Lately, I have really been enjoying sauerkraut (from the refrigerated section) on top of a mix of dark, leafy salad greens, diced scallions, cucumber, shredded carrots and cabbage. With its salty taste, it’s perfect enough for a dressing.
Fermenting is nothing new, as it has been used for centuries as a way to preserve food. From what I have learned via my educational classes, fermentation converts the carbohydrates in food to carbon dioxide and alcohols or organic acids via bacteria and yeasts under anaerobic conditions. Buttermilk and kefir are fermented dairy products, where the lactose is converted into lactic acid, making it easier to digest. Perhaps this is why some individuals can tolerate dairy in this form compared to milk. Other fermented foods include miso, tempeh, yogurt with live active cultures, cheese, kimchi, natto, cultured vegetables, vinegar, wines, and many other foods and beverages.
Fermented foods are excellent for the body; they act as a digestive aid, provide beneficial enzymes and good bacteria, (lactobacilli, bifidus, plantarum), and immune support, along with increasing the nutrient profile of the food. For instance, when foods go under fermentation, b-vitamins increase (riboflavin, biotin, niacin, thiamin, folic acid), essential fatty acids, chromium, glutathione, phospholipids, as well as digestive enzymes. Grains, nuts, and seeds can be difficult to digest due to the presence of phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of key minerals including zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium. However; as these foods undergo fermentation, the phytic acid is neutralized freeing up the minerals for digestion and absorption rendering them more nutritious.
I’m sure many of you have heard of probiotics and may even take them on a daily basis. Fermented foods provide natural bacteria, which are extremely important for colonizing the digestive system, as well as helping to keep bad bacteria under control. Not only do they help with digestion, but they also decrease the overgrowth of yeast, manufacture B and K vitamins, assist the liver for healthy function, decrease parasites, and help to decrease inflammation in the intestines.
Unfortunately, antibiotics found in dairy and meat products, prescription drugs, stress, refined foods, and others can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive system. However, increasing your consumption of fermented foods, as well as prebiotics (to support the growth of probiotics) including onions, garlic, sunchokes, barley, oats, bananas, asparagus, burdock root, and dandelion greens into your diet will help to keep your digestive tract healthy.
If you would like to learn more about fermenting, a wonderful resource is a book called, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.
Here is a recipe I made recently from another great book, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.
DOSA (pancakes from India)
1 ½ cups brown rice (I used quinoa)
2/3 cup mung beans
3 cups water
½ -1 teaspoon sea salt
*I also added a sprinkle of fenugreek seeds to each jar while they were soaking
Wash and soak brown rice and mung beans separately 12 hours or overnight. Soak rice in 2 cups water and beans in 1 cup water.
Drain the mung beans but reserve the liquid. Grind the mung beans finely using the reserved liquid, if necessary with a blender or processor. Add to a glass bowl. Drain the rice and reserve the liquid. Grind the rice finely using the reserved liquid, if necessary using a blender or processor. Add to the glass bowl and stir together.
Combine with salt. Allow to sit overnight or 8 hours in a warm place so yeasts can turn the mixture into a light, fluffy batter.
Pour batter, which should be thin, into hot skillet.
Cook like pancakes (cover pan so you don’t have to turn them).