In case you are wondering what are fermented foods, the answer is very simple; fermented foods are those foods in which the sugars are converted into alcohol using bacteria or yeast. Fermentation is a very popular food preservation technique. But today, foods are fermented to reap their various health benefits.
There are some probiotic foods which are a must in your daily diet. These are not bland or boring, and you will actually enjoy eating them. So let’s take a look at some healthy fermented foods, in the following sections.
List of Healthy Fermented Foods and Their Benefits
If you like spicy food, then the Korean side-dish kimchi should definitely be on your list. It is packed with both, nutrition and strength. Kimchi is usually made with cabbage, but radish, scallion or cucumber is used as well. The vegetables may vary according to the season and availability. They are seasoned with brine, spices, ginger, and shrimp or fish sauce. Kimchi has featured in the list of World’s Healthiest Foods by Health magazine.
Kimchi packs 50% of your daily recommended vitamin C; plus, it has vitamin A, B1, B2, calcium, and iron. Most importantly, it contains lactic acid, and all the good bacteria.
You can eat kimchi as is, or with rice. By combining it with other dishes, you can get tastier options, like kimchi burger, kimchi fried rice, or kimchi soup.
It is a fermented milk drink, packed with calcium and probiotics. The drink is made by adding kefir grains to milk. These grains are made of lactic acid bacteria, and resemble cauliflowers. Cow, goat, or even sheep milk can be used to make kefir. The grains also ferment soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, fruit juice, and coconut water. It is definitely one of the best fermented foods with probiotics.
Kefir contains all the nutrients of the milk used to make this drink. Since most of the lactose is broken down, people who are lactose intolerant can enjoy kefir as well.
You can get kefir grains or kefir powder in health stores. It is best to consume it immediately after preparation. It remains unspoiled for about a month without refrigeration.
Yogurt is prepared by bacterial fermentation of milk. The lactose in the milk gets converted into lactic acid, thus making the yogurt suitable for lactose intolerant people too. Cow milk is preferred when making yogurt, but buffalo, goat, camel, or even yak milk can be used.
Very low in fat, yogurt is packed with protein, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B6, B12, etc.
Yogurt can be enjoyed plain or with fruits and nuts too. Since it’s very light, it makes a wonderful snack food. If you like it savory, you can add salt and spices to it.
Tempeh is a good source of probiotics. It contains all the essential amino acids.
Tempeh can be eaten alone or used in salads, sandwiches, soups, or burgers. It makes a crispy snack when deep-fried in oil. It is also suitable for marination, and can be grated as well.
Miso is a fermented paste made from barley, rice, or soybeans. It has lactic acid bacteria, making it a very healthy probiotic food. It is used in soups, sauces, pickles, etc. Miso soup with rice is a Japanese staple.
Miso is very high in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. But it is important to remember that it has high quantities of sodium too.
You can use one or two tablespoons of miso to make soup, or include it in your diet as a salad dressing. But never add it while cooking food, as the heat kills all the good bacteria. Once you remove the soup from the heat, you can add in the miso.
Sauerkraut is made from cabbage and salt, and packs a healthy dose of probiotic nutrients. Basically, it is fermented cabbage. It is served with meat dishes, and is also added to sandwiches and hot dogs.
Sauerkraut has several benefits. It is low in calories, and has vitamins like C, B, and K. It has calcium, magnesium, dietary fiber, potassium, and copper. Uncooked and pasteurized sauerkraut is an excellent source of lactobacilli. It also aids in digestion, and helps in reducing canker sores.
Sauerkraut, if properly fermented, stays for months if packed in an airtight container. It is best consumed raw.
Pickling not only gives an amazing taste to food, but also increases the nutritive value. Brine or vinegar is used to preserve food. Initially, pickling was used to store food, especially foods which were not available all around the year. But today, it is done for the taste and various health benefits.
The good bacteria that are developed as the pickles ferment detox and cleanse our body.
Pickles can be paired with any dish of your choice. Always opt for pickles made from salt brine. Do remember though, that pickles have very high sodium content.
Kombucha is an effervescent tangy tea flavored with herbs or fruits. Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (scoby) is used along with black or green tea. Very little (2 – 3%) alcohol is produced during fermentation.
It is very popular, and is known as the ‘Tea of Immortality’ in China. But, the nutritional benefits of this tea haven’t been proven as yet. If the tea is not fermented properly, there can be some side effects.
You can add fruits or syrups to make the tea a great summer drink, or enjoy it with spices.
Main Benefits of Fermented Foods
┗ Development of immune system
┗ Provide beneficial bacteria
┗ Detoxification of the body
┗ Natural supplements
┗ Aid in digestion
┗ Prevent depression
┗ Help in hormonal balance
┗ Better absorption of nutrients
Fermented foods have several benefits, which our ancestors rightly understood. Although most of the above food items are a result of preservation techniques, their nutritive importance also made them a staple in our diet. When there is good flora in our gut, overall improvement in health is seen. Right from taking care of our immune system to benefits to the skin and hair, and protection from common allergies to weight loss, are some of the reasons why you should consume probiotics.
Now that you know how beneficial and delicious fermented foods can be, you should definitely include them in your diet. Just remember though, it is always better and safer to prepare the dishes at home.