We tend to associate bacteria with unhealthy microorganisms that are often blamed for illness, but healthy bacteria, also known as probiotics, can actually play a vital role in our nutritional balance. Probiotics are most typically found in fermented foods. The process of fermentation, in it’s simplest sense, entails breaking down a substance into a simpler substance. Some of the most common fermented foods/drinks are cheese, wine, tea, coffee, beer, sourdough bread and vinegar. Others, more rich in probiotics, are pickles, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, and kimchi. The list goes on, but overall, it’s in our interest to establish a friendlier relationship with friendly bacteria – as after all, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, we’re crawling with the stuff.
Below we offer our five favorite fermented food benefits that may encourage you to lay off of antibacterials/antibiotics when possible, and consider adding some probiotics to your menu:
1) They’re partially broken down, for our digestive convenience. In essence, fermented foods are already partially digested, which means that once we ingest them our bodies are able to absorb and assimilate nutrients more easily and rapidly.
2) Probiotics in fermented foods support the beneficial bacteria ecosystem in our gut. We have over 500 types of bacteria in our gut that help keep our intestines healthy, aid digestion, and challenge our immune system to strengthen it. Fermented foods not only help healthy bacterial flora thrive, but also ward off the bad bacteria.
3) Fermented foods can be higher in vitamin content than fresh food. Fermentation is the only method of food preparation that doesn’t destroy nutrients, but rather enhances them and can even create additional micronutrients.
4) Fermenting food is not only inexpensive, but also helps preserve food for longer periods of time. Fresh cabbage, for instance, may begin to rot in a matter of weeks at room temperature. Fermented cabbage can last for several months, and even years in some cases.
5) Fermented food tastes good and is fun to make. Take it from our favorite fermentation fetishist Sandorkraut – he demos easy sauerkraut preparation in this clip.
For more from Sandorkraut on the bountiful boons of fermentation, we highly recommend clicking through his site wild fermentation, or better yet, reading his book of the same title. If you’re still skeptical of sauerkraut, then see if Michael Pollan can’t change your mind in praise of pickling and fermenting in his most recent book Cooked – here’s a great interview NPR conducted with him on the topic.
Here’s a fermented avocado recipe, though we must admit, we prefer our avocados fresh…. To each, his/her own palette. Happy pickling!