What’s one way to preserve the veggies from your garden while improving your overall health? Transforming some of your harvest into fermented foods could be the answer.
Humans have used this process since time immemorial to preserve products, beginning with the milk that the arid North African sun transformed into a yogurt-like delicacy. While it takes a bit to perfect your brine, you can still use the same techniques to create one-of-a-kind, nutritious delights.
Why should you care in today’s world of Frigidaire? After all, it’s not like there aren’t other preservation methods. That’s true, but few can rival the health benefits. Here are six reasons you should be eating more fermented foods.
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What Are Some Common Fermented Foods?
Fermenting foods at home is fun — more on that in a bit. However, it’s also possible to find these products on grocery shelves. Some of the fermented foods you might already know and use include the following:
Pickles are another food you probably recognize — some are fermented, and some aren’t. It depends on whether the manufacturer uses a saltwater brine (fermented with probiotics) or vinegar (no probiotics). Either way, these foods contain necessary nutrients like vitamins A, C and K, and they’re low in calories, making them healthy snacks. However, you might want to look for the brine-prepared kind to get more probiotics in your life.
Also, apple cider vinegar contains probiotics, although it’s awful to drink alone. However, you can use it in recipes to get your daily fermented food dose.
6 Healthy Reasons to Eat More Fermented Foods
Why should you be eating more fermented foods in the first place? Here are six solid health reasons supported by science.
1. Nurture Your Gut Microbiome
Deep inside your intestines, colonies of healthy bacteria work hard to help you digest, make crucial neurotransmitters like serotonin and send messages to your brain via your vagus nerve, impacting multiple body processes that affect how you feel. These bacteria are called probiotics, and they also exist in nature. When foods “rot” under the right conditions, these bacteria thrive while the ones that make you sick die off, creating a fermented food.
Everyone has a unique microbiome or gut bacteria colony. However, over time, you lose some of these “workers” through antibiotic use, alcohol use and unhealthy diets low in the fiber that feeds them. Eating probiotic-rich fermented foods replenishes your stores and returns your gut to a healthier state. When that’s healthy, you feel better.
2. Boost Your Nutritional Intake
What is fermentation? At its core, it’s a chemical reaction that begins breaking down the nutrients in food — it’s almost like partially digesting them before eating. While this may sound gross, it’s actually good for you.
Why? While many foods are nutrient-rich, your body can’t always access the goodness within — especially if you’re low in the bacteria necessary for digestion. Fermented foods begin breaking down complex nutrient chains for you, making it easier for your body to use them in various processes.
3. Control Your Weight With Less Trouble
Your intestinal microbiome also sends your brain satiety signals. When you have healthy colonies, it’s easier for your brain to get the message that it’s full.
Furthermore, you can nurture your innate microbiome by eating more prebiotic-rich foods with your probiotics. What are prebiotics? They refer to special types of insoluble fibers that feed your gut bacteria. Fiber also promotes a feeling of satiety, so nurture your tummy if you want to keep pounds off without a battle.
4. Reduce Systemic Inflammation
Part of the complex signals your microbiome sends your brain involves perceived danger and the resulting inflammation. Systemic inflammation is a hallmark of nearly every chronic disease.
A healthy microbiome tells your brain to produce a Baby Bear’s chair dose of illness-and-injury fighters like inflammatory cytokines. When your levels remain in check, swelling decreases.
5. Support Your Heart Health
Your heart is a critical organ, and disease affecting it remains the number one killer. A growing mass of evidence shows that a probiotic-rich diet improves several indicators of heart function.
For example, it can lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol and restore your numbers to a healthier balance. Additionally, a diet high in these foods lowers blood pressure and inflammatory mediators affecting this organ.
6. Improve Your Mental Health
Serotonin is critical to mood, as anyone ever prescribed an SSRI understands. However, although your brain uses this neurotransmitter, your gut produces 95% of it.
Inflammation, likewise, can increase mental health symptoms like anxiety. The anti-inflammatory impact of probiotic-rich fermented foods may help you experience fewer panic attacks.
Tips for Getting More Fermented Foods in Your Diet
One easy way to get more fermented foods in your diet is to buy more at the grocery store. For example, plain unflavored yogurt makes an excellent substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream in recipes. Use it to mix up your weekly tuna salad and get a healthy dose of probiotics with your omega-3s.
Another method? You can ferment scores of vegetables — cucumbers and cabbage are simply the most common in the United States. This method helps you stretch your summer garden stash and get more nutrition to boot. How? Here’s a simple brine recipe you can start with:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup salt
You’ll also need:
- Mason jars with burper lids
- A wooden spoon
Mix the water and salt, blending with the wooden spoon until well dissolved. Place the veggies you want to ferment in the jar, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Pour the brine over your vegetables, leaving a small bit of space. Place your foods in a cool, dry place for at least two to three weeks.
You’ll have to play with the precise recipe to get the flavor you want — feel free to add other spices for a unique taste.
Why You Should Eat More Fermented Foods
Fermented foods have oodles of health benefits. You need more of them in your diet.
Consider the reasons above for eating more fermented foods. Get pickling and invent unique recipes!