Usually, when one sees the abbreviation “vs.”, it leads us to believe that one is better than the other and that we must make a choice. This is not the case with fermented and fresh foods as both are beneficial to a healthy diet.
Let’s start with the simplest form of foods: fresh. Why choose fresh? Fresh food is food which has not been preserved and has not spoiled yet. For vegetables and fruits, this means that they have been recently harvested and treated properly postharvest. For meat, it has recently been slaughtered and butchered, and for fish, it has been recently caught or harvested and kept cold. These foods are at their finest as they are fresh. Try to purchase fresh foods whenever possible. Perhaps you grow your own vegetables, raise chickens for their eggs, or hunt or fish for lean/healthy protein sources. These are all examples of eating fresh and an excellent way to promote healthy eating.
So what is all the hype regarding fermented foods? First, fermentation uses microbes, such as bacteria and yeast, to preserve food. It is an easy way to add beneficial bacteria to your gut to help support a healthy microbiome. This ancient technique of preserving food breaks down carbohydrates, like starch and sugar, using bacteria and yeast. Common fermented foods include kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, apple cider vinegar, tempeh and yogurt. These foods may reduce heart disease risk, aid digestion, immunity and weight loss. Let’s take a brief look at these as they are less familiar to most people.
Kombucha is a fermented tea that is fizzy, tart and flavorful. Since it is made from either green or black tea, it contains all of those health-promoting properties. During the fermentation process, the bacteria turn the sugar in the tea to alcohol leaving a low level of alcohol in this drink. However, commercial-made kombucha tea has less than 0.5% alcohol, so unless pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s usually not a huge issue. Homemade varieties can have up to 3% alcohol in them so be vigilant and ask questions.
Kimchi is a popular Korean side dish and is usually made from fermented cabbage, but it can also be made with other vegetables such as radishes. It is known to help with lowering cholesterol and reducing insulin resistance.
Kefir is a dairy product is similar to yogurt but has a thinner consistency. It can be used as a drink or it can be used with cereal instead of milk.
Apple cider vinegar has been noted to have many benefits. To name a few, besides its fermentation properties, research suggests it may help with lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
Tempeh is popular in Japanese cooking. It is a soybean-based fermented food and is a popular meat substitute (similar to tofu). It does contain all the essential amino acids so it is a complete vegetarian protein source.
Vegetables are packed with powerful nutrients and antioxidants. Two of the most common fermented vegetables are sauerkraut and pickles. However, other vegetables can be fermented, such as eggplant, ginger, beets, broccoli, mustard greens, carrots, radishes, etc.
If fermentation sounds interesting to you, please note there are many different recipes, blogs and tips available for you. Here is just one basic recipe that you can use to start fermenting vegetables.
Choose fresh AND fermented foods for better health!