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In the past, many of the world's people produced and consumed fermented foods. In ancient Rome, sauerkraut was a popular dish. Kefir, a cultured milk drink, has been made in the Caucasus for centuries. The advent of mass-produced food in the 20th century led to the elimination of fermented foods from the standard Western diet.
Today, fermentation is making a comeback. If you're looking to improve your health and add some delicious new dishes to your diet, you'll love these unusual and flavorful cultured foods.
What is Fermentation?
The metabolic process of fermentation converts the starches and sugars in foods into alcohols, gases, and acids. The chemical process naturally preserves food while creating many healthy byproducts ranging from B-vitamins to enzymes and probiotics.
The fermentation process retains the best nutrients in foods while making the end product more easily digestible. The process has been used to make a variety of fare, from pickles to kombucha, for centuries.
Benefits of Fermented Foods
There are countless reasons why fermented foods make a great addition to any diet. First and foremost, fermented foods are great for the gut. Whether you're eating fermented pickles or drinking a cup of milk kefir, you'll be consuming thousands, if not millions, of probiotics. Individuals with digestive conditions are likely to benefit from regular consumption of fermented foods. Recent research indicates that as the gut is healed, mental health may also improve. In addition to improving the health of the stomach and bowels, studies suggest that the immune system is strengthened through regular consumption of cultured foods. In short, fermented foods could easily be considered "superfoods" due to their abundant health benefits.
Additionally, fermented foods are budget-friendly and long-lasting. Starter cultures like kefir "grains" or kombucha SCOBYs can make indefinite batches of drinks when used properly. Once made, most cultured foods can be stored for relatively long periods of time. The fermentation process preserves these foods and drinks while maintaining their nutrients, allowing them to last for weeks or months when chilled or frozen.
Fermented foods can be both healthy and tasty for the entire family. Children can reap the health benefits of kefir, pickles, and other cultured foods just as adults can. With its natural fizz, flavored water kefir is a probiotic-packed alternative to sugar-filled sodas.
Simply put, there are dozens of excellent reasons to try cultured foods, from their health benefits to their tingly carbonation. At least one of these wholesome foods or beverages is sure to appeal to you and your family.
Top Fermented Foods
Are you interested in fermented foods? Are you wondering where you should begin? Though the following fermented foods are among the most popular and frequently-made, there are dozens of other dishes that can be prepared. Recipes for all types of cultured foods can be found across the internet.
Kefir is a cultured liquid that can be enjoyed as a thick beverage or as an ingredient in a variety of dishes. Water kefir can be made from water, coconut water, or juice. Milk kefir can be made from raw milk or most dairy-free milks. Both varieties have a deliciously tart, carbonated flavor. Additives like lemon, ginger, lavender and more can be added to kefir to enrich its flavor.
Water kefir and milk kefir can be produced using fermentation starters known as kefir grains. These "grains" are cultured bacterial matter and are not at all related to cereal grains. By adding milk or water to the grains and letting them sit for a number of days, kefir is produced.
Sauerkraut is one of the best-known cultured foods. Rich in fiber, iron, magnesium and a number of other vitamins and minerals, sauerkraut is a powerfully nutritious dish. At its simplest, fermented sauerkraut can be made by simply combining sliced cabbage, its juices, and salt in a jar. Over a number of days or weeks, the fermentation process will transform this cabbage into tangy sauerkraut. For those new to fermenting, sauerkraut is an excellent place to start.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from black tea and sugar. When a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) is added to this concoction, it will eventually produce kombucha. When brewed at home, the final product is a tart and slightly vinegary cooled beverage. For those who prefer a slightly sweeter drink, green tea and honey can be combined to make Jun, a similar beverage.
Other Fermented Foods
Many other foods can be fermented, such as pickles and soybeans. Mouth-watering sourdough bread can also be made using a sourdough starter. Vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, and asparagus can be fermented and served with any meal. Milk kefir can be made into dressings or used as a base for creamy smoothies.
The possibilities presented by fermented foods are practically limitless. Whether you choose to make your own fermented vegetables or brew a fresh batch of kombucha, you'll surely reap the health benefits of cultured foods and drinks.
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