Welcome back to my second installment of my “Inspiration from the Fridge” series featuring fermented foods! In this post, we’ll look at the history, nutritional value, and ways to incorporate fermented foods into your lifestyle.
In many cultures, certain foods are fermented to extend shelf life and generate exciting new flavours. By definition, fermentation in food processing is the breakdown of sugars into alcohols and acids by live microorganisms in the absence of air. Vegetables, fruits, dairy, soy, and even tea can be fermented. Some examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, cheese, kefir, tempeh, wine, beer, kombucha and so much more!
The fermentation process also adds to the nutritional value since it uses live cultures of bacteria known as probiotics, meaning “beneficial bacteria.” It is widely recognized that fermented foods and probiotics have a potential in maintaining health and preventing disease. See here and here for more information.
The Versatility of Kimchi and Kefir
Fermented foods are a part of a healthy, balanced diet. I personally try to integrate a variety of them into my day-to-day. If you keep any of the following foods, there are plenty of ways to use them:
Kimchi is a tangy Korean cabbage condiment and is found pretty much ubiquitously in Asian grocers. Once opened, it lasts in the fridge for about 3 months. And like ketchup, I add it to almost everything! The bold taste and crunchy texture of kimchi compliments well with many dishes. A little goes a long way: the intense aromas of kimchi adds a kick to an otherwise bland meal. Whether I’m having plain rice and fish or noodles and tofu, kimchi is sure to make an appearance. Sometimes I’ll even have kimchi as a snack, mixed with cottage cheese. The saltiness and creaminess balance each other in a surprising way.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage and originates from Russia. It’s now consumed around the globe, and you can find it in most grocery stores or even online. It’s usually consumed like a drinkable yogurt, though there are other ways to enjoy kefir other than gulping a full glass of it. Right now, I’m trying a coconut kind by KefirKult. This one is unique in that it’s concentrated and dairy-free. I like to add a few tablespoons to fruit salads, smoothies or chia seed puddings. The versatility of the coconut KefirKult inspires me to experiment with kefir in unique ways and I’ll be sure to add more ideas to my future recipes section.
Fermented Beverages are Refreshing
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage and is frequently cited as originating in North East Asia in 220 B.C. It’s slightly sweet, slightly sour, bubbly, and is a healthier alternative to sugary sodas (some brands have as little as 5 g of sugar per serving compared to 35 g in sodas). The popularity of probiotics has catapulted kombucha into the mainstream making it a common beverage in many grocery and health food stores. It can be homebrewed too, and when I was given a SCOBY (a kombucha starter) during my dietetic internship as a thank-you gift from my mentor, I was so excited by the myriad of fruit and herbal blends I could make!
For the majority of the population, having a few fermented foods into your daily meals is a great way to benefit from probiotics. Overall, appreciating the versatility of fermented foods could expand the flavour-palette of your meals and add nourishing complexity in your diet. Bon-appetit!
Keep in mind that probiotics are not a “cure” and specific conditions may be managed more attentively with the help of a dietitian.
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