Every traditional culture included fermented foods as a dietary staple - including fermented dairy, grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, meats and fish.
During Roman times, sauerkraut was eaten because of its health giving properties; in ancient India, it was not uncommon to enjoy a pre-dinner drink of lassi; Koreans have been consuming kimchi for years while other Asian cultures eat pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, cucumbers and carrots, miso and natto dishes.
Examples of fermented foods:
Water or coconut kefir
Fermented rice bran
Fermented meat and fish
Top tip: Aim to include at least ½ cup daily if tolerated. By their nature fermented foods are high in histamine so might not be tolerated by all, e.g. SIBO, Candida. Start low and slow, e.g a tablespoon of sauerkraut day 1, kimchi day 2, kefir day 3, continue for 1 week then increase to 2 tbsp per day…
Benefits of Fermented Foods:
Improve digestion and absorption stimulate stomach acid and enzyme production
The process of fermentation improves digestibility of foods, e.g. fermentation process breaks down the lactose in dairy.
Fermentation also helps break down the mineral-binding phytates and tannins this allowing improves nutrient absorption.
Increases in B-complex, vitamin K, minerals, polyphenol absorptions.
Natural source of probiotics - increases diversity
Natural source of prebiotics for productions of short chain fatty acids.
How to make your own fermented foods:
Making your own fermented foods is by far the most cost effective way of consuming them regularly. Sauerkraut is the easiest one to start with, here is a basic recipes that you can start playing with as you become more familiar with the process. E.g adding different herbs, vegetables, playing around with fermentation times….
- ⅔ medium head green cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp of ground himalayan rock salt
1. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, salt and pepper. Using your hands mix well massaging the salt into the cabbage. If using the thermomix add the quartered cabbage to the bowl, add the salt then chop on speed 5 / 10 secs.
2. Tightly pack the mixture into a wide-mouthed quart/mason jar. Use your clean fist of a wooden spoon to press down on the cabbage, forcing out all the air bubbles and causing a natural brine to rise up in the jar.
3. Place a clean, small place on top of the cabbage, and then set a clean weight (like a jar filled with water) on top to keep the cabbage packed down.
4. Cover the opening of the jar with a piece of cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band, to prevent any bugs from getting in. Leave at room temperature to ferment for 7 to 10 days. During the first week of fermentation push down on the weight to force the cabbage under the brine at least once a day. Sometimes it takes a day or two for enough brine to form and completely submerge the cabbage.
5. Once the cabbage looks translucent, the kraut has finished fermenting. Remove the plate and weight, scrape off and discard the top layer, which may be covered in a harmless white mold. Cover the jar with a lid and transfer to the refrigerator, where the kraut can be stored for months.
6. Once you get confident with the method, you can start experimenting with flavours by adding in other ingredients such as carrots, caraway seeds, lemongrass, coriander, grapefruit zest….the list is endless!