Fermented foods: A delicious way to get probiotics, even for vegans

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Fermentation might be a funny-sounding word to most of us. But it’s a healthy, natural food tradition that every culture in the world has some form of. Sauerkraut, kimchi, even salami – betcha didn’t know those were fermented foods! We’ll tell you what it is and why you should try it.

What’s so good about probiotics from fermented foods?

Now we know that fermented foods are very rich in probiotics. The process of fermentation also creates special B vitamins in the fermented food that are otherwise hard to find in nature.

Not only is it easier to digest other foods when we have plenty of probiotics in our system, but the nutrients in food are also better absorbed into our bodies when we have these great “pro-bugs” helping us. These remove natural inhibitors found in most raw veggies to unlock more vitamins for our bodies to absorb.

Want to learn more about probiotics? Check out The Probiotics Revolution by Gary B. Huffnagle and Sarah Wernick.

Lacto-fermented foods: A delicious way to get probiotics if you are not vegan.

The old-fashioned way of preserving food for long periods of time. It works because friendly bacteria (lactobacilli) is allowed to grow. This makes fermented food probiotic. It creates something called lactic acid which is good for our bodies because it:

  • Fights off bad bacteria in our digestive systems by improving the pH balance (higher acidity, lower alkalinity).
  • Improves digestion by breaking down the food that we eat. We need enzymes in our bellies to digest our food. Lactic acid probiotics provide that.
  • Reduces flatulence. No one likes the uncomfortable feeling that you get from badly digested food. How many people have been diagnosed with a new mysterious illness called Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Maybe we can avoid it by keeping our bellies healthier with traditional probiotics found in lacto-fermented foods!

There are probiotic options for vegans, too!

There are plant-based cultures which qualify as vegan. We found that Zukay fermented foods, a new line of probiotic condiments, currently use a vegan culture so that their products are vegan. It isn’t necessary to use whey (lactic culture) to make fermented foods. Fungus-based cultures, for example, are vegan.

How to find the best fermented product – what to look for

Depending on where you are, some pickled or soured foods are fermented, but many are simply processed with brine, vinegar, or another acid such as lemon juice.

Here are some naturally fermented foods you can find almost anywhere:

  • Cultured Yogurt
  • Beer/Wine
  • Naturally Aged Cheeses
  • Most Salami
  • Some pickles, sauerkraut, and other jarred vegetables are naturally fermented. Read the label to find out. It may be easier to find naturally fermented condiments in ethnic markets.

Try this DIY!

If you want to try home-fermentation, it’s a great idea to start with an informative book, such as Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz or Probiotic Foods for Good Health by Beatrice Trum Hunter. Then you will know which starter cultures will work best for you. You may use mason jars or a crock to start fermenting. Reading about the process or learning from someone who has mastered this method of food preparation will empower you to start fermenting your own foods at home.

Even without any book, you can try this great, vegan Homemade Saurkraut recipe that we learned from Scott of Zukay Live Foods.

About Zukay Live Foods

One of our Mambo gals went to a fermentation workship hosted by Scott Grzybek, the founder of Zukay Live Foods. He relishes (pun intended!) in making – and eating – nourishing, natural live foods.

At the workshop were samples of Scott’s home-fermented sauerkraut. It tasted so fresh and delicious, and the flavor was much more complex. We borrowed his super-easy, vegan recipe to share with you! Check it out!

If you’re interested in trying more fermented foods, be sure to check out Zukay’s products – relishes and salad dressings, available at some Whole Foods Markets and other health food stores. It is a local product at this time, so if you can’t find it in your area, you can check it out at Zukay.com.

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