How fermented foods affect health and how you can make them yourself
Anyone who wants to do something good for their intestines pampers them every now and then with fermented foods. This process, which is supposed to make foods of various kinds more durable, has been used for centuries. The longer shelf life is by no means the only advantage, because fermented foods improve intestinal health and thus the immune system at the same time. In the following, we would like to show you how you can ferment food, what happens to the products and how you can ferment vegetables yourself.
What does “fermented food” mean?
Fermenting means nothing else than “fermenting” and the fermentation process is a completely natural thing. With the addition of salt, cut into small pieces and packed airtight, depending on the food, bacteria, molds or yeast ensure that existing lactic acid bacteria break down the sugar molecules in vegetables, for example. Lactic acid is produced, which in turn creates an acidic environment by lowering the pH value, and in this environment mold and Co. cannot develop.
We have all enjoyed fermented foods, albeit partly unconsciously. Sauerkraut, for example, is one of them. But also the dough fermented with yeast or the sourdough, from which we prepare a wide variety of pastries, is part of it.
Why do fermented foods improve gut flora and health?
On the one hand, fermented foods are already pre-digested by the acid, so to speak. This of course makes digestion easier for the intestines. The lactic acid bacteria (probiotics) also actively help the intestine with digestion and thereby strengthen the entire digestive tract. Good gut health naturally affects other important body functions as well. It guarantees a good metabolism, which is important so that the body can absorb and process all the important nutrients that we consume.
Other positive effects of consuming fermented products:
- help against food intolerance
- counteract fungal infections
- protect against harmful radiation
- regenerate the intestinal flora after taking antibiotics
- help with allergies
- help with skin diseases
Fermented foods list
We would like to introduce a few of the most famous and popular fermented foods to you in the following list. Also, learn what other nutrients each product has to offer besides probiotics to get a better idea of what is good for your body when you add them to your diet.
Fermented food made from milk
yogurt – The lactic acid bacteria make the yogurt probiotic. In order for this variant to be good for the intestines and digestive tract in general for fermented foods, you should make sure to choose a brand that does not contain any additives. This also includes fruits and especially sugar, because these are calorie bombs. Instead, use plain yogurt. Vegans don’t have to forego the benefits of yogurt either. A variant without cow’s milk is the delicious coconut milk yogurt, which is even easier to digest and contains all the important enzymes and probiotics.
kefir – This milk product is very reminiscent of buttermilk, because it is a sour milk drink that, unlike buttermilk, also contains carbonic acid, tastes sour and is filling. So-called kefir mushrooms are necessary so that kefir can be made. In addition to probiotics, kefir also contains acetic acid bacteria and yeast, as well as many vitamins, folic acid, magnesium and other nutrients. All of these positive ingredients even have the ability to improve the complexion of the skin. So if you suffer from blemishes, you can give this drink a try.
sauerkraut – A fermented food that everyone is guaranteed to know and have tried before. Sauerkraut is a real classic among fermented foods and not without reason, because it scores with numerous health benefits – both physically and mentally. The fermented but raw white cabbage has a positive effect on the brain. People suffering from depression or anxiety can get a clear benefit from this. But that’s not all: white cabbage is also a real vitamin C bomb and also contains folic acid, iron, fiber and of course lactic acid bacteria, i.e. probiotics.
Tempeh – Soybeans ferment with the help of a mold culture and you get a healthy and tasty meat substitute that not only vegans and vegetarians can benefit from. In addition to plenty of proteins and amino acids, the more aromatic alternative to tofu also contains magnesium, iron, potassium and phosphorus.
Miso – Certain molds also contribute to the fermentation of miso. Like tempeh, it is made from soybeans, but they are also combined with rice or barley. The millions of microorganisms contained in the finished product make miso, as a fermented food, perfect for intestinal health. There are also numerous other important minerals, including potassium. The famous miso soup is made from miso.
Products Purchased – What To Look For?
