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What’s So Great About Fermented Foods?

- Taking Your Health to the Next Level

Probiotics are super popular these days, which may have you thinking, “Is this just another diet fad?”

The truth is that cultures around the world have consumed probiotics naturally in fermented foods for their potential health benefits for centuries.  In addition to buying the many probiotic products on the market today, you can easily make your own tasty and nutritious probiotic foods to boost your family’s diet with surprisingly little effort or expense.

Though I’m a big fan of keeping life simple, the time involved to prepare these nourishing, healthful foods, is truly worth it.  Your family’s health and piggybank will benefit, and you may have fun in the process!

What are Probiotics?

When you hear the word “probiotics,” you might think of acidophilus popularly found in yogurt, but yogurt is just one type of cultured and fermented food that is considered probiotic, and acidophilus is only one of the many strains of healthy microbes that can benefit your health.

Probiotics can be found in dairy, fruit or vegetable foods that are allowed to sour or ferment out of refrigeration deliberately. This ancient practice is called lacto-fermentation, and it not only makes food easier to digest, it also boosts their nutritional value and other health benefits. Yogurt and kefir, cultured vegetables, fermented beverages like kombucha are some of the probiotic foods eaten throughout the world today.

History of Probiotics

The ancient Greeks, Middle Eastern, Asian and American Indian cultures all understood the advantage of fermenting foods, including food preservation, enhanced taste as well as health benefits.

  • Miso, a fermented soybean, rice, barley or wheat paste, and pickled ginger have been featured in Japanese cuisine for centuries due to their ability to optimize digestion (especially of raw sushi).
  • Fermented cabbage has long been a staple in the cuisine of cultures around the world, including Russia and Germany- where it is known as sauerkraut, and Korea’s Kimchi. It’s renowned for its ability to aid digestion, especially diets rich in animal protein.
  • Yogurt made with sheep’s milk has been enjoyed in Greek cuisine for centuries, and Middle Eastern cultures have included fermented cheese in their diets for thousands of years.
  • Native American cultures fermented a specially prepared corn (maize) dough for use as bread. Berries and other plant foods were fermented, and used in a process to prepare fermented corn (maize) dough as well.

At the start of the 20th century, scientists began to study the role microbes present in the intestinal tract played in health and the aging process. Fermented milk was identified as beneficial to health.  Later, Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff recommended the consumption of beneficial bacteria to help balance the ill effects of more harmful bacteria in human intestines. Eventually, the term probiotics was coined to contrast with “antibiotics.”

Probiotic supplements have been popular in Europe for decades, and their popularity is slowly rising in the U.S. today.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics provide a wide variety of health benefits primarily by populating the digestive tract with healthy bacteria.  During lacto-fermentation, healthy bacteria break the nutrients in food down into lactic acid.

Lactic acid is a natural preservative that stops the growth of harmful bacteria while at the same time promoting the growth of healthy micro-flora in the intestine.  Other helpful enzymes and even anti-carcinogenic substances are also produced during lacto-fermentation.

Research has shown that probiotics ingested as a nutritional supplement are associated with:

  • Optimizing digestion
  • Enhancing the immune system
  • Decreasing allergic reactions
  • Reducing risk of some cancers
  • Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol

Homemade Probiotics

While you can easily buy probiotic supplements at health stores, making your own cultured foods is surprisingly easy, much more affordable, and fun.  Kids love helping with these projects too!

- Kombucha

Kombucha is an effervescent, tangy beverage you can easily make yourself with very basic ingredients:  black or green tea, sugar (1 gallon to 1 cup), and a kombucha culture, called a “SCOBY” – Simbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.  The ingredients are combined and fermented at room temperature for about 1-2 weeks.

The resulting beverage contains dozens of healthful elements including natural probiotics, B vitamins, acetic acid, amino acids, glucuronic acid, glucon acid, lactic acid, and more.

 

- Cultured Veggies

Cultured vegetables are raw veggies that are allowed to ferment for about a week at room temperature so lactobacilli can grow, and then it is refrigerated until eaten.

Veggies such as cabbage, carrots, beets and garlic can be fermented into delicious “live” foods that maintain their lactobacillus-count for about 6 months after preparation. Veggies can be cultured with whey or sea salt, and taste like pickles or sauerkraut.

Some of the health benefits associated with cultured veggies include reducing symptoms of conditions such as colic (give baby a bit of the reserved veggie juice), peptic ulcers, food allergies, constipation and other digestive tract disorders.

 

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Yogurt

Yogurt?  Why not just buy it at the store?  One of the most well known and most readily available probiotic foods, many varieties of store-bought yogurt are high in sugar and not very potent in probiotic content.   Homemade yogurt is likely to contain more beneficial bacteria and less sugar, preservatives and chemicals – plus it’s easy and fun to prepare.

All it takes to make yogurt at home is your choice of milk (preferably organic and raw), a starter yogurt culture for the first batch and some basic kitchen supplies. Your own homemade yogurt will be a great source of calcium, protein, magnesium and other essential vitamins as well as beneficial digestive tract bacteria without unnecessary additives.

 

kefir

Kefir

Kefir is a specially prepared, delicious fermented drink.  There are 2 types of kefir- water and milk kefir, the latter can be made with sheep, goat or cow’s milk.  The liquid is fermented with kefir “grains”- (colonies of yeast and healthy bacteria), and the resulting drink is an excellent source of healthy intestinal micro flora, B vitamins, Vitamin E, and (for milk kefirs) complete proteins.  Both water and milk kefir are also usually easily digested by those who are lactose-intolerant.

Making your own kefir requires nothing more than milk or water, kefir grains  and some basic kitchenware.

