Eat Fermented Foods for Optimal Health

by Janel DuRoss

Ohhh…did you think that by “fermented foods” I meant beer or wine? Not this time!

A healthy gut affects your overall well being – everything from playing with your children, taking a yoga class, going for a run, and enjoying your time vested vacation. What you eat is very important, and adding fermented foods can keep your belly very happy.

Why would you eat fermented foods? Good question! Fermented foods are the secret component to cultivating healthy digestion and maintaing your gut flora balance between good (think probiotics) and bad bacteria. An unhealthy gut contributes to so many areas of your body and quality of life.

Plethora of Benefits from Fermented Foods

  • reduces dry skin
  • lessen brittle hair
  • reduces acne
  • lifts your mood, minimizing depression
  • boosts your immunity
  • helps you absorb nutrients from food better with digestive enzymes
  • helps prevent obesity
  • lowers your risk of cancer
  • helps battle inflammation and bloating of the gut
  • efficient mineral absorption
  • inhibits and destroys the growth of pathogens
  • improves pancreatic function, which is beneficial for diabetes
  • helps the body produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter
  • increase bowel movement, reduce constipation problems

Fermented Foods

Kombucha: A type of sweetened tea (green or black), fermented process using ‘symbiotic colony of bacteria’ and yeast (SCOBY), which looks like a very unattractive opaque rubbery disc. SCOBY protects unwanted outside bacteria and air while the Kombucha is fermenting.
In the bottom of a store-bought bottle of Kombucha you will see material floating – it’s the good bacteria!

Kimchi (Korean): A traditional (fermented) Korean dish made with vegetables, seasonings and sea salt brine. Some seafood variations give Kimchi the umani zest. Kimchi is usually sour and spicy to taste, as the red chili is a staple ingredient. There are numerous varieties of Kimchi with napa cabbage, scallion, radish, or cucumber. Koreans eat Kimchi usually with every meal. Fun fact! There is a Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul, Korea.

Lebneh: Middle-Eastern style “yogurt” strained with cheesecloth and mixed daily with a dash of salt; this process removes the whey, and some lactose, lowering the sugar content. The result is a unique yummy “yogurt-like” flavor with a much thicker consistency. I usually have the straining set-up in the fridge to protect from the heat. It’s sometimes referred to as “Greek Yogurt,” but once you try it you notice a unique tasty difference. In my opinion, adding olive oil on top when serving is the most delicious way to eat it. Lebneh is also referred to as Labne or Labne Cheese or Labne Kefir.

Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is also known as “sour cabbage.” It’s finely-cut cabbage fermented by (LAB) Lacto-fermentation or Lactic Acid Bacteria process where the good bacteria (also found in yogurt: Lactobacillus) convert sugars of the cabbage into lactic acid, which inhibits the growth of bad bacteria. The cabbage is submerged into a kosher salt brine for three to seven days or two months in a dark (keep away from light) low temp (55ºF) area. The longer the cabbage ferments the tastier it is and the greater the health benefits. Note you can “sauerkraut” (ferment) any food – cucumbers, peppers, green beans, cauliflower, etc. Get creative!

Recipes for Your Fermentation Experimentation

Sauerkraut

Kimchi

Kombucha

Lebneh

Learn More

To learn more about fermentation on your own, check out this book by Sandor Katz.

It’s summer, a great time to explore and try various fermented foods. Have fun and enjoy!

Janel teaches yoga, meditation, thai bodywork and related movement workshops in NJ and NYC. To learn more about her, visit her website.

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