Of course, you can buy fermented foods in any supermarket. Most likely you do this every time you make a purchase, but you just weren’t aware of it before. Sauerkraut or fermented beetroot can be found in almost every household. If you buy consciously fermented or pickled products from now on, pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions. The vegetables are not always really fermented. Some manufacturers simply put it in vinegar instead. This should also be noted on the label.
Fermented foods – recipes and general tips
Would you like to make fermented foods yourself? It’s a lot easier than you might think. Especially if you want to keep vegetables longer in this way, you can give it a try, because you don’t need any special ingredients such as mold cultures for vegetables. Fermenting cabbage, cucumber or beetroot? Absolutely no problem! But you can also try it with fruit, eggs, nuts and various legumes.
Fermenting vegetables – simple instructions
It is best to use vegetables that are firm to the bite for fermenting. Softer vegetables are of course also suitable, but the end product is then also mushy. So it’s a matter of taste. It is best to use a clean mason jar and prepare the selected vegetables as follows to make fermented foods:
- Thoroughly clean the vegetables and cut them into small pieces.
- Put it in the previously cleaned jar, but do not fill it too much, as food will produce gases when fermenting that takes up space in the sealed jar.
- Mash the vegetables with a mortar or similar object to allow liquid to come out. You can fill up particularly firm vegetables, from which not much liquid can escape, with water. The rule is that the vegetables are just covered.
- Season the vegetables. Salt is commonly used but is not required. You can also use pepper, paprika, chilli and any other spices in addition to or instead.
- Close the jar tightly with a lid and let it rest at room temperature for at least a week. It should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
- It is best to taste after about 6 to 8 days. If you already like the taste, keep the glass in the refrigerator. If not, you can let it ferment for a few more days or weeks.
If you want to ferment tomatoes, small cherry tomatoes are particularly suitable, as they are placed whole in the glass and do not have to be cut. This will keep the vegetables firm.
- 750 ml mason jar
- 1 liter of lukewarm water
- 30 g of salt
- 1 stalk of fresh rosemary
- 2 stalks of fresh thyme
- Cabbage leaves
Dissolve the salt in the water. Fill the cleaned glass with the tomatoes and spices and then with the salt water. But leave a gap of about two finger widths to the lid. With the help of the cabbage leaf, press the tomatoes down so that they do not float to the surface, but stay completely under the water. Seal the jar and let the tomatoes ferment for at least 5 days.
Fermented eggs with honey and mustard
For this fermented food recipe, you can use garlic fermented in honey. You can find the recipe for this below. For the pickled eggs you will need:
- 12 hard-boiled and peeled eggs
- 200 ml of warm water
- 100 g raw honey (never heated above 40 degrees!)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 100 ml of white vinegar
- 3 tbsp hot mustard
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 piece of horseradish, finely chopped (alternatively, naturally ground mustard to taste)
- 3 to 5 cloves of garlic (preferably honey garlic cloves)
Dissolve honey and mustard in warm water, then add the vinegar, mustard, horseradish and turmeric. Then put the eggs and the garlic cloves in the glass, close and toss a little so that everything mixes well together. Let the eggs ferment in the refrigerator for one to two days.
Garlic fermented in honey
- 300 g raw honey (never heated above 40 degrees!)
- 200 g of garlic
Peel the garlic and put the whole cloves in a glass. Pour in the honey so that the toes are completely covered. Now the garlic has to ferment, which takes at least 6 weeks. You can also let it ferment for up to 6 months.
You can ferment any vegetable like in the basic recipe above. Fermented eggplant, fermented zucchini, fermented cucumber, and even fermented onion are a breeze, and the spices you add can be customized to suit your taste. Pepper and mustard seeds are particularly popular, but also dried and fresh spices, caraway seeds, turmeric or, for a little spiciness, chilli. If you are using salt, be aware that the more salt you add, the slower fermentation will slow down. High quality sea salt is particularly recommended.
