Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ferments- Healthy From The Inside... Out

I love to ferment pretty much anything and everything. There's something about the unpredictable nature that really draws me to it, yet it's very scientific. Every time I ferment, whether it's sauerkraut, kombucha or applesauce the results are slightly different. The cultures are always variable and they seem to have a personality all their own. I know I post some fairly odd looking pictures from time to time, so I wanted to explain briefly what it is and why I do it.

Fermentation in food processing typically is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. (thanks to Wiki)

Fermented foods have been around since we have. All over the world various cultures use and have used different techniques to preserve food, rendering it more digestible and nutritious in the process. Up until this century, refrigeration was not an option so preservation (aka fermentation) ruled supreme. Unfortunately due to the mass
production of foods which require faster procedures to produce the quantity needed, much has been lost in the way of food preserving. Most of what is done is prepared in a manner that is nothing like our traditional roots utilized for centuries. Much like other processed foods that show up in our food system, they have taken a negative toll on our health in the seeking of quantity over quality.

I get some pretty weird looks and comments when I attach the word 'fermented' to various foods so I wanted to share some of the common fermented foods that we consume here in the US?
Pickled Vegetables (olives, capers etc)
Sour Cream
Soy Sauce

Not as known-
bean paste

I know you have consumed some of these? Again, the problem is how they are processed now, versus how they have traditionally been processed.

Fermented foods allow beneficial bacteria build up, which in turn preserve the particular food for any given period of time. In the process, this allows for easier digestibility, assimilation and utilization of nutrients as well as a host of other health benefits. (including but not limited to)
- reduction of cholesterol
- adaptive immunity
- protects the colon
- reduction in cavities (shown in children)

ps. (I am not a doctor and these claims are based on what I have experienced and seen in research... be your own scientist)

Clearly we could all benefit by added QUALITY fermented foods back into our diet. The great news is they are SUPER EASY and AMAZINGLY AFFORDABLE to produce yourself. Walk into any Whole Foods market and you can buy decent quality fermented foods to some degree, but if you really want the best bang for you buck (as they can be quite pricey for the real deal), and a greater nutritional profile, make your own. Stay tuned as I continue this series with a number of fermentations you can do on your own. In the meantime, check out my kombucha post for an easy to drink ferment that will boost your health from the inside out. *ladies, you want better hair skin and nails?* Look no further!

(for those in Dallas who need a 'SCOBY' for kombucha making, please send me an email

(And for the brave, bean paste is a great 'hummus' style fermented dip)


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