods

Any benefits???  Holy cow, YES!  The benefits are THE reason we eat fermented foods.  Well, they are super yummy too.  But seriously.  Here are just a few:

  • Fermented foods are more digestible and have increased vitamin levels.
  • Fermentation can also create new nutrients, particularly B-vitamins.
  • Fermentation helps keep our guts full of ‘good’ bacteria.
  • The lactic acid encourages the growth of healthy microbiota in our intestinal tract.
  • Fermented grains can neutralize the anti-nutrient phytic acid naturally present in grains.
  • Fermented foods can help boost our immunity.
  • Cultured foods can curb cravings for sweets and other overly processed foods.

Finding and Eating Fermented Foods

Fortunately, with awareness about the benefits of fermented foods spreading, we are seeing more and more fermented food options in grocery stores everywhere.  Fermented beverages like kombucha are widely available and I have seen the Bubbies brand of pickles and sauerkraut at Safeway!  Whole Foods does have a lot more options when it comes to fermented foods and I am loving Farmhouse Culture, when I am too lazy to make my own.  

OH!  Did you know you can make your own?  Yes.  Super easy to do.  Even lazy people like me can do it.  All it takes is salt, a vegetable, and time!  Dilly Carrots are amazing.  They are carrots but taste like pickles.  No joke.  Check out this link on how to make fermented foods at home.  You will get the skinny there and be a pro in no time!

Will my Kid(s) eat Fermented Foods?

Yes.  Because they are delicious.  And if your child doesn’t like pickles, then ferment some fruit.  There are so many ways to get the amazing benefits of fermented foods into our families!  You can easily use them as a side dish at dinner.  I do this often.  Just one fork full of kraut, or a few dilly carrot sticks have trillions of good bacteria for tiny guts.  Add fermented foods to salads.  Ferment fruit and add it to a smoothie.  Add fermented foods to a dip or salsa!  I use fermented garlic and fermented jalapeños in salsa.  I use the garlic in pestos!  Add the brine from a ferment to a salad dressing.  Or ketchup!  Just stir it in – BOOM.  Fermented ketchup.  SO many options!

So, are you ready to give it a shot?  What do you have to lose?  Do you think you will try a store bought version first?  Or will you jump right in and start fermenting in your own kitchen!  It really is so much fun and I LOVE teaching people how to do it.  🙂

Now that you know just a little bit about fermented foods, my challenge for you this week is to find SOMETHING fermented and give it a try.  You might find a world of delicious food that you never knew you loved AND you would make your gut happy too!

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One Response to What You Need to Know About Fermented Foods

  1. joDee February 18, 2017 at 9:17 pm #

    I’ll have to try kvass. Our family enjoys fermented foods. We make sauerkraut regularly and used to make our own yogurt (convenience wins so often), among other things. Thank you for the dilly carrots recipe! I can’t wait to try it.

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