Ferment the fruit
If you want to ferment fruit, it is best to use starter cultures (specially purchased whey or the whey from a yogurt / quark / buttermilk). If you ferment fruit only with salt, there is a risk that yeast bacteria are also present in addition to the naturally present lactic acid bacteria and these in turn produce alcohol. By using a ready-made starter culture, the lactic acid bacteria develop significantly faster than any other.
You can make fermented pineapples, apricots, dates, figs, strawberries and the like without the need for special spices. For fermented foods of this type, just do the following:
- Clean the fruit and fill it into large glasses.
- Prepare a brine from the water and starter culture and pour it over the fruits until they are completely covered.
- To make it more difficult, place smaller glasses on top of the fruit. This is how they stay under water.
- Close the jars and leave them out of direct sunlight at room temperature for 1 to 4 days. Open the lid from time to time to let the gases escape (or use special lids).
- Then keep in the refrigerator for up to a month to slow down further fermentation.
Fermented strawberries, but also fermented dates or figs, as well as all other types of fruit that you like, can be nibbled or used for dishes at any time. For example, add fermented foods to your morning muesli or smoothie.
Fermented oranges or other citrus fruits of this type should be very aromatic so that the fermentation takes place in terms of taste. In any case, the end result is incredibly delicious. Fermented lemons are very suitable for salads or various creams, for example.
Fermented legumes, cereals and ginger
In order to obtain fermented foods from grains and legumes, seedlings are needed. Therefore the process is only suitable for germinable grains. These include rice, wheat, quinoa or spelled.
Fermented quinoa for the drink “Rejuvelac”
- Rice or other germinable grain such as rice, spelled, wheat, etc..
- Lemon juice
Sprouted and fermented brown millet, fermented wheat germ and the like are also ideal for this drink. Whichever variety you choose, first fill a clean and sealable glass with it. Then fill with water until the grains are covered and add a few drops of lemon juice (3 drops per liter of water). Seal the container and let it stand at room temperature for 48 hours. Pour off the Rejuvelac and enjoy it neat or continue using it for other goodies in which you would like to incorporate fermented foods.
Ferment the legumes
- 200 g of legumes
- lukewarm water
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
First wash the selected legumes well under running water (in a sieve). Then put them in a bowl and cover with lukewarm water (legumes exceed about 5 cm). Stir in the zircon juice and let the bowl stand for 24 hours. Legumes don’t need to be covered in order to ferment.
The next day, rinse off the legumes and cook them through. You can also add salt to taste. Then drain and rinse again and you can use them for dishes, e.g. for salads, stews or hummus as a dip or spread.
Ginger and salt, that’s all you need, because this beneficial root is very aromatic in itself. For 3 kg of ginger you need 75 g of salt. After you’ve peeled the exotic ginger, cut it into thin slices. Then put it in a glass with the salt and mix everything together well. The salt will now pull the liquids out of the ginger, so additional water probably won’t be necessary. Put a lid on the jar and let it stand for at least 6 weeks.
Nuts as fermented foods
Whether fermented walnuts, fermented cashews, almonds or other popular types of nuts – they are extremely popular, but rather risky for making at home. The reason for this is that nuts have hardly any carbohydrates and no natural lactic acid bacteria. These must therefore be added for production. If the proportions are wrong, dangerous bacteria could develop, including salmonella. So it’s best to avoid this experiment or use a proven and safe recipe.
Fermented foods during pregnancy
We have already clarified that fermented foods are healthy. But is it possible that fermented foods are unhealthy during pregnancy? By and large, such products are not a problem when you are pregnant. Like all other foods, they become dangerous when they are spoiled. Therefore caution is advised here. Just in case, you should avoid certain fermented products altogether to avoid food poisoning or stomach problems. Dairy products are one of them, for example. It is best to talk to your doctor. They can give you detailed information on the topic.