Eating fermented food has been associated with longevity and health in some cultures such as the Japanese and Bulgarians. Fermented food are a great way to get some probiotics in your diet for better health without having to take expensive probiotic pills. According to the book 'The Probiotics Revolution', a healthy person should aim minimally for one or two servings of probiotic units daily and someone who is looking to prevent or fix health problems should have at least two to three units. So for better health, here are some fermented food that everyone should try.
Fermented food #1 - YogurtCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yogurt_of_the_Bulgarija_Pavilion_of_Expo_2005_Aichi_Japan.jpg
Yogurt is probably most basic of all fermented food. Most people have already tried this but I'm just going to put this first because Yogurt is one of the best and easiest to get. The popularity of yogurt as a health food probably began after it was associated with longevity in Bulgarian peasants. However, not all yogurt are the same or provide equal health benefits so it is important to choose the correct type of yogurt.
The key thing to look for when buying yogurt from the supermarket is to make sure that it contains live cultures. Some yogurt are pasteurized after the fermentation process and this kills off whatever good bacteria that is in the yogurt. Kind of pointless to have pasteurized yogurt, I think, but there are manufacturers that insist on pasteurizing it. The yogurt you buy should also not have too much sugar in it. Plain yogurt is the best and if you want fruits in your yogurt, it would be better to buy fresh ones and add them in yourself.
Yogurt can also be made at home with a yogurt maker or an oven. There are plenty of instructions on the internet on how to make a yogurt with your oven but I find it a hassle personally. Using a yogurt maker is much more convenient and has lower chances of your yogurt failing.
Whether you buy yogurt or make it, this is a fermented food that you should have on a regular basis.
Fermented food #2 - Kefir
KefirCredit: iamsy is a yogurt-like fermented food that is made from milk and inoculated with white lumps of yeast and bacteria called kefir grains. Like yogurt, kefir is a sour and creamy, but unlike yogurt, it is more liquid and contains yeasts instead of just bacteria. Kefir also tastes fizzy at times and has sometimes been described as a milk soda.
Besides being really tasty, kefir is also extremely good for your health. Kefir has been shown to cause few or no symptoms in lactose-intolerant people who normally cannot take milk products without side effects such as stomach cramps and excessive gas. Kefir has also been shown to be antifungal and antibacterial, inhibiting harmful microorganisms such as Salmonella and E.coli.
The best part about kefir as a fermented food is that it is very easy to make at home. Kefir can be made with just milk and kefir grains or powdered kefir starters. Both kefir grains and the powdered starters are pretty easy to obtain online these days. Without requiring fancy equipment, all you need is to put your kefir grains or starter in milk for 24 hours, and you’ll have kefir ready to be consumed at the end of the time period. If you are using kefir grains, you can even strain out the grains to be reused for the next batch and onwards. Kefir is definitely a must-try for anyone who is interested in fermented food.
Fermented food #3 - SauerkrautCredit: Kagor at the Ukrainian language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
The word Sauerkraut means "sour cabbage" in Germany. Sauerkraut is a fermented food made from cabbage that has been put in salt water or brine. Cabbage is normally quite bland and boring but fermented cabbage is nothing like its regular counterpart. Sauerkraut is crunchy and delicious and goes well with salads or can be eaten on its own.
Some supermarkets carry Sauerkraut but even if they don't, you can easily make Sauerkraut at home. All you need is cabbage, some salt, and a crock or glass jar with a lid to put your shredded cabbage in.
To make Sauerkraut, shred about eight cups of cabbage and mix them together with one tablespoon of salt. Pound the shredded cabbage and salt mixture until the cabbage turns soft and plenty of cabbage juice flows out of your cabbage. Compress everything in a glass jar, ensuring that the shredded cabbage is under the cabbage juice / salt solution. Seal the glass jar and leave it alone for 4 to 6 weeks until you get sour and crunchy cabbage (do a taste test).
Sauerkraut is something to consider if you have spare cabbage lying around at home.
Fermented food #4 - MisoCredit: By Hyougushi from Izakaya Akita Kawabata Isariya Sakaba in Omachi, Akita, Akita (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Love Japanese food? Then you've probably already tried miso soup. Not many people realize it's a fermented food because miso soup is usually drunk hot and it doesn't seem like anything could be fermenting in it.
Miso is actually fermented soybean paste that contains many beneficial microorganisms. In preparing miso soup, care has to be taken not to overheat or overcook the soup because the beneficial microorganisms can be killed.
Besides miso soup, miso can also be used as a vegetable dip, to marinate meat and fish (salmon tastes great with miso marinade), and also in salad dressings. You can also replace salt with miso in many recipes (if you don't mind the color).
Although it is much harder to make miso at home compared to the other three fermented food, you can find miso in many large supermarkets and health food stores. Asian groceries are likely to carry it too.
Miso goes great with so many things there's no reason not to have some in your next meal.
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