Fermented foods have long been prized for their numerous health benefits for centuries. What does fermented mean? These are foods that have been through a special processing in which natural, healthy bacteria feed on the sugars and carbs that are present in the food. Economically, fermented foods are relatively inexpensive and stay fresh for a long period of time. You can make or buy a large batch of fermented vegetables and they will be full of healthy bacteria and ready to enjoy at a moment’s notice. Many have heard of supplements such as probiotics or acidophilus. Did you know that getting these bacteria from food sources is even healthier? Gut health and healthy bacteria are crucial for absorbing nutrients from food, detoxing the body, mental health, keeping the immune system strong, the skin clear and so much more. ABC Nutrition wants to help you add fermented foods to your diet so you can start feeling the benefits.
Kombucha: Honestly, this is one of my favorite fermented drinks I have ever tried! It is a fermented tea with sugar (from various sources such as cane sugar, fruit, or honey). (Every kombucha contains a bacterium that is responsible for initiating the fermenting process.) After the fermentation, kombucha becomes carbonated and full of vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes and probiotics. Depending on what brand you try, some are more carbonated or vinegary or slightly beer-tasting. Kombucha can improve digestion, increase metabolism, increase energy, detox the body and reduce joint pain. Due to the fermentation process, alcohol is a natural result. However, if prepared and stored correctly, the alcohol content should be less than 0.5 percent (some brands will vary). Also, some have more sugar than recommended. Choose a brand with only 5-8 grams of naturally occurring sugar per serving. Start with 4 ounces a day for one or two weeks until your body adapts. Once your stomach is used to this drink, enjoy 8-16 ounces a day!
Pickles: Now, there is a difference between pickled and fermented. Pickling foods preserves food in a vinegar brine. This process has been said to have originated in India over 4,000 years ago. Fermenting foods are a little different and require more work, as we learned above. For the largest health benefit, women definitely want to pick the fermented pickles! You may need to Google the closest location to buy these; however, they are sold in stores. For those who enjoy the salty-sour taste of regular pickles, these will have similar flavors and will be a very easy transition. Research shows adding fermented pickles to your diet can provide relief for some digestion issues. Also try other fermented veggies such as cauliflower or cabbage for extra nutrients.
C. Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk product usually from cow, goat or sheep milk. It can be described as a drinkable yogurt with a more vinegary taste. A 6-ounce serving of kefir contains 6 grams of protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12 and B2 (riboflavin), magnesium and a decent amount of vitamin D. Kefir can also reduce the risks of osteoporosis, which is a prevalent and preventable disease among women. For breakfast, try sipping kefir with some fruit and nuts on the side.
Fermented foods can be prepared at home but be careful. The best is to work with someone who is knowledgeable about fermentation. If the fermentation process is not done perfectly, there is a risk that a harmful bacterium may get into your food. Harmful bacteria may also cause serious illness. If a woman is pregnant or may become pregnant, avoid fermented foods and talk to your health care provider. When adding fermented foods to your diet, you may experience slight bloating or bubbling in your stomach. This is normal as the healthy bacteria is balancing out the bad. Start with a small serving of one fermented food a day and you will notice your stomach feeling comfortable again.
By Bess Berger