Think fermentation of food is a bad thing? Think again!
Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Sometimes, some of your food or drinks that form a suspicious layer of hairy things or foam of some sort that is off-putting to say the least. I get it, eating green yoghurt is no one's favourite.
But having said that, there are lots of foods that are naturally fermented in order for them to be tasty. And some of them come with huge health benefits!
The list of fermented foods you probably eat on the reg is quite extensive. Beer, wine, cheese, vinegar, pickles, sourdough bread, olives, tofu, yoghurt and even chocolate!
Fermentation is a process where with or without flowing air, the carbohydrates of the food or drink turn into alcohol or organic acids, giving the acidy taste. In most cases, the fermentation process uses microbes, which multiply and can be beneficial to your gut.
As your gut has an enormous population of bacteria, some of the fermented foods can improve the make-up of your so-called microbiota. Which may improve your immune system, metabolism, and even mood!
My favourite fermented foods are Kefir, Kombucha, Kraut (in any shape or form), and Kimchi.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink, using a special starter culture called kefir grains. They don't look anything like grains, more like crumbs of clear jelly. By feeding the kefir grains a sort of sugar, either in the form of some fruit, or milk, the grains stay alive alive and keep multiplying and do their work.
After the fermentation process, your kefir drink tastes a bit like buttermilk. Which is also fermented, and is actually a very popular drink in some countries. So, not just used for baking!
Nowadays, you can also get water or coconut milk based kefir, if you are on a dairy free lifestyle plan.
Kombucha has been one of my favourite drinks lately. It's a fermented tea, which, depending on the style of your second ferment can have a nice amount of bubbles.
So, it's a great alternative to a cocktail, and you can give it a lovely taste with fruit, herbs, flowers and I've even seen coffee kombucha!
The fermentation process is in a way similar to kefir, as you use a starter, called a SCOBY (short for: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast), a sugar and tea. The tannins in the tea support the fermentation, helping the process along.
Kraut (mostly sour)
For those of you who've been brought up in the European mainland, sauerkraut is such a winter staple! This fermented cabbage is not only super simple to make at home, it has been for many years a way of preserving cabbage, so you have food out of season.
The process is slightly different, as you only add salt (and the occasional spice) and knead the cabbage until the juices come out. Then everything gets stored in a jar and sealed, so the fermentation happens without a gradual flow of oxygen.
The result it tangy cabbage, full of lacto fermented bacteria, your tummy will love.
As it might be an acquired taste to some, you can try it out in and on a whole lot of dishes.
This can be called the Korean cousin of Sauerkraut. With a base of another variety of cabbage, Bok Choi or Chinese cabbage, and a mix of other veg such as spring onion, carrots, garlic and ginger, you can expect a different flavour.
But then the magic happens with the rest of the spices, often a mix of salt, chillies, radish and shrimp paste of fish sauce, this little dish really packs a punch!
As it can be quite spicy, it's often used as a condiment to salad, soups or curries.
Some fermented foods should come with a warning.
As most fermented foods are raw and so have living cultures, those with a severe compromised immune system and pregnant women should use caution or avoid fermented foods altogether.
If you are interested in supporting your good gut bugs and want to give any of these foods a go, but have never tried them before: take note.
If you increase the intake of fermented foods slowly, you should expect things to changes slowly. If you decide to sit down and eat a whole jar of sauerkraut, so to speak, in one sitting, you might experience some digestive discomfort and or diarrhea. Therefor, introducing fermented foods to your diet is a great thing, but do it gradually!