pickled beets

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how to incorporate fermented foods into the diet. Fermented foods have two main benefits. One is to provide good bacteria to help the health of the intestinal tract. The other is to partially pre-digest the food and make the nutrients in the food, including the amazing phytonutrients, more bioavailable and more potent. So depending on what someone wants to accomplish, there are options as to how to incorporate them into the diet.

The first is to eat them as they are especially if the goal is to improve the good bacteria levels in the gut. This is easy to do. Sauerkraut can be added to salads or used as a condiment in sandwiches or burgers. Kimchi can be added as a side dish to a meal. Water kefir can be used in smoothies just like milk kefir. You can also use water kefir to make homemade jello or popsicles or use it to replace water in ice cube trays. Think of that – every time you use an ice cube you could be adding good bacteria to whatever you are drinking – maybe make that alcoholic beverage you love so much have some actual nutritional value.

Kombucha is obviously a beverage as is beet kvass and can just be consumes as that. However, they are both on the acid side of the ph scale similar to vinegar, just not as strong, and can be added to salad dressings. These are just a few ideas but as you can see, fermented foods are quite versatile.

The second way to incorporate them in the diet is to cook them as part of the meal. Most people are surprised when I say this. However, as mentioned above fermented foods are not just about good bacteria. So while it is true that the good bacteria and yeasts are lost when a fermented food is heated (above 132 degrees F or 55 degrees C), the partial pre-digestion and extra bioavailability remains.  Fermented vegetables, for example, can easily be added to stir-fries and casseroles, improving the nutritional value of the meal.  Sauerkraut can be baked into a cake or bread. Kimchi can be cooked and added to a rice dish. While everyone is different, you can have too many fermented foods in a day and you may not like the results this has on your poor intestines. By cooking them, you eliminate this effect but you are still adding valuable extra nutrition to your meals.

If you are not sure how to ferment your own, the good news is that there are many good products on the market that you can buy. Go to your local health food store and ask them what products they carry. Be sure to buy unpasteurized – the decision to heat them should be yours.

Try this delicious Cashew Sauerkraut Salad.