I’ve been wanting to share the big deal about fermented foods with you for a while but it took Munich’s Oktoberfest to kick me into gear as it’s most popular attraction, beer, goes through a fermenting process. Germany’s love of sauerkraut, which goes so well with all those bratwurst, is one of my favorite fermented foods.
Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “Fermenting is one of the oldest forms of food preservation technologies in the world. Indigenous fermented foods such as bread, cheese and wine are strongly linked to culture and tradition, especially in rural households and village communities”.
Why are fermented food so important in our modern lives? Since the industrialization of food, especially in the United States, many popular fermented (and non fermented) foods became highly pasteurized. The pasteurization process strips out the beneficial enzymes and good bacteria needed for proper digestion. Digestive disorders are pretty common in this country (how can we ignore the popularity of all the Pepto Bismol and Prilosec drugs?) and 85% of our immunity resides in our gut. Balance the gut and you eliminate a slew of western disease.
So what is an enzyme- and good bacteria-deprived gut to do? Throw away all your drugs and consume some fermented foods a couple times per day. Almost all cultures from around the world have passed down this fermentation process so your taste buds should be able to find something that is appealing. Here are the most popular ones: sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, wine, beer, kimchi, and miso. Other lesser know fermented products that you usually consume regularly include coffee, some teas, chocolate, vinegar, salami, cultured butter, cheese. Note, however, that I am referring to the unpasteurized versions of these foods.