Fermented Foods: Critical to Your Health

By Andrea Jones RNCP

      Human beings have been fermenting foods and beverages since pretty much as far back as we can look. Eating fermenting foods and drinking fermented beverages such as kefir, water kefir and beet kvass is quintessential to the inoculation of the gut with good bacteria. Constantly giving your body a source of wonderful probiotics from food is a way to consistently offer your body protection and help your body maintain its unique bacterial biofilm. Bacteria in our intestinal tract outnumber the cells in our body 10:1. They exert enormous influence on us through their interaction with digestion, detoxification and our immune systems.

       More than 70% of your immune system is in your gut. Researchers are now also finding out that the gut acts similarly to a second brain, manufacturing neurotransmitters. The gut actually produces more serotonin than the brain so you can see why maintaining a healthy intestinal tract is important for the mind as well as the body.

       Fermented foods are also some of the best chelators for toxins and even heavy metals. Certain fermented foods and beverages are also incredibly mineral rich. These foods help us to nourish our bodies and eliminate wastes more effectively.

      Making fermented foods and beverages is as easy as mixing chopped or grated vegetables with a little bit of whey or salt; either using a starter culture to encourage and optimize some very unique and healthy bacteria- or letting wild fermentation take over which produces unique flavors and variables in the types of bacteria produced and packing the mixture down into a crock, glass jar, or wooden barrel.

       I personally prefer to ferment with salt than without as it tends to add a crunchier, more flavorful aspect as well as helps directly inhibit molds or other pathogens. Good quality sea salt is also very important for digestion.

       You don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment, just a knife, cutting board, a bowl and a friend to chop vegetables with! I find it helpful to chop my cabbage very finely and to let the vegetables sit for an hour once I have put the salt on. The salt will start to draw out the liquid and before putting them into the crock I give the veggies a good squeeze to encourage their natural juices to further come out.

       Make sure to ensure that the brine is well above the vegetables once you have pushed them down. Crocks come with stone weights but you can improvise something depending on your container. Taste your fermentations often until they reach your desired taste and then transfer into jars and put into a fridge.

       There are no rules when it comes to combinations of vegetables, herbs and spices. Use your imagination and be creative with your palate. Blessings on your fermentations!

Please note that I will be scheduling a fermentation workshop (or two) for this summer so be sure to check the events page periodically for new classes!