Have you been told to increase your intake of fermented foods but don’t know where to find any fermented food recipes? Likely they are all around you, but you just need to know where to look – and what to look for. Here are some of my favourite recipes using fermented foods, plus some of the top health benefits of eating fermented foods.
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermented Foods and Food Preservation
Fermenting was first used as a means of food preservation, before times of refrigeration and grocery stores. The beneficial bacteria in the fermented food help to crowd out, or inhibit the growth of the types of bacteria that can spoil food. Some types of fermentation also help to lower the pH of foods which prevents harmful microorganisms from living in that acidic environment.
Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
Most of us now associate eating fermented foods with improved gut health, and evidence shows that gut health can play an important role in metabolism, immunity, inflammation, mood, allergies, as well as autoimmune disorders. I’ve written about my Top 5 Tips On How To Improve Gut Health Naturally here.
Global History of Fermented Foods
In Asia, they consume tempeh and miso, both from fermented soybeans. In the Caucasus Mountains, it is kefir from fermented milk. In Africa, they enjoy fermented porridge and cassava. In Korea it is Kimchi and in Germany it is Sauerkraut. Unfortunately, fermented foods have almost disappeared in our newly sterile, overly-processed food and what our current Western-style diet lacks what traditional diets thrive on.
Fermented Food Recipes For 7 Common Ferments
So how do you increase your fermented food consumption if you’re not so into Kimchi, and the only time you’ll eat Sauerkraut is on a dirty hotdog? It is likely that you have a few fermented foods already taking up space in your fridge or pantry.
- Miso – Miso is made from fermenting soybeans with barley or rice. Soy-free versions are made by fermenting chickpeas. Miso soup is the most common way of enjoying miso (see Japanese Noodle Soup with Miso for a quick easy mid-week meal idea). Be sure to not let the miso boil, and instead add it to hot water to ensure the bacteria aren’t killed off.
I love using miso in salad dressingssuch as this Japanese Salad Bowls with Miso Tahini Dressing.
- Yogurt – The bacteria in yogurt help to break down the lactose making the food more digestible – ever known anyone with a lactose-intolerance who could eat yogurt? That’s thanks to that helpful bacteria.In our conventional store-bought yogurt, the diversity of the strains can be limited, as well as the amount of live-active cultures ie bacteria
(unless you are purchasing one that specifically indicates it contains live-active cultures). Aside from having yogurt for breakfast, try this Healthy Coleslaw Recipe with Toasted Almonds which uses yogurt in place of mayonnaise in the dressing.
- Kefir – A fermented yogurt drink which contains over three times the amount of live-active cultures compared to yogurt. Kefir is generally fermented with a combination of ten to twenty different types of probiotic bacteria and yeast, whereas the milk used in yogurt is only fermented with a few.I like adding a few tablespoons of kefir to my smoothie for an extra gut-health boost, or using it in this Blueberry Kefir Post-Workout Snack.
- Soy Sauce – The fermentation of soybeans into soy sauce is said to be one of the most complexes of fermented foods, involving three district groups of organisms including Aspergillus, lactic acid bacteria and yeasts. Soy sauce is made from fermenting soybeans and wheat, whereas tamari is solely soybeans (resulting in a less complex flavour, but a great gluten-free option).
Make sure to purchase organic soy sauce to avoid any genetically-modified soybeans, and even better if you can find a high-quality one made exclusively by the traditional fermentation process. Here is my FAVOURITE salad dressing in this Baked Tofu Kale Quinoa Salad with Glory Bowl Dressing which is uses both soy sauce and apple cider vinegar.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – This is probably my most commonly consumed fermented food – and no I don’t drink it straight! All true vinegar is naturally fermented and contains a mother culture which is that cloudy, stringy culture settled at the bottom of the bottle. Make sure to purchase apple cider vinegar that is unpasteurized which means the bacteria haven’t been killed off by heat.
Here is another favourite salad dressing in this Raw Beetroot Salad with Kale Apple and Dill which is based on apple cider vinegar.
- Tempeh – When soybeans are fermented, the pre-digestion of the protein by the bacteria that occurs makes it easier for our digestive systems to access the amino acids. It also helps to break down the phytic acid which allows for more bioavailability, or absorption, of certain minerals including zinc, iron and calcium. Although our commonly store-bought tempeh likely not does contain any live-active cultures, we are still getting the benefits of the fermentation of the protein and better access to minerals.
- Sourdough – Traditionally fermented sourdough can be easier to digest. The bacteria that are involved in the fermentation process help to partially breakdown gluten making it a good option for those that are gluten-sensitive (note: those with Celiac Disease cannot eat any type of gluten including sourdough bread).
While we won’t get any active benefits of the live cultures once the bread is baked, sourdough, just like tempeh, is a good example of how fermentation can help pre-digest food. I love eating my sourdough bread in open-faced sandwiches such as this Mexican Inspired Toasted Sandwich.
What Are Some Other Common Fermented Foods?
There are so many ways to get in the friendly bacteria that we need. Here are a few of my other favourite fermented foods.
- Kombucha – This newer ferment is made from fermenting sweet tea with a SCOBY or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria or Yeas, though there is not much research yet to back up its popularity.
- Cider – Fermenting seasonal fruit, as well as grains, tubers, sugar or honey into alcohol, will offer some wild yeast AKA live-active cultures. Note that any pasteurized versions will not contain any live-active cultures.
- Pickles – Fermented pickles are available and will contain the beneficial live-active cultures as long as they are not pasteurized – note that most pickles we see in the grocery store are pasteurized. Unpasteurized pickles are found in the refrigeration section of the grocery store and not on the shelves.
- Mustards, Relishes, Kimchi and Sauerkraut – Just like pickles you can find these ferments in the refrigeration section. Any of these products on the grocery store shelves are not going to offer any live active cultures.
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References for Fermented Foods Recipes and Health Benefits
The Art of Fermentation – Sandor Ellix Katz
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.