Fermented foods might be good for you (and your brain) but often people are unaware how tasty they can be! It should not be a chore to eat fermented – quite the opposite.
Luckily there’s something in the world of fermented products which you’re sure to enjoy. Also, we've been loving the opportunity to do more fermented foods while we've been home, it's a great skill, fun for the whole family, and keeps you healthy during difficult times.
Naturally Fermented Foods: Probiotic Diet
This natural process is used unsuspectingly in some of our favorite foods and beverages. Wines, beers, breads, cheeses, chocolates, coffees and yogurts too!
Every culture around the world has an example of fermented food product, allowing preservation through the year and aiding survival through regular food supply; able to preserve produce, milks, and even meats.
Healthy strains of yeast and bacteria change the chemical structure of the food, helping to ‘pre-digest’ while protecting from other microbes.
Sauerkraut is an excellent example of fermented food (also one of Dr. Weil’s favorites – recipe below), originating more than 2,000 years ago in China, and established for possible health benefits today.
- But is the jar you buy at the store actually the ‘real’ deal?
Not all ‘Fermented’ Foods are Probiotic
Some jarred products like pickles or sauerkraut, are often fermented using vinegar in place of natural fermentation. Since this process does not use live organisms, probiotic and health benefits are mostly absent.
Here’s some tips to help discern:
- Next time you’re shopping, see if you can find the words “naturally fermented” on the label.
- Also take note of any effervescence or bubbling — indicating the presence of probiotic organisms.
- Better yet, start fermenting yourself!
Nutrient Absorption, Gut Health, Disease Prevention
Fermented foods produce complexes of vitamins and nutrients easier on digestion and ideal for overall health. Harvard Medical School recommends naturally fermented foods alongside possible health benefits:
- Increased B-vitamin content
- Increased iron and other mineral absorption
- Boosted antioxidant content
- More omega-3 fatty acids
- Possible improvements to auto-immunities
Dr. Weil's Sauerkraut Recipe
Contrary to the mushy imitation, real sauerkraut doesn’t come as a canned product. It’s intended to be savory, crunchy, lively – a living and breathing food. Sauerkraut is also an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, while low in fat and calories.
It’s low-cost, surprisingly easy to make, and a great introduction to at-home fermentation! Here’s Dr. Weil’s recipe:
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Nine pounds (9lbs) Organic Green Cabbage – Fresher the Better
- Pink Himalayan sea salt – 2% by weight of trimmed cabbage
HOW TO MAKE
- Trim, quarter, core, and weigh cabbage. Weigh out salt. Slice cabbage thinly and mix with salt.
- At 10-minute intervals, squeeze cabbage firmly, using a twisting motion at first. Do this 3 times until cabbage is much reduced in volume and has exuded a lot of liquid.
- Pack cabbage into two 2qt jars firmly. Use a Perfect Pickler water-seal lid to close jars. Strain, save, and refrigerate any excess liquid.
- Let jars sit at a constant temperature of 65-72 °F for 2 weeks – check often.
- If cabbage appears too dry, add some of the saved liquid. Taste it until it is done to your liking
Bonus Recipe: Tempeh Salad by Dr. Weil
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- 8oz of tempeh
- Veganaise or mayonnaise
- Finely chopped onion
- Finely chopped celery
- Finely chopped dill pickle
- Worcestershire sauce
- Salt, to taste
- Cut tempeh into ¼-inch slices.
- Place in a steamer and steam for 25 minutes.
- Put slices in bowl and while they are still hot, add 1tbsp water, and mash with a fork.
- Add Veganaise and remaining ingredients.
- Mix well and chill. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Enjoy!
~Good on lettuce leaves or crackers (with mustard if you like)~
The Bottom Line
Fermented foods and matcha go hand-and-hand, and research even points to the antioxidants in green tea to improve your own microbiome.
This is also a great example of traditional Japanese breakfast: a small piece of fish, pickled vegetable and matcha!
Covering all your bases, energizing, probiotic on all fronts – a perfect example of a macrobiotic diet – and thought to explain Japan’s record breaking longevity.
-Team Matcha Kari