For many years now, I have been completely and utterly fascinated with the human body, nutrition and most things related to living a more balanced, holistic lifestyle.
Since switching over to a plant based diet, I’ve been more mindful about moving and stretching my body, putting way more thought and care in to what I eat each day as well as eliminating many of the nasty products that I used to put ON my body. Each day, I feel more and more vibrant and alive. I feel younger, I feel well. I feel happy and balanced, I feel whole.
One of the things that has been a game changer in my health and happiness is adding fermented foods in to my diet, each and every day.
In today’s modern world, we are being bombarded with antibiotics (the meaning of that word: anti-life) and we do not get nearly enough of the good bacteria aka probiotics (the meaning of that word: for-life).
In our sterile environment, everyone is using antibacterial soaps and household cleaners. Those cleaners kill off the bad bacteria, yes – but they also destroy the good ones. Have a sore throat, flu or ear ache? A visit to the doctor will most likely get you a script for antibiotics. Eat meat or dairy products? 80% of the antibiotics made and sold in the United States are used to raise livestock. If you are eating meat or dairy products, you have been literally taking antibiotics for years and years on end.
What are fermented foods?
Fermentation is the process of the chemical breakdown of food that inhibits bad bacteria growth and promotes the growth of good bacteria. Fermentation creates an anaerobic environment (no oxygen) in which the bad bacteria can’t survive but the good bacteria can.
Why should you care?
Fermentation increases the vitamins and minerals in food, the enzymes and lactic acid in fermented foods allow these vitamins and minerals to be more easily absorbed by the body.
Fermented foods provide digestive enzymes, something that our body naturally makes but we lose as we age. Cooked food has no digestive enzymes, raw fruits and veggies have more and fermented foods have the most. Who doesn’t love good digestion?
Fermenting is literally the process of the microorganisms breaking down the food, which means that your body doesn’t have to work so hard to digest the food after you eat it. Digestion is the body’s number one priority, our bodies are working around the clock to digest our food to convert it to the energy we need.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which feed your gut health. Did you know that the gut is called the second brain? (This article right here is fascinating.) The little brain in our belly, in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body. If you have depression, anxiety or any other mental or emotional things going on, adding in more good bacteria to your gut can be a total game changer!
80% of your immune system is located in your gut. The good bacteria in fermented foods helps your body fight off disease, inflammation, viruses and bad bacteria.
Fermenting food helps to prevent obesity and helps to regulate fat absorption. Unhappy gut bacteria make us fat. When you eat junk food, meat, dairy, processed foods – the unhappy gut bacteria are fed and multiply.
When you eat fruits and veggies, healthy whole starches, fermented foods – you literally change your gut bacteria from the unhappy kind to the happy kind. As a result, you will lose weight.
Here are some other fermented foods to check out –
Yogurt – Personally, I skip dairy altogether, but you can find dairy-free yogurt options at many stores these days, some of which are made from coconut and almond milk. Be sure you’re choosing yogurt that contains live active cultures.
Kimchi – This spicy Asian fermented cabbage, similar to sauerkraut, provides you with loads of probiotics. Extensive research indicates it contributes to colon health, lower cholesterol, better thinking, a stronger immune system, healthy skin, and weight loss.
Natto – Natto is prepared with soybeans and is fermented so it forms the beneficial bacteria Bacillus. It’s an excellent source of calcium, iron, dietary fiber, and vitamin K2. K2 is essential for heart health as it keeps calcium out of your arteries and gets it to your bones where it’s needed.
Kombucha – Made from tea, clean water, sugar, yeast, and bacteria, kombucha has a fizzy bite which makes it a probiotic healthy drink, a lot like soda. Research finds this fermented tea fights off E. coli and Staph bacteria in the digestive tract, possibly protecting against illness and aiding digestion.
Most people understand that sauerkraut is fermented, and I know not everyone loves sauerkraut. If you are talking about the soggy kind you buy at a store or is served on salad bars at restaurants, I don’t blame you! BUT, homemade sauerkraut and fermented veggies are a totally different thing. I promise you.
You don’t need to eat or drink that much to get the benefits. In fact if you’re just starting to add fermented foods into your diet, you’ll want to take it slow.
If you new to fermenting and you give this a try, I’d love to hear how you like it and more importantly, how you feel!
MASON JAR SAUERKRAUT VEGGIES
- 1 bag shredded cabbage coleslaw mix (you can also shred or hand chop cabbage yourself)
- raw veggies of your choice (green beans, red peppers and broccoli are my favorites)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
- 2 cups of water
- 1 piece of thick cabbage (I usually use the outer most part of the cabbage head, the part I would normally not eat and throw away)
- optional seasonings – fresh dill, a clove of garlic, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 1 tbsp caraway seeds
- 2-quart wide-mouth canning jar (or two-quart mason jars)
Canning funnel (optional)
- Clean everything: When fermenting it’s best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible. Make sure your mason jar and jelly jar are washed and rinsed of all soap residue. Rinse all veggies and cut.
- Fill the mason jar full of veggies: Start filling your mason jar with the cabbage. As you add the cabbage to the jar, pack it down tightly. I usually fill my jars half way with cabbage and then I add the additional vegetables to the top half of the jar. If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut with garlic, dill, caraway seeds or crushed red pepper flakes, add them in now.
- Make the brine: Mix together 2 cups of filtered water with 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. Once salt is dissolved, pour over veggies and fill jar almost to the top.
- Weigh the cabbage down: Once all the cabbage is packed into the mason jar, place one of the large outer leaves of the cabbage over the top surface of the vegetables, tucking the corners down over the veggies. The point of this is to keep the vegetables weighed down and submerged beneath the brine liquid.
- Put the lid on the mason jar: As the fermenting process begins, gas will begin to build up in your mason jars. Be sure to open the lid of the jar each morning, to release the gases.
- Add extra liquid, if needed: lAs you release the gas from the jar, be sure to check to make sure that there is liquid covering all of the vegetables. If needed, add a little bit of water to fill the jar to keep the veggies submerged in the brine.
- Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F. Fermenting will happen faster in warmer climates. Start tasting it after 3 days — when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, pop the mason jars in to the fridge. There is no rule for when the sauerkraut is “done” — just go by how it tastes. Foam on the top, or white scum are all signs of a healthy, happy fermentation process. The scum can be skimmed off the top before refrigerating. If you see any mold, skim it off immediately and make sure your cabbage is fully submerged; don’t eat moldy parts close to the surface, but the rest of the sauerkraut is fine.
- Store sauerkraut for several months: These fermented vegetables will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be.