If you're new to fermented foods, I can't wait to share the benefits of these amazing creations by nature that can literally, change your body from the inside out. Fermented foods are foods that have been left to sit for periods of time, or essentially rot. Yet, they don't go bad. Instead over the time period they are left to sit, they actually cultivate or ferment healthy bacteria. They can be made with either an added culture starter, or all own their own through their natural fermentation abilities. Fermentation has been used throughout history to preserve foods, enhance health, and eliminate disease and bad bacteria. Fermented and cultured foods contain probiotics that aid digestion and help to cleanse the body from harmful agents, toxins and pollutants. They are very simple to make and there are billions of healthy bacteria in living, fermented foods. These bacteria help to alkalize the body, and can even help you lose weight because they eliminate toxins and even stored weight from the body over time. Fermented foods are also great for your skin, and can help digest any meal they are eaten with. Add some of these fermented foods to your diet, preferably two or three a day. You'll not only feel better in no time, but your immune system will be stronger, your skin will look clearer, and your figure will even benefit too!
One of the oldest fermented foods of all time is the German food, sauerkraut. Soldiers used kraut in times of war, when disease was on the rise and a problem for survival. By simply bottling cabbage, salt and water in a crock or container and letting it sit covered to ferment for a few days, a natural miracle food was born. Sauerkraut is very easy to digest and great for curing any stomach issue. It also helps an acidic stomach by bringing the pH levels back into balance. It is often eaten with meat based meals to aid in digestion of the meats, though I prefer eating it with a huge green salad! It adds a zippy, tangy taste that is incredible, and is rich in probiotics. Be sure to buy a kind without distilled vinegar and that is refrigerated. Many shelf brands contain additives, sugar and preservatives.
I like to think of kimchi as sauerkraut gone wild! Kimchi is cabbage and other veggies like garlic, carrots, green onions and sometimes celery, that also contains added red peppers for spice. I love kimchi! It is so zippy and tangy and contains all the same benefits as kraut. Both kimchi and kraut are very easy to make at home, with or without a starter culture. Add it to salads, on top of cooked greens, on toast or a sandwich, tuna salad, or have it alongside any meal of your choosing.
Did you know the common pickle is one of the best probiotic rich foods of all? Now, I'm not talking about those popular brands you'll find on the store shelves that you probably grew up eating. I mean true pickles, free of food dyes, preservatives, sugars, calcium chloride, or any other unnatural food ingredient. Pickles are nothing more than salt, water and cucumbers in their most natural form. I like to make my own at home and flavor them with mustard seeds and a little red pepper and onions. You can actually flavor them however you like. Bubbles brand makes great pickles that contain nothing but cucumbers, salt and Artesian well water, and they are a must-have in my kitchen when I'm craving a good pickle but don't have time for mine to ferment on their own.
Have you ever smelled raw cacao nibs? They actually have a fermented smell similar to wine, not chocolate. Raw cacao is full of probiotics, and pure dark chocolate actually has some too, just not as much. Chocolate is made by letting cocoa beans ferment, just like coffee beans are. This helps develop their flavor and preserve them as well. Cacao beans develop natural bacteria that feed healthy bacteria in your body and can improve your digestion. I love raw cacao nibs, raw cacao powder, and I also love plain 100% baking bars too. Aren't you glad to know that one of your favorite "guilty" foods is actually good for you and your tummy? Keep it to one or two ounces a day if you're watching your figure though, and stay away from those with added sugars,milk or oils.
Can I be honest? Miso kind of grosses me out, even though I know it is supposedly so great for you. Miso is made from fermented soy beans, and has been found to be one of the best fermented foods you can eat. It is especially alkaline and immune-enhancing. I'm still hoping to try it someday, but haven't done so yet. Let me know if you're a fan and I just might give it a go!
I love kefir, whether it be coconut water kefir or organic non-fat dairy kefir. Kefir has 10 times the good bacteria as yogurt, if not more, but tastes very simliar. Kefir is made by culturing milk or any liquid like coconut water with kefir grains, which are not grains, but actually a cluster of healthy bacteria. Kefir is great for your stomach, immune system, and your weight. It contains no lactose, or hardly any, so if you can't tolerate yogurt, try kefir! I love pouring a dash in smoothies, drinking a little with cinnamon if my stomach is upset, or making homemade salad dressings with it like healthy ranch dressing instead of using mayo.
Apple cider vinegar is one of my favorite fermented foods. Apples are left to ferment off of a yeast culture that is actually very healthy for your body. Raw apple cider vinegar that is organic is the best to buy. It eliminates gas, bloating, constipation and helps to digest other foods. There's a rumor it can even help you lose weight too, which is a bonus if that's your goal. Drizzle it over salads, add a splash to your green tea over ice with lemon juice or use it however else you like.
We all know yogurt has probiotics by now, I'm sure, but yogurt is so great for you that I felt it was worth including. My recommendations for buying yogurt, which is cultured milk, is to by an organic brand that is plain and unsweetened to avoid added hormones, antibiotics and harmful sugars that are in other commercial yogurts. I also prefer Greek yogurt above all other types since it is higher in protein and lower in natural milk sugars. If you can't or don't want to consume dairy, buy coconut or almond milk based yogurts instead. My favorite brands are Stonyfield Organics Oikos Greek and also So Delicious brand's coconut milk based yogurts.
I'm not telling any of you to go out and develop a wine addiction, but a little wine is actually a great source of probiotics. Red wine is the best for you and highest in antioxidants. Since grapes are fermented to make wine, they produce healthy bacteria that can clean out your system and even enhance your skin. If you do consume wine, keep it to 5 or 6 ounces a serving and keep it to one serving a day please!
Do you eat fermented foods? If you make your own fermented foods at home, I'd love to hear about it! For more on how to ferment and culture your own food, visit one of my favorite sources on the top, Cultures for Health at: culturesforhealth.com.
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