Once you become experienced at making your own probiotics at home, you’ll find it’s a great alternative to store-bought varieties.  With a small investment of time and effort, you can enjoy the many benefits of probiotic foods you prepare and enjoy as part of your diet for long-term health.

Wanna make your own kombucha, kefir, cultured veggies or yogurt? Find starter cultures here.

If you don’t have the time or desire to learn the art of fermentation, you can find a great supplier of fermented vegetables and juices here.

 

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Get Cultured!

I don’t know about you, but fermenting foods can sometimes be a bit intimidating. Is it supposed to smell like that? Is it supposed to make that noise? Why isn’t anything happening?  Oh no! [Crack, bang!] Why did that happen?

Enter… Get Cultured! an online class with Jenny of Nourished Kitchen who will teach you how to ferment anything - or your money back!

Click here to get more information or to enroll in Get Cultured!

 

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Comments

  1. [...] Kombucha & Cultured Foods | Holistic Kid Cultured-veggies Taking Your Health to the Next Level:. The ancient Greeks, Middle Eastern, Asian and American Indian cultures all understood the. including food preservation, enhanced taste as well as health benefits.. Yogurt made with sheep’s milk has been enjoyed in Greek cuisine for centuries, Kombucha & Cultured Foods | Holistic Kid [...]

  2. [...] of wiggle room here!)  Best of all, try making your own traditionally cultured beverages such as kombucha or kefir “sodas.”  As for water, you want water that is free of contaminants and chemicals (including [...]

  3. [...] Many of these foods are not nearly as complicated or time consuming as you may think.  They require very little equipment, and will save you load of money as compared to the other two options.  Here are just a few ideas: [...]

  4. [...] Probiotics. I’ve talked lots about the benefit of probiotics to restore the natural, healthy flora of bacteria to the digestive system. What does a healthy gut have to do with an earache? Healthy gut=healthy immune system, and a kid with a strong immune system will most likely not suffer from recurring ear infections. [...]

  5. [...] also delicious (and dare I say, fun?) for the whole family. Now we frequently chat about her latest fermented foods and tips for incorporating grass-fed liver into daily [...]

  6. [...] –  Oat Waffles, made with oat flour and leftover steal cut oats & kefir, topped with homemade apricot spread; eggs over [...]

  7. [...] Some Culture – Though I know you love them, you seem to be missing probiotic-rich fermented foods such as cultured sauerkraut, yogurt, and fermented drinks, like kombucha. You can fit a few of [...]

  8. [...] about Real Food – got Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, made my first bone broth and homemade kombucha, and started taking cod liver [...]

  9. [...] Kombucha!  I love this fermented tea drink and all it’s health benefits! Yum! [...]

  10. [...] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Kombuchais a delicious probiotic-rich drink that’s thrifty, fun and easy to make. Rumored to have [...]

  11. [...] Find out what’s so great about fermented foods here. [...]

  12. [...] for 12 to 24 hours in water with 1-2 Tbsp of whey, vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk or kefir. Rinse well to remove any acidic taste and cook as usual in fresh water. Read more about the [...]

  13. [...] chocolate for a something rich in fat and protein – yogurt and fruit or raw cheese and some cultured veggies on sprouted crackers. Add an evening snack – homemade ice cream with raw cream, egg yolks, [...]

  14. [...] by adding a pinch of high quality sea salt and a squeeze of lemon.  Choose cultured drinks like kombucha and water kefir to get beneficial bacteria [...]

  15. [...] good and bad from our food.  Before refrigeration, our ancestors used traditional methods of culturing and fermenting that not only preserved food, but also cultivated rich probiotics served at every meal.  Now even [...]

  16. [...] also delicious (and dare I say, fun?) for the whole family. Now we frequently chat about her latest fermented foods and tips for incorporating grass-fed liver into daily [...]

  17. [...] –  Oat Waffles, made with oat flour and leftover steal cut oats & kefir, topped with homemade apricot spread; eggs over [...]

  18. [...] or naps so that your child can get the rest she needs.Choose Natural Treatment for Ear Infections Probiotics. I’ve talked lots about the benefit of probiotics to restore the natural, healthy flora of [...]

  19. [...] about Real Food – got Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, made my first bone broth and homemade kombucha, and started taking cod liver [...]

  20. [...] Sandwich – with leftover roast chicken, avocado, raw cheese and a side of cultured veggies. [...]

  21. [...] gradually acquired for some kids, so start slow with full fat yogurt and then move into traditional cultured beverages like kombucha or kefir “sodas” before venturing into sweet gingered carrots, pickles, [...]

  22. [...] which is the basis for the recipe below; and I started buying raw butter, feeding my first kombucha scoby, and simmering my first pot of bone broth. My relationship with food has never been the same [...]

  23. [...] #5 – Incorporate cultured foods including fermented vegetables, condiments, and drinks daily.  Read why cultured foods are important here. [...]

  24. […] Kombucha is a delicious probiotic-rich drink that’s thrifty, fun and easy to make. Rumored to have originated in China around 200BC, societies throughout the world have been brewing kombucha for centuries. It is made by placing a strange gummy mushroom-like life form, called a scoby, into a gallon of sweetened tea. […]

  25. […] Some Culture – Though I know you love them, you seem to be missing probiotic-rich fermented foods such as cultured sauerkraut, yogurt, and fermented drinks, like kombucha. You can fit a few of […]

  26. Kathy says:

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  27. […] of wiggle room here!)  Best of all, try making your own traditionally cultured beverages such as kombucha or kefir “sodas.”  As for water, you want water that is free of contaminants and chemicals (including […]

  28. […] about Real Food – got Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, made my first bone broth and homemade kombucha, and started taking cod liver […]

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