Why Fermented Foods Are Amazing For Gut Health (+Recipe)

In today’s nutrition bite, we dive into the benefits of fermented foods, and share a fantastic sauerkraut recipe with you!

How is it possible that something that smells so bad can make your gut so happy? If you’ve come across fermented foods, then you know that some of these can really assault your senses.

But why are these foods so popular these days? The ancient practice of fermentation brings powerful benefits to your health—most notably, your gut.

What Exactly Is Fermentation?

Fermentation “is a process that occurs inside living organisms, in which molecules that contain both carbon and hydrogen (such as sugars [from carbohydrates]) are broken down in an environment that lacks oxygen.” [1] 

Fermentation is one of the earliest forms of food preservation. In fact, humans have been consuming fermented foods and beverages for over 10,000 years…And for VERY good reason! [2]

In addition to increasing a food’s shelf life and providing a treat for our taste buds, fermented products can enhance certain nutrients, inhibit foodborne pathogens, and remove compounds that inhibit our body’s ability to absorb nutrients, called “anti-nutrients”. [3]

Additionally, fermented foods contain naturally occurring probiotics, which are good bacteria vital for gut health. 

Among their many benefits, probiotics have been well documented for their ability to aid in improving bowel disorders, antibiotic-associated digestive struggles, and even allergies. [4] 

The following are some common vegetarian and vegan fermented foods and beverages:
Sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, natto, kimchi, yogurt (with or without dairy), kefir (with or without dairy) and kombucha.

The quality and quantity of the probiotics within these products varies significantly depending on where they are sourced from. (The true probiotic content of kombucha in particular is questionable at best, and should be treated as an occasional treat).

As you might have guessed, we prefer making our own fermented foods, and we love sharing how with you! 

Below is our splendid Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut, a recipe based on the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, otherwise known as “Sandorkraut.” 😆

Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut

Core Ingredients

5 pounds of cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
One whole outer leaf of the above cabbage, to cover 
2-3 Tablespoons of pure sea salt

Optional Additional Ingredients (we recommend adding no more than 3-4)

There are a slew of other vegetables that can be added to the mix. These include: Vegetables such as beets, onions, garlic, kohlrabi, turnips, carrots, herbs such as dill or parsley, or grated ginger root. 

The amount of each is up to you; we suggest starting with ½ cup of each additional ingredient (or 1 teaspoon for dried herbs), and adjusting from there. Experiment! 

Instructions

  1. Combine cabbage, salt, and any optional ingredients in a medium to large bowl. Work the salt into the vegetables with your hands until they decrease to about half the volume.
  2. Pack this mixture, a little bit at a time, into an extremely clean glass jar or crock, pressing down well between additions. You want it to be juicy. Take your outer cabbage leaf and put on top of the mixture. On top of that put a jar filled with water, a water-filled plastic bag, or a stone. Press down.
  3. Put your vessel in another vessel to catch any spills. Cover with a cloth and put in a relatively cool spot. Check once a day, pressing down to get juice flowing. Taste after 2 to 3 days.
  4. The liquid will go from clear and salty to cloudy and sour. There may be scum, but there should not be any mold.
  5. Refrigerate the mixture when it tastes just the right amount of sour to you, then enjoy! 

Consuming fermented foods is just one of the many ways you can improve your gut health… 

Get the full set of tools to improve any conditions stemming from poor gut health when you watch the new 8-part docuseries by our friend Sarah Otto, The Gut Solution”!

With more than 40 world-leading gut health experts breaking down the latest science in this field, this series is the perfect balance of theory and practice.

Register for “The Gut Solution today, and learn exactly how to regain full health by harnessing the power of your gut.

References:
[1] https://www.myfermentation.com/non-alcoholic/the-metabolic-process-of-fermentation-zm0z19fzwoo/
[2] https://www.lhf.org/2014/03/beyond-sauerkraut-a-brief-history-of-fermented-foods/
[3] https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0418p24.shtml
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4045285/

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