Traditionally fermented foods like grass-fed cheese, kefir, miso, natto, olives, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, and yogurt are some of the oldest and healthiest foods on the planet. The term “fermented” may sound unpalatable but this ancient preparation and preservation method — which involves breaking down carbohydrates and proteins using microorganisms such as bacteria, molds, and yeast — produces delicious food.
More importantly, these “functional foods,” contain probiotics that can be beneficial to your overall health.* Beneficial bacteria in fermented foods help boost your overall nutrition, support digestion, and increase B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase, and lactic acid.*
Why Choose Traditionally Fermented Foods
According to holistic health expert Nancy Lee Bentley, co-author of Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program, the art of fermentation is an inconsistent process, which is why commercial food manufacturers developed methods to help standardize more consistent yields.
Anything “brined” in salt is technically fermented, but that’s where the similarities end because each type of fermented food has specific, unique requirements and production methods, Bentley explains.
Nowadays, many people settle for mass-produced pickles and other cultured foods, unaware that they don’t offer substantial health benefits. For instance, canned California-style black olives are not generally fermented and are just treated with lye to remove the bitterness, packed in salt, and canned. Many olive producers now use an acidic solution of lactic acid, acetic acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate and have abandoned the old salt-and-time fermenting method. Some pickles are now just packed in salt, vinegar, and pasteurized. Many yogurts are only a little better than puddings because they either contain too much sugar or use artificial sweeteners.
How to Make Your Own Fermented Foods
Modern techniques like refrigeration, high-heat pasteurization, and vinegar’s acidic pH either slow down or completely stop fermentation and enzymatic processes, effectively destroying the probiotics. Fortunately, there are still many traditionally fermented foods available. You can also make your own fermentation cultures to ensure that you’re getting the benefits of probiotics.
Kefir, which means “feel good” in Turkish, is an ancient cultured, enzyme-rich food that is easy, economical, and even fun to make at home. Kefir and yogurt are both cultured milk products but they contain different types of probiotics. Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that help nourish the friendly bacteria that are already present in your gut, while kefir helps colonize your intestinal tract, Dr. Mercola explains.
Check out Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program to learn more about raw, sprouted, and fermented foods.