- 10 Fermented Foods You Didn’t Know You Were Eating
10 Fermented Foods You Didn’t Know You Were Eating
Look in your pantry, cupboards, and fridge. If you’re new to fermented foods, you may not realize how many you already have in your home. And that’s a good thing. Fermentation is a process that humans mastered millennia ago – most likely, Grok and his family stored some veggies or fruits a little longer than usual, and poof. The birth of a new class of foods.
The evolution of fermentation took place in prehistory to a great extent, and written records of beer recipes and archeological finds of wine casks date back to our earliest days of recorded human history. With thousands of years to experiment with fermentation, our species has created an astounding variety of delicious and healthy foods.
You’re probably aware that processing our food didn’t do us any favors – fermented foods largely disappeared from the modern diet. Sure, we’ve got beer and wine, but many fermented foods with healthy uses disappeared at the dawn of fermentation. Others lay hidden in your diet. You benefit from their presence, but don’t know the reason why.
It’s time to bring your heroes into the limelight.
In this article, we’re highlighting the hidden helpers. Foods that you are already eating – even if you haven’t had the chance to clean out your cupboards and start home fermenting for better health. You’ve got nutritional allies in your pantry, and it’s time you learned who they are.
You may not realize it, but cheese is a fermented food. Making healthy, delicious, raw cheese requires the help of live cultures. The blue vein in blue cheese is a specific type of fungus. The nutty flavor of cheddar is the result of particular bacterial strains. Looking for fermented foods that the whole family will love? Fresh and raw cheeses are great places to start.
2.Yogurt and/or kefir
Look at the back of your yogurt package in the fridge, or the bottle of kefir you just bought. You’ll see a line that says “live and active cultures” or a long list of ingredients with names like L. Bulgaricus. Those are your friends – the bacteria that help to ferment milk into yogurt and kefir. Feel like making it at home instead of wasting time (and money) in the store? Check out our yogurt cultures by clicking here.
Love it or hate it, sauerkraut is probably lurking in your pantry someplace. This is one of the most popular fermented vegetables on dinner tables everywhere, and whether you make yours from scratch or buy it premade, it’s one of the easiest fermented foods to recognize, and packs a powerful health punch.
Bet you didn’t know bread could be fermented! Sourdough bread is leavened using a natural starter containing wild yeasts. That starter sits, bubbling away and fermenting, prior to being added to the rest of the bread’s ingredients. The result is a healthier, easier-to-digest loaf with a characteristic flavor.
Did you realize your morning Joe was fermented? To be honest, even though I love fermented foods, I was clueless about this one until fairly recently, when a friend told me how coffee is made. Coffee is one of those foods that is thrown back and forth across the nutritional line in a never-ending game of tennis – one day it’s great for you, the next day it’s a horrible choice. I side in favor of drinking it in moderation, and love the fact that it’s fermented during production. In fact, the fermentation process is part of the origin of coffee’s flavor. Yum!
If you’re a chocaholic, you’ve probably questioned the health benefits of your favorite food. Sure, the tannins in it are great for you, and dark chocolate can increase the flexibility of your arteries, but how healthy can a mouthwatering French truffle dusted in Dutch cocoa really be?
The jury is still out on that one. This is one food that requires fermentation to create, however. Unfortunately, over-fermentation of chocolate can reduce its heart-healthy bitter tannin content, although it does help to create a better flavor profile.
OK, you probably knew pickles were fermented. But did you know that you’ve got to choose your brands carefully if you want to maximize the health benefit? In fact, I’d advise making most of your fermented vegetables at home, just to ensure you’re not getting vinegar-dipped versions. (Don’t get me wrong, I love vinegar… you just get more nutritional value when you ferment the vegetable, not just stick it in a fermented liquid.)
The health benefits of vinegar are numerous – there are even books dedicated to the topic of apple cider vinegar. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will say that I enjoy using vinegar liberally in the kitchen. From white balsamic to rice vinegar, the flavors profiles are numerous and the health benefits are plentiful for this delightful fermented liquid. And if you’re into making your own cleaning supplies, white vinegar is something you won’t want to live without.
Most cultures around the world have rich fermentation traditions, and the Japanese are no exception. Miso soup is a common side dish, and simple to make. At its core, it’s fermented form a mix of soybeans, salt, and the fungus Aspergillus oryzae . Admittedly, I limit my soy intake (allergies and that little issue of phytoestrogens…), but miso is still one of my favorite treats. If you love Asian cuisine, indulge yourself.
More than a ‘fad,’ kombucha is a fermented drink, the health benefits of which are widely touted. A 2014 study reports that kombucha tea (KT) “can efficiently act in health prophylaxis and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, antioxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of depressed immunity. The recent experimental studies on the consumption of KT suggest that it is suitable for prevention against broad-spectrum metabolic and infective disorders. This makes KT attractive as a fermented functional beverage for health prophylaxis.”
In other words, kombucha can help individuals with metabolic disorders and give your immune system a swift kick in the pants when necessary.
If you're new to a fermented and whole foods lifestyle, you probably felt a little overwhelmed before reading this article. Hopefully, you're realizing that the change to a healthier way of living isn't that drastic. The keys are already in your kitchen.
Having trouble switching to healthier foods? Let us know! We'll send you tips that helped us on our journey. We're here to help you live a healthier lifestyle. It's what led to the creation of Wise Choice Market, and provided the motivation for this blog.
And remember, sharing is caring. Feel free to post the link for this article to your Facebook or Twitter profiles and help your friends and family on their journey, too.
Image Credits: jkt_de on morgueFile
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