Fermented foods have become all the rage as of late, due in large part to a lot of research that has come out recently, highlighting the many health benefits of fermented foods. According to newhope.com, there are over 2,000 nutritional and recipe books about fermented foods listed on Amazon. Fermented foods are not a new thing, however; they have deep roots in cultures all over the world that date back centuries.
Fermentation originated in the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East, and can be traced back to about 6,000 BC. Nearly every culture since then has included at least one fermented food in its culinary heritage including beer, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, and even meats. For our ancestors, fermented food was a necessity. It was a method of preserving food since they didn’t have refrigeration. It is also important to remember that our ancestors did not know as much about fermented foods as we do today. However, they did know that fermented foods lasted longer, tasted better and made them feel better.
Here are just a few examples of fermented foods based on continent or geographic area of origin.
Kimchi (fermented cabbage and spices), amazake (fermented rice beverage), soy sauce (fermented soybeans), kefir (fermented milk beverage), kaanji (fermented carrot and mustard beverage) and dosa (fermented black lentil crepe).
Fermented millet (small seeded grass) porridge, garri (cassava tubers), injera (sourdough flatbread) and lamoun makbouss (pickled lemons).
Sourdough bread, cultured milk, chicha (fermented maize beverage), kombucha (fermented tea) and Tabasco.
Pickles, yogurts, lamoun makbouss and torshi (fermented mixed vegetables).
Rakfisk (salted, fermented trout), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), mead and crème fraiche.
Poi (taro plant), sago (starch from tropical palm stems), kaanga pirau (fermented corn) and bagoong (fermented krill).
Why Eat Fermented Foods
There are lots of benefits your body gains from eating and drinking fermented or cultured foods (fermented and cultured foods offer different benefits to your body, but that is a whole other post!). In general, fermented foods can help promote digestive health and systematic wellness, proper functioning of the immune system and help restore the proper balance of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract, and in our antiseptic world, we could all use some beneficial bacteria in our body. Think of fermented foods as partially digested foods. An example is that many people have problems digesting the lactose in milk. When milk is fermented and becomes kefir or yogurt, the lactose becomes partially broken down and is easier to digest. Lactic-acid fermented foods, such as dill pickles and sauerkraut, are rich in enzymes that help breakdown the food we eat and help our body absorb the nutrients we rely on to stay healthy. So, needless to say, when our digestion is functioning properly and absorbing the nutrients we need, our immune system is happy and ready to wage war against illness and disease.
If you’re looking to try out fermented foods and beverages, but want to ease yourself into it, I have three favorite brands that are the perfect option. Wildbrine focuses on fermented foods, and Kevita focuses on sparkling probiotic beverages.
Wildbrine is a local company that was started by industry veterans who wanted to create great tasting, healthy foods. Wildbrine started operations in Santa Rosa in 2011and makes a wide variety of sauerkrauts, kimchis, pickles, kimchi live shots and salsa. A few of my favorites are the Dill & Garlic Sauerkraut Salad, Korean Kimchi, Bold Dill Pickles and the Citrusy Japanese Live Shot.
Citrusy Japanese Kimchi Live Shot
This delivers nutrients and probiotics to your body the way Mother Nature intended. Made only from real, whole vegetables and no added sweeteners. Each bottle contains at least 10 billion CVU (colony-forming unit) of live probiotic cultures. Take one or two tablespoons a couple times a day to give your body a boost!
Kevita was launched in 2010 by winemaker Bill Moses. The first Kevita drink was created by nutritional consultant Chakra Earthsong in her Ojai, CA kitchen. She and Bill developed the drink further, and Kevita was born. Kevita makes three types of drinks; sparkling probiotic, master brew kombucha and sparkling probiotic tonics. My favorite style is the sparkling probiotic, and my go to flavors are Mojita Lime Mint Coconut, Lemon Ginger and Pineapple Coconut.
Mojita Lime Mint CoconutA hint of mint and twist of lime. Delicious straight or poured over ice for an uplifting mocktail. Certified organic, non-GMO, low in calories and non-dairy. Naturally sweetened with stevia and contains no added sugar.
Mother In Law’s
Mother-in-Law’s Gochujang launched in 2014. These fermented chili pastes capture authentic flavors of the Korean pantry. The unique taste of gochujang’s flavor comes from fermentation that brings out the taste of umami and moderate heat from the chili spice that many can enjoy.
Sesame Gochujang Sauce
Move over Sriracha, there’s a new fermented chili paste in town! This Korean paste is the next big food trend, and it’s easy to see why. This sauce has a rich flavor, with nutty and sweet-spice elements to it. Use it whenever you feel the need for a kick of heat.
With a wide variety of options, you’re sure to find a fermented food or beverage that satisfies your taste buds. It’s time to see just how tasty fermented foods are, and how good they make your body feel!