By: Maggie Young
Although fermented foods have become one of the newest health buzzwords, they have actually been around for a long time. Fermented foods and beverages are staples of the human diet and have been produced and consumed since the development of human civilizations. There are thousands of different fermented foods and beverages consumed in almost every culture around the world. The fermentation process is a little complicated, but basically, microorganisms (such as yeast and bacteria) help convert carbs (starch or sugar) into alcohols and acids, hence the tart flavor of fermented foods. What makes fermented foods so popular is that they are loaded with probiotics, thus benefitting digestive health.
If you’re not sure where to start in terms of choosing the right fermented food for you, consider this healthy fermented food list.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink produced by the actions of bacteria and yeasts contained in kefir grains. The sour taste and milk-like consistency make it perfect for a buttermilk substitute in recipes. The milk-like consistency also makes it a solid go-to liquid for smoothies. You can even mix it into overnight oats in place of other milk options as well.
Kombucha is produced by fermenting black, green, or oolong tea with sugar, bacteria, and yeast. It is reportedly the fastest growing product in the functional beverage market and one of the most popular low-alcoholic fermented beverages in the world. That being said, kombucha makes for a healthy cocktail alternative. In addition, it can be used as a substitute for vinegar since it’s so tart. Mix it in your vinaigrette for a new twist on salad dressing.
Tempeh can be made with soybeans or legumes. The beans or legumes are cooked, fermented, and pressed into dense blocks. Tempeh is a source of protein, so it can add some staying power to any dish. It’s super versatile in that you can grill steam, bake, pan fry, marinate it, or even crumble or grate it on top of a dish. When it comes to tempeh, Ariel Johnston, LD, RD, recommends marinating. Marinade options can include soy sauce, lime or lemon juice, coconut milk, peanut butter, maple syrup, ginger, or spices. If you don’t have hours to marinate your tempeh, you can steam it with water to soften it up and make it more porous.
All you need is salt, water, veggies of your choosing, and a few days of waiting to produce fermented veggies. They work well to throw on top of salads, complement a meal as a side dish, or snack on throughout the day.
ACV is made by crushing apples and then fermenting the juice from that process, so basically think of apple cider vinegar as a potent, fermented apple juice. A simple way to incorporate ACV to your diet is by adding a few teaspoons of it to warm water with a bit of honey and enjoying it first thing in the morning in place of your tea. You can also wash your fruit with it, drizzle it on top of a salad, or even spray some on top of your popcorn.