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Lacto-Fermented Foods 

Lacto-Fermented Foods


Lacto-fermented foods have been around for a very long time.  Common in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and North and Central European cuisine, fermentation has been used to enhance the flavor of food, create food, and help food having a longer shelf life.  Fermented foods are delicious and nutritious.  These traditional foods are key to our health.

Fermentation allows the bacteria, yeasts and molds to "predigest" and therefore break down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to create "Probiotics" which offer friendly bacteria into our digestive tract.  This helps keep our immune system strong and supports our overall digestive health. 

Probiotics are particularly important when we are sick and are taking antibiotics.  Antibiotics kill off all the bacteria, the bad that are making you sick and also the good bacteria.  That's why many people get yeast infections when they take antibiotics.  Probiotics reintroduce good helpful bacteria into our digestive tract so that while the bad bug is being fought by the antibiotics, we won't get other sickness on top of that.  Acidophilus pills are a Probiotic which many of us take when we are taking antibiotics.  Look for pills that have billions of live flora.  Look for pills that must be refrigerated.  Jarrow is a good brand.  They make some just for kids too that taste good and are cute shapes.  Delicious Organics will soon be carrying some of the best probiotics.  Best yet, keep your digestive flora healthy and strong by regularly eating fermented foods.

Fermented foods are enzyme rich foods that are alive with micro-organisms.  These foods allow beneficial microflora to "colonize" in our intestines (and for moms-to-be, also in the birth canal) to keep us healthy.  Our "inner ecosystem" helps support our health and fight infection.   A healthy gastrointestinal tract (GI) is critical to a strong immune system.  Diets rich in fermented foods, as well as fruits and vegetables, are best for us to in order to maintain a strong healthy body.

Fermented foods aid in digestion, promote healthy flora in our digestive tract, produce beneficial enzymes, offer us better nutrition and allow our bodies to absorb vitamins (in particular C, and B12), minerals, nutritional value and omega 3s more effectively from foods.  They regulate the level of acidity in the digestive tract and act as anti-oxidants.  Fermented foods contain the same is othiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables and therefore fight and prevent cancer. 

Many fermented foods on the market today are not true fermented foods because they are created to maximize profits and shelf life instead of our health.  They are not as beneficial.  It's important that we eat foods that are fermented with "Active" or "Live" Cultures.  Pasteurization kills off the living bacteria so look for unpasteurized and fresh fermented foods (in the grocery refrigerator section).  Since fermentation is a way to keep the living enzymes alive, it goes against the theory to use pasteurized (or dead) milk, for example, but you can make yogurt and kefir with pasteurized milk, it just won't be as robust and beneficial.

Fermented Foods include:  
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Kumiss (Kefir from goat's milk)
  • Marinated Artichokes
  • Mahewu
  • Marinated Mushrooms
  • Miso
  • Nuoc Mam
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Quorn
  • Sauerkraut (caution: salt content)
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Soy Sauce
  • Tea
  • Tempeh
  • Umeboshi Plums
  • Vinegar
  • Wine
  • Yogurt

Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a micro-flora commonly found in dairy products.  It is also in fermented vegetables.  Lactobacillus Planatarum and Lactobacillus Brevis are also helpful micro-flora found in Fermented or Cultured vegetables.  These bacteria are destroyed when heated.  Fermented foods are alive with micro-flora to aid our digestive system.  For a healthy gut, and therefore a healthy body, consume fermented foods regularly.  You can purchase them or make them yourself.

With B12, Vitamin K, B1 and calcium that is more readily absorbed into the body, Kefir is good food.  How to use it?  Many people like to mix Kefir with some orange juice or make a smoothie by adding some fruit.  Kefir means "feel good" in Turkish.  And it's no wonder because it does make us feel good!

Both Kefir and Yogurt have live beneficial bacteria but Kefir has more strains (including Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter, and Strepococcus).  Yogurt is traditionally firmer while Kefir is more liquidy and Kefir is therefore easier to digest.  The bacteria of Yogurt cleans the digestive system and feeds good bacteria in the gut while the bacteria of Kefir can actually colonize and grow there and can therefore continue to be beneficial after being eaten.  Kefir also contains beneficial yeasts (that's what gives it it's zing and may make the bottle bloat) which seek out and destroy unhealthy yeasts in the body and therefore create a stronger immune system.  Kefir keeps the colon clean and supports a healthy digestive system.  While Kefir is more nutritious than Yogurt, Yogurt is still a very healthy food. 

Please note that many yogurts today contain the FOS and Inulin.  These occur naturally in Garlic, Sunchokes, and Asparagus but is not a natural occurrence in Yogurt.  FOS and Inulin are both "sugars" and the claim is that it assists the body to absorb calcium from the yogurt.  However, some research indicates that FOS and Inulin are difficult or impossible to digest and can affect some people negatively (heartburn, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea) after eating yogurt with these additions.  Inulin and FOS promote fermentation in the body which does feed good bacteria but may also feed bad bacteria at the same time.

Use fresh, well-cleaned cabbage either on its own or as the primary ingredient along with beets, carrots, garlic, celery, kelp, herbs or any other vegetable you enjoy. You may add a high quality sea salt if desired. A five-gallon container will hold about 35 pounds of vegetables and it is best to use at least 25 pounds per recipe. You can either grind the vegetables using a Champion Juicer (without the screen) or cut and shred them with a food processor. If you use the latter process, pound the vegetables to make them juicier.

Put the prepared vegetables in a stainless steel, ceramic or a glass crock. Don't fill the crock to the brim because the fermenting vegetables are likely to expand and may overflow. Put lots of fresh cabbage leaves on top of the ground up vegetables and using your hands and a little body weight, gently and firmly compress the leaves.

Put a plate that is as wide as possible in the crock and then add some weight to the plate, such as a lidded glass jar filled with two-thirds of a pint of water. A little weight will be sufficient, as too much will force the vegetable juice above the fermenting vegetables. Check the fermenting vegetables a few times over the next day and a half to ensure that the plate is sitting evenly on the vegetables and is not lopsided.

Let the fermenting vegetables sit in a well-ventilated space at room temperature (between 59-71º) for five to seven days. The longer it sits the stronger it gets. After five to seven days (6-7 days at 62ºand 5-6 days at 70º), throw away the old cabbage leaves and the moldy and discolored vegetables on the top. Put the remaining delicious fermented vegetables in glass jars and refrigerate. The Raw Cultured Vegetables will last from four to eight months when kept at 34º and opened minimally. Do not freeze them.