What are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are a type of food that are preserved with the help of microorganisms. The process involves using different ingredients to help change the chemical structure of the food whether it’s through the use of bacteria, sugar, alcohol, or yeast.
Foods that are pickled or soured are also considered fermented foods and they are produced by using a type of acid such as vinegar or lemon juice. This is a great way to preserve food and make it more nutritious!
The real star is a bacteria called lactobacilli which converts starches and sugars in fermented food into lactic acid. This is what gives the food its distinct sour flavor. What’s more amazing is that fermented foods are available around the world.
Throughout history, different cultures have developed their own versions of fermented foods. For example in South Africa, they have a fermented milk that’s similar to yogurt which is called amasi. Philippines has the atchara, a side dish made from pickled papaya. In southern parts of India as well as its neighbor Sri Lanka, they have a pancake made by mixing fermented rice batter with coconut milk.
You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to find fermented foods. There could already be a couple that’s in your fridge right now! Here’s a quick list of the more common fermented foods items that are available at your local grocery store:
- Apple cider vinegar
It’s important to note that not all fermented foods were made equal. Some are powerful in cultivating the bacteria in your gut since they have higher probiotic content in them. Most of the foods mentioned above are high probiotic foods that you can include in your diet.
Fermented Foods and Probiotics
Fermented foods are not new. We’ve been having them for many centuries. It’s only the rising popularity of probiotics did we begin to bring back more fermented foods into our diets.
Fermented foods are known to be great sources of probiotics which may help increase good bacteria in the gut. The bacteria in your gut can help with your immune system’s response to bad and good bacteria.
When you consume probiotic rich foods, you maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. You also help it kill bad bacteria that cause certain illnesses like diarrhea, eczema, IBS, UTI, Crohn’s, bladder cancer, ulcerative colitis, and more.
Gout and Fermented Foods
There’s scientific evidence showing that fermented foods may help with gout. A study led by Chandan Prasad found that probiotics have an influence on how purine is absorbed by the body. This in turn helps reduce inflammation. This makes probiotics found in fermented foods a potentially helpful in managing uric acid levels in gout sufferers.
Researchers of the study highly recommended using probiotics found in natural foods instead of pills and capsules. Thankfully, fermented foods are available in many forms whether as a dessert (yogurt), drink (kombucha), side dish (pickles) or as a meal (miso soup).
There is only one problem though and that is product labeling. Because fermented foods are trendy, some companies market their products to the point of misleading the customer. A fruit yogurt claimed to have probiotic benefits may actually just be filled with artificial sugars. Then there’s probiotic supplements which don’t specify the genus or species of the bacteria, or don’t indicate the level of probiotic available in the product.
As a consumer, this can be frustrating. But you need not to be. For as long as there are conscious buyers like you, companies will listen and strive to produce quality products that meet their customer’s needs. A good place to start is the back of the product. Make it a practice to check labels and see if it matches with the claims made in the front. Research the company. Find out if they have a reputation for being transparent with their customers or if they have a history of dubious practices. The internet makes it easy to find out this information. Use it to your advantage,
There’s also some basic fermented food staples which might already be in your kitchen. Take raw apple cider vinegar for example. It’s a type of fermented food which you can use to make salad dressings. You can also consume it by itself. Apple cider vinegar is a known remedy for gout since it breaks up uric acid crystals and prevent build up in the joints. It also alkalizes in the body making it less acidic.
Dairy is another example. Milk on its own serves as a good base for good bacteria to multiply. It’s also worth noting that dairy has a uricosuric effect on gout, meaning it increases uric acid excretion in the body. Certain gout medications have the same mechanism helping to reduce uric acid concentration in the blood.
If you’d like more probiotic benefits, consider getting cultured dairy. This is dairy that’s been fermented with lactic acid bacteria. It’s been consumed for thousands of years and it doesn’t hurt to try it yourself. Fermented dairy tastes better and is easily digested by the body.
Easy Fermented Food Recipes
Making fermented food at home is very easy. No need for special equipment or ingredients. In fact, some of it might already be in your pantry!
Ingredients: 1 medium sized green cabbage, 1 ½ tablespoons of salt
- Slice the cabbage into thin ribbons
- Place it into a mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt.
- Massage the salt onto the cabbage until it becomes watery and limp.
- Place the cabbage into a canning jar making sure it’s packed to the bottom. You want to make sure it’s submerged in liquid. If there’s not enough, add a cup of water mixed with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Store in a cool area, away from sunlight. Check in on your cabbage every few hours to make sure it’s still submerged in the liquid.
- Let it ferment for at least 3 days or longer.
- You may see bubbles form on top of your cabbage. Don’t fret, this is a good sign. If you see mold, simply scrape it off the top ensuring that the cabbage is still submerged in the liquid.
- Enjoy your sauerkraut! As long as it tastes and smells good, you can still eat it for several months!
BONUS TIP: You can do the same exact process with other types of cabbages
Ingredients: 8 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of commercial yogurt with active cultures
- Heat the milk in a Dutch oven and cook on medium heat, stirring it gently.
- Transfer the milk to a jar, place a lid on top and let it cool. Stir occasionally, making sure it doesn’t form a layer of skin on top. You can also place the jar in cool water.
- Once it reaches 115°F, add the yogurt. It should be 2 tablespoons of yogurt for every quart of milk.
- Incubate your yogurt. This can be done several ways whether it’s on a thermos, a heat keeping jug, a microwave, slow cooker, oven, or simply by the window on a warm day. Leave it for 5 to 10 hours. The goal is to leave it sitting at a steady temperature 115°F for the good bacteria to flourish.
- Taste your yogurt. The longer and hotter incubation is, the thicker and more sour your yogurt will be. Store it in the refrigerator and consume within 2 weeks.
Ingredients: 4 to 6 ripe peaches, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 liters of water
- Chop peaches and place in a large jar.
- Dissolve sugar in water and pour it in the jar.
- Grab a paper towel and secure with a rubber band.
- Let it sit at room temperature for a week. Stir it once a day to prevent mold formation. If you
- Remove the peaches with a strainer and keep the liquid.
- Resume fermenting the liquid for 2 to 3 more weeks. By the 1st week, you should see the mother, a goopy scum, forming. This is beneficial bacteria that is a result of a second fermentation process.
- After fermentation and the liquid already smells like vinegar, it’s ready for storage. Simply put it in a tightly sealed jar. The older it gets, the better it will taste.
Notice any pattern here? Fermented foods are basically just vegetables placed in a brine and left to sit for long periods. It can be quite a long process but the end result is very satisfying. One thing to ensure when fermenting your foods is to submerge all solid ingredients in liquid. Bacteria doesn’t need oxygen and will thrive in the liquid brine you created.
We hope to have inspired you to consume more fermented foods and make some of your own at home. It’s great flavorful food that’s very easy to make and may be beneficial for your gout.
Which recipe above will you try out first? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Posted by Spiro Koulouris