If you had told me in the third grade that I would one day consider fermented foods a healthy treat, I would have called you a liar. Cut to present day, where I love to pick up a bottle of Kombucha while I’m grocery shopping as a treat for myself, mostly because they don’t come cheap.
Fermented foods and beverages, like Kombucha, have made their way into the mainstream. Many are purported to have incredible benefits for digestion, as well as contain tons of vitamins and minerals. But personally, the 3rd grader in me is still skeptical of all these bacteria-containing foods. While eating fermented foods is absolutely not a new concept, they are without a doubt more discussed and written about than ever before, and this might be for a food reason. If you’re considering figuring out what these foods can do for you, there are three things you should know.
1.Fermented foods are common
You may not be enjoying a glass of kombucha every Saturday morning at brunch with your health guru friends, but that doesn’t mean you’re not ingesting any fermented foods. Some great examples are
- Sourdough bread
It’s likely then that you’re already getting some of the benefits of fermented foods in your diet. If you top your burgers with pickles or enjoy some types of coffee then you might already be part of the trend.
What has really changed in terms of these foods though is the change in mindfulness in terms of getting a certain amount of fermented foods every week? They are no longer being treated as a happy accident or enjoyed just for their tangy flavor. People are going out of their way to make sure they’re getting truly fermented foods in their diet, and a great variety of them as well,
2. There are real benefits to eating fermented foods
As the modern American diet is extremely high in sugars, which feed the bad bacteria that live in your gut, fermented foods are being used to counteract this and restore some balance to your gut. Trends have also moved towards pasteurized dairy products like pasteurized milk and yogurt, which effectively destroys the good bacteria these foods once contained. Fermented foods contain benefits for the body such as:
- Improved digestion thanks to a boost of probiotics and beneficial bacteria
- A boost of vitamins, enzymes, and fatty acids
Not only can they provide essential vitamins and nutrients, and radically improve gut health, the fermentation process also transforms normal foods for the better. The nutrients in these foods become easier to absorb and digest, which means average foods become much healthier. Fermentation can also preserve foods, reduce the amount of sugar in them, and remove toxins as well. This means that some foods, such as sauerkraut can transform something simple like cabbage, into a much more potent and beneficial food. This, of course, depends on how the fermentation is done.
3. There’s a trick to buying them
If you want a great selection of fermented foods, especially ones like kimchi and tempeh, it may be necessary to go to a more specialized grocery store like Whole Foods or Trader Joes. In order to make sure the products you’re buying contain the good bacteria you want them to check to make sure they say “contains live cultures”, or something similar on the label. You can also look for words like Raw or Unpasteurized on the label. When in doubt ask an employee for help to be sure what you’re buying contains the health benefits you want. It’s also important to include variety of the foods that you do eat, as many of them contain slightly different strains of bacteria.
Fermented foods can help you get the most out of foods that you already enjoy on a regular basis, and are thankfully now more available and easy to find than ever. Thanks, trendy millennials!