A few reasons to love fermented foods
Fermented foods have become a health food darling in the past 10 years. Fermentation is a buzzword. Probiotics isn’t just a scientific term—it’s a 37 billion dollar industry. Even apartment dwellers in big cities are finding space on their countertops for fermentation crocks and half gallon mason jars with airlocks. But really, what’s all the fuss about?
The short answer is that it’s complicated. Fermentation likely began in some long-forgotten, ancient society by accident. After all, fermentation happens pretty naturally. But what a happy accident! For our ancestors, the main value of fermentation was food preservation. Fermentation allowed them to preserve fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and even meat, without refrigeration.
These days, fermentation is primarily done for flavor and health benefits, not food preservation. However, while claims that fermented foods bolster the microbiome abound, and many insist that they can be used to treat everything from irritable bowel syndrome to obesity, there is still very little research to support any broad statements about the microbiome or health claims related to fermented foods. As is often the case with nutrition science, we can’t be certain of the effects of fermented foods on our bodies.
But there are lots of other reasons to love fermented foods (and there is certainly some research that supports eating fermented foods from a health perspective). Fermentation makes foods deliciously tangy, and many people find them easier to digest than their unfermented counterparts. For instance, some who are sensitive to lactose and cannot drink milk are able to eat yogurt without problems. Fermented foods are, to put it simply, an important and delicious part of a balanced diet.
Kombucha is a great introduction to fermented foods. Its light, tart flavor and subtle fizz make it the perfect drink to refresh and recharge. Kombucha can be consumed on its own, but it also pairs really well with all kinds of food. Try experimenting with the different flavors of Brew Dr. Kombucha and different kinds of foods. Ginger Lemon kombucha is excellent with salads; Clear Mind, with its notes of rosemary and sage, is delicious with hearty stews and braises; and Brew Dr.’s Love kombucha is delicious with chocolate desserts. Or try using kombucha in everything from ceviche to ice cream desserts.
In the vegetable realm, sauerkraut, and kimchi are two of the most approachable ferments. Sauerkraut is simply shredded cabbage and salt, fermented until tangy. Use it as-is, on salads or grain bowls, add a cup of it to hearty, tomato-based soups or stews, or use it to make pan-fried cakes by mixing it with breadcrumbs, egg, herbs, and a little shredded Gruyère. For kimchi, a spicier, bright red, Korean cabbage ferment, serve with short grain rice (or use in fried rice for a real treat), make a kimchi and tofu soup, or make savory Korean pancakes with kimchi inside.
If cultured dairy is more your speed, try going beyond cheese. Keep plain yogurt in the fridge for eating on its own with granola. Or, stir together yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, and cilantro, garlic, salt, and pepper for a simple sauce for grains, beans, and roasted vegetables. You can also make a creamy salad dressing from yogurt, avocado, lemon juice, salt, and water whizzed in a blender. Or use it as a substitute for milk in baked goods. Simply take enough yogurt to equal ¾ of the amount of milk called for in a recipe and add enough water to equal the full amount (for instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup milk, use ¾ cup yogurt and ¼ cup water).
Hopefully this short primer on using fermented foods gives you plenty of ideas for working them into everyday, real-life scenarios. Fermented foods are so easy to love and use that you may find yourself sneaking them into every meal of the day. The idea of living foods might sound a little spooky, but there’s nothing weird about them. In fact, they may become some of your favorite things to eat.