Fermentation is a tried and true food preservation method that’s been around for centuries. Its benefits reach far beyond preservation, however; during this process, lactobacilli, the “friendly” bacteria that populate our gut, begin to grow and beneficial digestive enzymes are created. This is why consuming fermented foods is so nourishing to our health; it helps reestablish and re-balance our intestinal ecosystem, where approximately 70% of our immune system can be found.
In Korea, a traditional fermented cabbage condiment called kimchi is often consumed with meals, and sauerkraut, or “sour cabbage,” was was consumed in ancient Rome and medieval Europe, and used in the 18th century to help prevent scurvy at sea. These foods are created through a process called lacto-fermentation, where natural bacteria feed of sugar and starch in the food and create lactic acid.
In recent years, consumption of probiotics and enzymes has sharply declined, replaced by processed, and often sugar-laden, foods. While this may be upsetting, its never too late to incorporate fermented foods into your diet. Fermented veggies, kefir, (fermented milk), and yogurt are all simple to make at home with the help of a starter culture, such as the vegetable starter culture from Body Ecology.
Try adding a bit of sauerkraut to your plate with each meal. It’s refreshing and can really cut through the heaviness of rich foods. You may even notice a decrease in sugar cravings; a frequently-reported “side effect” of fermented foods.