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How to Start Using Fermented Foods

Why jumping in is not advised, and how to slowly incorporate ferments into your diet to promote overall wellness


Fermented is not polite for "rotten"

Just the sounds coming from fermented food can scare some people away, especially the generation who grew up on TV dinners and the fast-food revolution. It seems for so many decades people have been disconnected as to how food is made. The idea of eating from farm to the table, is such a foreign concept, it's hard to not believe advertisers that promote a new lifestyle with big promises of a healthy and happy life. Therefore, the old way of preserving food became lost. Many of you, may think fermented food is just another way to say that food is “rotten”.  I have noticed people don't like to hear about the process of how it's made.

Probiotics have become an exciting frontier in health and wellness. The general belief is that probiotics come only in the form of a bottle supplement. Fermented foods contain probiotics. Some supplements are very good, but often they are killed by stomach acid and never make it all the way to the parts of the body where they can be the most productive. One researcher found that one spoonful of fermented veggies has more probiotics than an entire bottle of supplements! 

Why are ferments so good for you?

Hippocrates said, "All disease begins in the gut”. It is so true that we are what we eat, or even more correct to say we are what we can absorb.

When you have a healthy amount of good bacteria in your gut, they crowd out pathogens that are looking to multiply into large numbers. When you have a lot of good bacteria, the harmful bacteria diminish and room is cleared for the healthier strains of bacteria. It is the good bacteria that protects the mucosal lining, and keeps out viruses and pathogens. These good "guys" protect us from bad bacteria that would otherwise make us sick.

Fermented foods work like medicine and can help with so many issues such as headaches, seasonal allergies, sinus pressure, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, high blood pressure, diabetes, and adrenal fatigue to name a few.

When I started consuming probiotic foods and drinks every day, I noticed a difference pretty quickly. I now enjoy how I feel and could not imagine my life without fermented foods. Though, I found great success, my husband wasn’t as easy to convince to change his eating habits.  It wasn’t initially an easy choice for him. For those of you who find that it isn’t so easy but you are willing, I do understand your feelings.

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Kefir grains are used to make a yogurt-like liquid called kefir, which is very versatile - use it in smoothies, like yogurt, or even make cheese from it. Read more below...

Slow going is good

Jumping into eating lots of fermented foods is a really, really bad idea.  How can something I've just been talking up as good be a bad thing, you ask? It stems from your gut needing to build up (or back) its strength.  You need to start with small amounts of probiotics, as well as prebiotics, too - which is like food for the probiotics so they can stay healthy!  Probiotics feed off soluble fiber from the foods you eat, so make sure you eat your fiber! To use an analogy, you wouldn't go to a gym for the first time and try to squat a whole rack of weights.  You need to build your body's strength when it comes to processing probiotics.

To assist you in easing into making fermented foods part of your lifestyle, I have complied some helpful suggestions:

  1. Slowly introduce these powerful foods just like you would with medicine, in small quantities.  Anytime you try something new, always start with small amounts

  2. First try fermenting what you consider to be most hassle free. I think all ferments are generally easy to make, but for someone who is new to this, it may not seem so easy. Believe me, it is well worth it.  

  3. The key to consuming small quantities is to be consistent.  Eat or drink something fermented daily.

  4. Check your local health store, you will be surprised how many products are now available on the market, ready to be consumed, i.e. kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir.

  5. Start with consuming a food or drink that is the most pleasing to your taste buds.

  6. Introduce fermented foods into your cooking by adding a little bit to your meals, such as:

  • juice from sauerkraut: use as a dash of vinegar in your salad dressing. Check out this recipe Tomato-Butter bean salad with feta cheese.

  • kombucha to make your own mayo. Check out this recipe “mayo three ways

  • Use true sourdough bread for your sandwiches. Check my recipe here.

  • Use raw milk cheese instead of pasteurized cheeses.

  • Miso - fermented soybeans is a great way to get a dose of good bacteria easily. Add one teaspoon to pretty much anything you cook, like a glaze for the veggies, meat or fish. Add to salad dressing. You can even add it to mashed potatoes. I promise you won't even notice it except for the great flavor it provides.

  • Black bean garlic sauce - the sauce gives a great umami flavor to a dish! Try this appetizer out.

  • Dairy kefir: It's the oldest fermented probiotic drink around, and I highly recommend for beginners because it is easily added to smoothies or used to make your own ranch salad dressing. Easy and everyone will love it!

  • Buy Lacto-fermented picklesThey are typically located in the fridge section of the supermarket.

  • Another great product to try is umeboshi plumsI love these Japanese pickled plums!!

  • Purchase fermented dry fruits, like dates and raisins. They are more readily available at the market. They are simple to make, but you can buy instead.

  • Cultured butter is also available in pretty much any supermarket.

Other suggestions
  • Check my website for more ideas of making and using ferments.

  • Remember consistency of consuming is key to a healthy gut. 

  • No matter which foods you start with be it dairy kefir, kombucha, water kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut, etc.  just do it!!! Lacto-fermented foods normalize the acidity of the stomach. If stomach acidity is insufficient, it stimulates the acid-producing glands of the stomach, and in cases where acidity is too high it has the inverse effect. Lactic acid helps break down proteins and thus aids in their assimilation by the body. It also aids the assimilation of iron. The decomposition in the stomach of the organic forms of iron depends on the quantity of hydrochloric acid present as well as the amount of vitamin C, which is why sauerkraut and other Lacto-fermented veggies are rich in this vitamin.

  • Check my recipe on how to make an easy way without any special equipment sauerkraut here.

  • The digestive process has two distinct features: one is the breaking down of ingested foods; the other is the building up of nutrients needed by the body. If the breaking down is incomplete, the building up cannot be processed correctly. In reality, we nourish ourselves not by what we eat but by what we are capable of breaking down and transforming into nutrients the body can use. The great importance in this fermenting process is the role played by the aromatic substances that are formed during Lacto-fermentation. The aroma of Lacto-fermented foods is the by-product of certain substances present in amounts of food to the body. Hippocrates explains this principle with the words Suavia nutriunt - that which smells good nourishes and promotes healing and health.

Want more guidance? Schedule a 1:1 cooking session with me!
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