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Naturally Fermented Foods

If you’re like me, you pay attention to food trends, like growth in the popularity and availability of naturally fermented foods. I’m talking about live cultured foods — naturally fermented the way our ancestors have done it for centuries. For them, it was a method of preservation. It was also a secret to good health, and it’s making a serious comeback. 

For millennia, traditional cultures around the world have made their own naturally fermented sodas and ale, as well as fermented dairy products, vegetables, fruits and even meats. Japanese cuisine features fermented pickles, natto and miso. In Germany, sauerkraut is a traditional dish. In other parts of Europe, sourdough bread is made from naturally fermented dough. In Korea, people eat kimchi made from live cultured cabbage.

A strong immune system depends on a healthy digestive tract. If digestive health is not up to par, chances are neither is the immune system. Healthy bacteria are key! That’s where fermented foods come in. They contain probiotics — friendly bacteria that colonize our digestive track, keeping our bacterial flora balanced.   

Because of our culture’s reliance on pasteurized foods, we’ve eliminated most sources of these important probiotics that we used to consume on a regular basis. To make sure your diet contains these valuable live foods, consider adding the following:

  • Live cultured pickles, sauerkraut, vegetables and kimchi (you’ll find these in the refrigerated case)
  • Cheese made from raw milk
  • Unpasteurized miso (which has not been heated)
  • Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans
  • Fermented drinks and tea such as kombucha
  • Yogurt and kefir made with live cultures (not all commercially sold yogurt or frozen yogurt contains live cultures). Non-dairy yogurt varieties may also contain live cultures.
  • Probiotic supplements – we’ve got a large selection in our Whole Body Department

Look for “live food” or “contains live cultures” on the label of many of these products. Eat a variety. Remember: Different foods contain different strains of healthy bacteria. Start slow and work your way up gradually to what feels right for your body. Generally speaking, ¼ to ½ cup daily or several times a week works well for most people, but everyone is different.  If you have digestive problems, be sure to check with your health care provider. 

My idea of a probiotic-friendly lunch is a sandwich made with raw milk cheese, tomato and live pickle slices, German-style mustard or honey mustard, and quality mayonnaise on dark rye bread. Delicious with a fresh green salad and probiotic dressing I make with olive oil, raw apple cider vinegar, a little raw honey, a little unpasteurized miso and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano made from raw milk.   

Do you enjoy fermented foods? What’s your favorite? Let me know.