The Most Powerful Fermented Foods
Trying to determine which fermented foods to use for weight loss, Candida, diabetes, allergies, cancer, and other conditions?
Whether you’re trying to raise your energy levels or heal a condition like IBS or high blood pressure, fermented foods can provide you with natural results, quickly. However, there are specific fermented foods you should be mindful of based on the outcome you’re striving for. Know that not every type of fermented food is used for medicinal purposes….such as beer or wine!
The following is a rundown of fermented foods that contain healing and nutritional elements.
Unpasteurized vinegar is regarded as an amazing stimulant. Although most vinegar found in our grocery stores is cheap and mass-produced with little-to-no nutrition, traditional home-made vinegar made with live cultures and quality alcohols contains numerous health benefits. Vinegar was considered the world’s first preservative, and apple cider vinegar (also referred to as ACV) has long been utilized as a natural remedy for thousands of years. Made with unpasteurized fruit juices, raw vinegars contain all the enzymes and nutrients of the fruit used (for instance, ACV contains all the apple’s nutrients: B vitamins, pectin, acetic and malic acids, and the like). Ultimately, vinegar is a tonic that aids in digestion, reduces blood pressure, and alleviates fatigue and stress. Also, consuming vinegar makes it harder to absorb starches and sugars.
Initially referenced in a Chinese poem almost 3,000 years ago, kimchi is one of the first lacto-fermented foods. This traditional Korean side dish, which consists of spices and cabbage, enhances the digestive and cardiovascular systems. Its antioxidants aid in decreasing your chances of developing severe health conditions like diabetes and cancer.
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage made with salt simply put. Herbs are often added to improve the flavour and nutritional content. Rich in fiber, vitamins, copper, iron, magnesium, and calcium, consuming sauerkraut on a regular basis supports a healthy inflammation response, strengthens bones while reducing cholesterol and assisting with circulation. Sauerkraut also helps regulate digestion by filling the gut with essential Lactobacillus Plantarum (a beneficial probiotic). It can also be made as a ‘wild’ ferment (in other words, no starter culture is necessary).
If you think of it, there are actually two types of pickles. When you preserve cucumbers in vinegar, you get regular old pickles. However, when you preserve cucumbers in a salt-water brine, you get probiotic pickles instead! A single pickle has as much as 20% of your daily Vitamin K value—a vitamin that is vital to heart and bone health. CAUTION: Since pickles are usually processed and come in several varieties (such as dill pickles, sweet pickles, relish, etc.), it’s crucial to seek out locally produced or organic pickles for optimal nutrition. Also, ensure that they are labeled as ‘unpasteurized,’ ‘cultured,’ or ‘lacto-fermented.’ Pickles are one of the most popular ferments, and quite simple to make on your own!
For as long as anyone can remember, Eastern Europe has been brewing Kvass, conventionally produced by fermenting barley or rye. These days it is generally created with different types of root vegetables and fruits. Loaded with probiotics, kvass is known for its blood and liver cleansing abilities.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made of black tea sweetened with sugar with origins in China approximately 2000 years ago. The preferred sugar source is from the sugarcane plant. When the SCOBY is added, the process of fermentation begins. Once the fermentation process is complete, the sugary tea becomes a fizzy, carbonated beverage rich in probiotics, enzymes and beneficial acids with minor traces of alcohol. Research indicates that kombucha improves energy, enhances digestion, boosts immunity, supports weight loss, and acts as a total-body detox.
If you look at all the fermented foods out there, yogurt is the most widely consumed fermented food there is. Yogurt influences diet, blood pressure, and metabolism. Recent research indicates that there is a direct correlation between reduction of diabetes and consumption of sugar-free yogurt. CAUTION: When purchasing yogurt, ensure that the milk source is certified organic and that it is derived from a grass-fed source. Alternatively, you can make your own!
Kefir is a fermented milk product that is rich in magnesium, calcium, and vitamins, with a similar texture and flavour of drinkable yogurt. This sour-tasting liquid is made by putting milk kefir grains into preferably raw milk. It is known to relieve bowel-related problems and improve digestion while improving immunity and developing bone density. It has even been shown to destroy Candida—a yeast-like parasitic fungus. Even though it’s not as favoured as yogurt, it contains more probiotics. (Coconut Kefir is a wonderful dairy alternative.)
Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, barley or rice inoculated with mould. This beloved Asian addition strengthens bones, contains anti-aging properties, reduces the risk of cancer, stimulates healthy skin, and aids the nervous system. It alkalizes the body and is delicious at the same time – especially when you make it at home!
Traditionally an Indonesian cake-like dish, Tempeh is made when soy beans are fermented with a live mould. Since tempeh contains the same protein qualities as meat, it’s an ideal choice for vegans! Tempeh reduces cholesterol, is rich in vitamins, and speeds up muscle recovery. Fresh tempeh is tastier than the kind found in the frozen food section of your local grocery store. However, this is one of the ferments that takes patience and care so be prepared to set aside some time for this one. You will feel so proud of yourself once you achieve this ferment!
Like tempeh, Natto consists of soybeans that are fermented. A side dish favourite, natto is rich in vitamin K2, which helps deliver calcium throughout the body. Typically, those who ingest calcium supplements experience absorption issues. When the bones don’t receive sufficient K2, calcium is deposited into the cardiovascular system instead, triggering osteoporosis. However, with the help of K2, calcium that is properly distributed will make the bones stronger. Natto also contains nattokinase, an enzyme that helps with blood clotting issues and supports cardiovascular health.
Sourdough starter, containing fermented wild yeasts and bacteria, is a natural leaven for making bread. Sourdough naturally has lower levels of sugar than most bread. Since the yeasts and bacteria in sourdough pre-digest the starches, consuming it is beneficial to the health of your gut and makes the bacterial ecosystem stronger, and as such, makes it more resistant to infection.
Idlis originated in southern Indian cuisine over 1,000 years ago. An idli is a naturally leavened, steamed cake. It is made from white lentils (urad dal), ground rice, and beans. Naturally gluten free, Idlis are light and very digestible and are rich in potassium, calcium, and iron. Since idlis require steaming, they do not contain probiotics; that said, their high levels of iron are vital for blood oxygenation.
This traditional Ethiopian flatbread is naturally yeast-risen and was traditionally made with teff, a gluten free grain. Packed high with protein, calcium, and iron, injera is helpful when recovering from an illness and helps to make the body stronger.
Nut and Raw Cheese
Raw milk has not undergone the pasteurization process that kills most of the beneficial bacteria. The cheeses from sheep, goat, and cows are especially high in probiotics, which help heal digestive tissues. Research indicates that raw milk can help alleviate depression and assist with neurological issues. Probiotics are only found in cheeses that are unpasteurized and raw.
Several different types of nuts can be used to make nut cheeses, including cashews, almonds, walnuts, and macadamia. A perfect substitute for cheese produced by animal milk, nut cheese is a favourite among vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. Even though nut cheese does not quite have the same nutritional value as raw cheese, nuts are rich in healthy fats and protein. By adding probiotics to your nut mixture and fermenting it, your gut can receive the nutrients it needs in a delicious manner.
Please keep in mind that with the right techniques, almost all vegetables can be fermented in some way to improve their nutritional content. You may experiment with hot sauces, pumpkin, daikon, salsas, olives, dilly beans and so much more. If you are curious and want to learn more about the benefits of each ferment and how to make them safely, I teach a Fermentation Fundamentals course that spans over 6 months and has 6 modules covering most of these ferments. Once you learn the basics for each, the possibilities are endless!