Description: Fermentation is a process by which naturally occurring enzymes or bacteria break down complex organic molecules into simpler nutrients that our bodies can assimilate more easily. Fermentation gives us many of our most basic foods, such as bread and cheese, as well as some of our most pleasurable treats such as chocolate, coffee, wine, and beer. The fermentation process is part of the culture of many countries, bringing exotic foods with unique tastes into existence. Historically it has been a way to preserve foods, and also to develop medicinal qualities. Fermentation increases digestibility significantly, and enhances the nutritional profile through the chemical changes food undergoes when allowed to develop to its full potential. This evolution boosts vitamin content, increases natural stability without the use of chemical preservatives, and produces a plethora of enzymes and probiotics. The process foods undergo during fermentation allows the full development of their potential, and as a result, beneficial cultures such as probiotics are born.

These probiotics are essential to life’s processes; they digest food into nutrients our bodies can absorb, provide a protective layer of defense throughout the gut that protects us from potentially dangerous microorganisms and other invasive forces, and enhance immune function. Traditional fermentation has been around for thousands of years, and is known for its many excellent health benefits. Modern fermenting requires a very small amount of preparation and a large amount of patience, just the opposite of fast food!

Many foods can be fermented including vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, dairy products and some flesh foods. Raw cultured vegetables are very popular and a well known staple in both Candida Cleansing and in the Raw Food Diet. Also well known are sauerkraut and kim chi, both wonderful additions to the diet and fabulous if raw rather than pasteurized. Sauerkraut found on conventional grocery store shelves will typically be pasteurized, and does not qualify as a health-giving food source. Sourdough bread, miso, soy tempeh, tamari, ume plum, rice koji, olives in the jar, fresh pickled cucumbers, chutney, yogurt, kefir cultured butter, and a huge collection of cheeses along with beer and wine are all fermented products, and widely available today. Read labels and be aware. Many commercially available fermented foods are pasteurized, which means heated to the point at which microorganisms die. Fermented foods and drinks should be quite literally alive with flavor and nutrition.

Fermented foods that can be consumed freely include kefir, seed cheese and yogurt, fermented vegetables, kim chi and sauerkraut. The best and most inexpensive way to have these raw cultured foods in the diet regularly is to make them at home. Fermenting at home is easy and exciting!

What to look for: Fermented foods made with organic ingredients that are fresh, not pasteurized, and contain live enzymes.

Uses: Fermented foods make delicious snacks, sides or garnishes at any meal. Raw cultured vegetables are alkaline and very cleansing; while they may produce gas during initial use due to detoxification, they will improve the quality of bowel health in a short time. They are an ideal source of rich friendly bacteria.

Where to find: Farmers markets, health food stores, online resources, and best of all, home-made in your own kitchen.

Avoid: Inorganic, pasteurized fermented products.