Crunchy pickles, tangy sauerkraut and refreshing kombucha tea have more in common than you might think.
All of these fermented foods were a regular part of the human diet in years past. Ancient cultures knew there were great health benefits to be gained from regularly consuming fermented foods and beverages and when properly prepared, they can provide the same benefits for us today.
The process of fermentation produces beneficial enzymes and lactic acid, which inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and encourages the production of probiotics, which includes lactobacilli. This increases the body’s ability to digest foods consumed. It also enhances the body’s ability to absorb the rich vitamins and nutrients found in them. Furthermore, fermented foods help to regulate the acids found in the stomach, increasing the levels produced or slowing their production down, which helps maintain a healthy gut.
Our bodies reap the most benefits when small amounts of these foods are consumed each day. Many lacto-fermented foods, such as kimchi, should only be used as condiments or small side dishes, not served as main courses. Other fermented foods that contain optimal levels of probiotics and are nutrient-rich include sauerkraut, takuan, and pickles. Beverages, such as kombucha, kefir and beet kvass are also very beneficial for digestive health and should be part of your daily diet.
In the commercial production of these foods, the use of vinegar and the process of pasteurization kill helpful enzymes and probiotics, making these foods less beneficial for our health. Fortunately, making fermented foods at home is easy. It takes a minimal amount of hands-on time to prepare fermented foods and it does not require any special tools. Basic kitchen tools and glass containers or crocks, along with quality produce, sea salt and water are all that is necessary to create nutritious fermented foods.
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