Choose beneficial fermented foods

Many vegetables are grown in a distant fertile valley. Almost as soon as they are harvested, they are flash frozen and transported in refrigerated trucks to a nearby supermarket. You have a freezer at home and the delivery of healthy and nutritious vegetables from farm to consumer is easily completed. Refrigerated trucks keep freshly picked vegetables viable long enough to keep your grocery store shelves well-stocked year-round.

Go back just a few decades and you will find that this was not the case. Winter produced very sparsely stocked shelves in the green grocery section of the market. Go back a few more decades and you’ll find that people had to find creative ways to sustain themselves through harsh winters and long journeys. For thousands of years, people have fermented food to preserve it when fresh food was not available.

The Romans preserved cabbage with salt, and Genghis Khan fed his armies fermented cabbage to sustain them on their campaigns across Europe. This use of preserved fermented foods was a common practice for travelers as a source of nutrients. As late as World War I, Allied forces relied on fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut as we now know it, to supply nutrients to soldiers on the battlefields of Europe.

The fermentation process helps preserve food for use many months later. Fermentation also generates many health benefits for the consumer. Essential nutrients and vitamins are preserved. The sugars are broken down so that they are more easily absorbed with much less insulin or allergic reactions, in the case of lactose intolerance to dairy products. The process also generates enzymes that are essential to support the digestion of the food we eat. Finally, they are natural probiotics, packed with beneficial microorganisms.

A healthy gut, supported by a strong population of beneficial bacteria, serves as a powerful booster for your immune system. The digestive tract is where nutrients are extracted from food and absorbed by the body. The enzymatic and microbial activity speeds up digestion and generates enzymes, vitamins and antioxidants that are essential for health. They also protect us from pathogens and remove toxins from our body.

You can find a variety of ready-to-use fermented products at your local grocery store. They include yogurt, which is fermented milk (usually cow’s milk). The fermentation process breaks down the lactose in the milk to make it easier to digest, and the yogurt provides billions of helpful bacteria. Watch out for brands with high amounts of added sugar, as that will create other problems. Another healthy fermented milk product is kefir, a beverage often found in the supermarket refrigerator.

Kombucha tea is another good source of beneficial enzymes and microbes. Kombucha is made from the fermentation of black tea. Other products you can find in the supermarket include kimchi, a Korean version of fermented cabbage, and a mix of other vegetables. Raw apple cider vinegar is also loaded with beneficial bacteria and has many different uses aside from supporting a healthy digestive system. You can find Japanese products like miso and natto, both of which are loaded with microbes and used to cook soups, marinades, and sauces.

If you’re feeling adventurous, the processes for making your own fermented yogurt, kefir, pickles, and kimchi are relatively easy and require no special equipment. Select healthy organic ingredients and you can trust the process to create your own healthy and nutritious probiotic foods.

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