The Fabulousness of Fermented Fare
By Laura Carson Miller
“Did you know that chocolate, salami, beer, coffee and tea are fermented before they can be consumed?”
That’s basically how my conversation with my friend and famous nutrition and wellness expert Keri Glassman,” began, when I asked her about fermented food and drink.
You’ve probably heard or read about fermented foods in the last few years, especially if you are tuned in with the health and wellness community. I’ve personally known about kombucha and even made it in my home once, for years. Now I simply purchase G.T.’s or the bucha brand and drink up.
Just what is fermentation, you may be wondering? “Similar to canning, or refrigeration, fermentation is a process that helps to preserve foods and keeps them from going bad,” says Glassman. When foods are fermented, bacteria or yeast are introduced to break sugars down into simpler molecules such as alcohols and acids. This process can be as simple as placing vegetables in a salt and water solution, though most often there is a starter culture (filled with friendly microorganisms like probiotics) used. “Breaking down the food does two things the foodie should be concerned with: first, it introduces tons of good bacteria into the food that increase nutritional value tremendously,” Glassman continues. “Second, a ton of flavor is released. Just think of the difference between eating a cucumber and eating a pickle!”
I guess perhaps I’m annoying, as I constantly inform people that digestion begins in your mouth. This is usually while they are shoveling food into their yapper at a furious pace, barely passing it between their teeth before swallowing. (Some folks do this out of habit, while others do so because they are literally starving as they have waited so long to get food into their system. This is bad for many reasons, including that you tend to overeat when you wait too long between proper nourishment. Really. Treat yourself better. Get a clue.) “Fermenting a food begins the process of digestion before it even hits your lips,” Glassman explains. “This helps to improve the body’s digestion process and the health of your digestive tract; it also makes the nutrition in your foods more available for absorption.” Glassman suggests incorporating fermented foods more as you age and you begin to lose some of the natural enzymes that absorb nutrients. She adds that some fermented foods may contain probiotics, in more varieties and abundance than are available in a supplement.
I’m a big fan of Kim chi, a fermented cabbage dish that is yummy on its own or over greens, or grains such as cous cous or quinoa. I like the mild or spicy versions and it’s readily available in the natural/organic refrigerated section at Publix and Kroger – no need to go to pricey food chains to find it!! Knowing that chowing down on Kim chi is both really good and good for me is a win/win in my book. What are you favorite fermented foods?