Foods that are infested with bacteria? Yikes…sounds a little scary doesn’t it! They’re actually very good for you.
Fermented foods have been preserved by a controlled exposure to bacteria or yeast. The bacteria breaks down sugars and carbohydrates and creates acids, gases, and/or alcohols that preserve the food for longer periods of time. Fermented dairy is usually referred to as cultured.
While it may sound a little scary (or even gross)…guess what. You’re probably already eating some!
Did you know that coffee, chocolate, cheese, yogurt, wine, and beer all go through fermentation? Not so scary now, is it?
These delicious traditional food have slowly phased out of the American diet in favor of convenience foods. It’s a shame because fermented foods contain probiotics that nourish your gut. They help aid in digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals. Fermentation also increases certain vitamins and nutrients in foods.
Our first easy step is to upgrade what you’re already eating. For example, traditionally, foods like pickles and sauerkraut were made by fermenting. However, most commercial pickles and sauerkraut available today are simply preserved with vinegar. Vinegar is a fermented product, however when you process fermented foods with heat (like in the canning process), you kill the beneficial bacteria.
To upgrade your current pickled choices, look for foods that are lacto-fermented. One brand that carries lacto-fermented foods is Bubbies. Our family loves their dill pickles. They carry sauerkraut, relishes, and more. (you can get some awesome fermented sauerkraut from Costco!)
Easy Fermented Substitutions
After you upgrade what you are already using, try making some simple substitutions. You can swap some standard diet staples for fermented or cultured foods by doing the following:
- Swap your high-fructose corn syrup laden sodas for probiotic-rich kombucha, a fermented tea product that has a fizz to it. Or try some fizzy water kefir!
- Instead of using regular bread for your sandwiches and toast, try a quality sourdough.
- Do you have a butter lover in your household? Switch your regular butter for a rich, cultured butter.
Our family especially loves water kefir. We’ve made our own, but our favorite store bought brand is this.
Stepping Out of the Comfortable Box
The third step involves a little stretching, but stretching is good for us! You’ve upgraded your current ferments to lacto-ferments and made some simple substitutes for healthier options. Now we’re going to try some new things. And we are going to do it with a little game of If, Then.
- If you like yogurt, then try kefir.
- If you like sauerkraut, then try kimchi or chow chow.
- If you like dill pickles, then try some fermented veggies like green beans or carrots.
- If you like salsa, then try fermented salsa.
Ease the Budget Burden
Easy step number four is to help ease the budget strain you may be feeling by purchasing fermented foods. Buying properly fermented foods can get expensive. The antidote for this is making them yourself. Fermentation is relatively easy, but can seem overwhelming.
Start where you are. Look at what you already have ready access to.
- If you have access to fresh raw milk, start with cultured dairy products.
- If you have an abundance of produce, start fermenting them in small batches.
- Do you eat a lot of bread, but can’t afford to buy good sourdough for all of it? Consider purchasing a sourdough starter kit and making your own.
Why did I make this the last step instead of the first to keep it cheap from the get-go? Two reasons.
One, often the thought of trying to add something new to your life is overwhelming. I didn’t want to add two new things (the food and the process of creating it) at once.
Second, you may not like everything you try. You’ll get a better feel for whether you like a fermented product if you know what it’s “supposed” to taste like verses wondering if you messed something up in the process. Ask me how I know.
Creating New Habits
You can take these easy steps to gradually increase the amount of fermented foods in your diet, but it all comes down to habit. Don’t try to do this all at once. If you do, it likely won’t stick. Take it one step at a time.
If you want to build life-long, healthy habits for your family, slow and steady wins the race.
If you use fermented foods in your diet regularly, where did you start? If you haven’t started yet, what is the first step you’ll likely take?
Sharing at The Modest Mom Blog.