WIN-ning Wednesday: Fermented Food

In modern day nutrition, fermented foods have kind-of fallen by the way side.  Sure, wine and beer are fermented, as is cheese, but there are so many other traditional foods, from many different cultures, that are fermented and are really good for us.

Fermented foods are foods have been acted on by friendly (aka good) micro-organisms.  There are many examples of this that are familiar to us such as the use of yeast and a little sugar to leaven wheat dough.  This helps bread to rise.  Also, micro-organisms are added to grape juice to make wine.

In addition, plant based foods can be fermented.  The end result is a very probiotic (good bacteria) rich food that is also a rich source of nutrients, easy to digest because of a high concentration of naturally occurring enzymes, good for the digestive tract, good for the immune system, and delicious to enjoy.  Many of these fermented foods that are plant based are cultural foods and originate from places such as Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Some plant based fermented foods that are more well known in North America include:

– Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage

– Kimchi – fermented Nappa cabbage

– Tempeh – fermented soy beans

– Miso – fermented soy beans

Sauerkraut has long been enjoyed as a tasty side dish, or served up on a hot dog!  LOL!

I often recommend to people to eat tempeh instead of tofu.  Tempeh can be added to stir frys, just like tofu, but it is a fermented food and less processed than tofu.

For anyone who enjoys Japanese food, they would be familiar with miso soup.  Miso soup is made of miso, which is a salty, paste-like, food ingredient that also comes from soy beans.  I like to recommend using miso instead of a bouillon cube to make a soup broth.  Miso makes a really rich and tasty broth that can accomodate vegetables, rice and other soup ingredients.

On Monday I’ll post a recipe for homemade Kimchi.  Kimchi is one of my favourite Asian foods!  It’s been a signature dish in the Korean culture for over 2,000 years.  Like sauerkraut, it’s a fermented food that is made out of cabbage, Napa cabbage to be exact.

A serving of Kimchi can have 80% of the daily recommend intake of vitamin C and beta carotene, and it is a rich source of B vitamins, calcium, iron and probiotics (healthy bacteria).  A serving of Kimchi has more good bacteria in it than yogurt!

A note about yogurt.  Traditional yogurt is a fermented food.  That being said, most store sold yogurt has been pasteurized and has so much sugar added to it, that the end product is more similar to desert pudding than a fermented food…. yes… even the brands that boast that they are a source of probiotics!  I’ve personally checked out the nutrient label of that famous “probiotic yogurt” in a green container and there was an astonishing amount of sugar in it.  Hmmmm….Anyway…Check out what happened to Danone.

Oh…sorry for the tangent… so back to Kimchi….Kimchi is a fermented food that’s easy to make your own kitchen.  The end result is a tremendously healthy and delicious dish that has a kick of spicy heat.  Check back Monday for the easy recipe.

For more information about fermented foods, digestive health, how our nutrition supports digestion or probiotics, visit with a licensed Naturopathic Doctor.

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One comment

  1. Gilma Kudley · March 10, 2013

    Western cuisines tend to use ‘pairs’ that share many flavours,’ say the researchers in a paper published in Nature. ‘But east Asian cuisines tend to avoid ingredients that share them. This investigation opens new avenues towards understanding culinary practices.’..

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