With kimchi popping up on trendy burgers, and sauerkraut classes at local community centres, preserving food is enjoying a resurgence. But are these fermented foods really good for us?
What are fermented foods?
Fermented foods have been in our diets for thousands of years. The fermenting process adds good bacteria, such as probiotics that have proven health benefits. Historically, fermenting food was a technique often used out of necessity as it allowed people to store foods for longer periods of time at room temperature. Fermentation in food specifically involves a process called lactic acid fermentation where the bacteria lactobacillus is used in conjunction with yeast to preserve the food.
What are the health benefits of fermented foods?
The process of fermentation breaks down enzymes in food and creates probiotics that are good for improving and balancing gut health. The benefits of a healthy gut include better digestion, improved immune functions, and more efficient nutrient absorption.
Five fermented foods to try
1. Plain yoghurt
Plain yoghurt has a tangy flavour and a smooth creamy texture, making it a perfect base for granola and fruit parfaits. Swap out sour cream or mayonnaise for plain 99% fat-free yoghurt or use a half and half ratio to maintain a rich flavour, while still getting the benefits of the yoghurt's probiotics. Plain yoghurt keeps in the fridge from 4 to 6 weeks.
Kimchi is a Korean condiment made of fermented vegetables, typically a combination of cabbage, radish, chilli, garlic and ginger. Known for its health benefits, kimchi is an incredibly versatile condiment that is commonly added to traditional Korean dishes. Try using kimchi as a flavour-packed topping for pulled meat sandwiches, tacos and grain bowls.
Although kombucha has been an important part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years, it’s only recently that kombucha has found a place as a fermented staple in Western culture. Kombucha is made by adding yeast and bacteria to tea that’s been lightly sweetened, allowing nutrient-rich probiotics to form. Known for its long list of health benefits, kombucha can now easily be found in the supermarket in a variety of flavours.
It can be confusing to differentiate between regular and fermented pickles. Fermented pickles are made by adding a bacteria and yeast starter to filtered water which turns into an acidic preservative over time. Fermented pickles are simple to make at home- check out our recipe for pickled cucumbers here.
Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage condiment with origins in Eastern Europe. Sauerkraut has a distinctive sour taste, try adding it to a grilled cheese sandwich, as a burger topping or in our savoury sauerkraut pikelets as a great little canapé for your next dinner party. A classic Reuben sandwich not only tastes great but its main ingredient sauerkraut contains loads of prebiotics for gut health.