The list of benefits from eating at least some fermented foods on a daily basis is long and impressive. From more efficient digestion to a more robust immune system, your health will only improve by adding some fermented foods into your diet.
In his book Wild Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz explains that the process of fermentation works wonders in a number of ways. For example, fermentation not only produces “bio-preservatives” such as lactic acid, which preserve the nutrients in foods long after harvest so that you can still benefit from them, but it also breaks these bio-preservatives down into more easily digestible forms, which makes milk and wheat more agreeable for people who have difficulty tolerating them.
If that’s not compelling enough, Katz also explains that as the microbial cultures of fermentation go through their lifecycle, they actually create more nutrients—specifically B vitamins such as biotin, folic acid, riboflavin, and niacin. That’s pretty freaking cool, yes?!
But not everyone enjoys the distinctly tangy flavors of sauerkraut, kombucha, or even pickles. Luckily, I enjoy all of these things—yet I can respect that ferments aren’t necessarily love at first bite for everyone.
If you’ve been avoiding fermented foods, here are a few that your finnicky palate may take a liking to rather quickly.
Sourdough: When properly propagated, sourdough lends your morning stack of pancakes or lunchtime BLT a delightful, satisfying flavor. Yes, sourdough is a fermented food. And yes, you can use a sourdough starter to make pancakes. If you’re intimidated by the idea of baking your own bread, you can start brining sourdough into your life with some beloved pancakes. When you’re ready, work your way up to a prized loaf of fresh-baked bread.
The process outlined in Wild Fermentation for starting and maintaining a sourdough starter in your own kitchen is beyond simple. Did you know that some sourdough starters have been passed down from generation to generation? And I’m not talking about the recipe here, but the actual starter, lovingly cared for year after year.
Salami: Believe it or not, salami is a fermented food. Crafting salami is a three-phase process, and it undergoes fermentation in the second phase, when it hangs in a warm, humid space for a few days. The ingredients in salami can be as simple as pork and salt, though a lactic acid starter culture can be used, as well as various spices. During fermentation, the bacteria create lactic acid, which is responsible for the sour flavor found in salami, and it also protects against the development of pathogenic bacteria.
However, since most of us aren’t prepared to ferment our own meats, and many store-bought versions include unhealthy ingredients, before you pick up some salami for your fridge take advantage of the Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide to seek out companies who are doing it the nutritious way.
Olives: This easy and delicious addition to most any meal is also a fermented food. Yes, it’s true—olive brine includes active lactobacillus cultures. And since there are so many types of olives, surely you can find one that tantalizes your taste buds. If you’re brown-bagging lunch every day, pack a handful of olives and some slices of salami. You might be surprised how delightful it is.
I encourage you to keep trying a wide variety of fermented foods until you find a few that you like. In the meantime, put the ferments above on your menu rotation, and improve your health by the mouthful.
Ready to do some self-health exploration?
- Try lacto-fermenting your favorite veggie. Green beans, carrot sticks, or whatever you tend to reach for. No matter what you choose, it’s easier than you think to make your own fermented foods.
- Add a splash of apple cider vinegar (ACV) to a glass of water, and sip on it throughout the day. If your ACV includes the “mother,” it’s a fermented food. I find it super refreshing when it’s really cold, so it’s ideal for this time of year.
- Make some delicious meals using cultured dairy with the help of Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation by Phyllis Quinn. She makes it so simple you’ll want to get started immediately!