Today we have Winnie Abramson here to teach us about the benefits of lacto-fermented foods and how to easily prepare them at home. Winnie has a degree in Naturopathic Medicine and is the writer of a fantastic blog – Healthy Green Kitchen. I believe fermented foods are a staple to a nourishing diet. I serve my family lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut and pickles a few times daily and find it extremely helpful for the digestive system. I’m happy to have Winnie here today to educate us on the importance of fermented foods.
Lacto-fermented (aka cultured) foods have long been enjoyed throughout the world for many centuries. Dairy products like yogurt, and also many cheeses, are the result of culturing milk; miso (fermented soybean paste), kombucha (a fermented beverage made from tea) and vegetable preparations like kimchi, “live” pickles, and sauerkraut are more examples of familiar cultured foods.
Foods are fermented when lactobacilli bacteria convert their sugars and starches into lactic acid. The proliferation of lactic acid aids in the natural preservation of whatever is being cultured, and results in an end product that’s exceptionally nutritious. The process of lacto-fermentation also makes foods more digestible than they were to begin with (which is why many people who cannot tolerate milk do just fine with yogurt, for example).
Fermented foods are healthy for everyone, but the high concentration of natural probiotics they contain makes them particularly beneficial for people who have issues with their digestion. Eating cultured foods may also be helpful for balancing blood sugar and for weight loss and, because your digestive system is closely linked to your immune system (around 75% of your immune system’s cells are found in your digestive tract!), consuming copious amounts of cultured foods can make you less prone to illnesses of all kinds. I try to include at least one serving of lacto-fermented foods in my diet each day as part of my healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, most of the pickles, sauerkraut, and many brands of yogurt that you’ll find at the supermarket aren’t lacto-fermented, so from a health perspective they’re not very useful (most are made with vinegar and/or sugar, and they’re pasteurized, which kills off the beneficial enzymes); if you want to take advantage of their health benefits, you must seek out versions of these foods made in small batches with “live cultures”. Or, you can make them yourself! I’ve been making my own yogurt, as well as a variety of cultured vegetables for many years, and I highly recommend you do so as well.
Cortido (aka curtido) is a cabbage salad that hails from El Salvador. It’s typically served with a dish there called pupusas. This lacto-fermented version is a variation on sauerkraut, inspired by a recipe that appears in the book Nourishing Traditions written by Sally Fallon. I love it spooned over eggs, salads, and on sandwiches. It’s best to use organic produce, if possible.
Nourishing Traditions has tons of great information on all the “the whys and hows” of lacto-fermentation, plus many fantastic recipes. I highly recommend this book if you don’t own it already! Another terrific resource is Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.
Do you have any favorite lacto-fermented foods? Please share!