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A Kitchen Inspired by Fermented Foods

 Alana Sugar A Kitchen Inspired by Fermented FoodsYogurt and kefir made with live cultures (not all commercially sold yogurt or frozen yogurt contains live cultures). Non-dairy yogurt varieties may also contain live cultures.
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Yogurt and kefir made with live cultures (not all commercially sold yogurt or frozen yogurt contains live cultures). Non-dairy yogurt varieties may also contain live cultures.

If you’re like me, you pay attention to food trends, like growth in the popularity and availability of naturally fermented foods. I’m talking about live cultured foods — naturally fermented the way our ancestors have done it for centuries. For them, it was a method of preservation. It was also a secret to good health, and it’s making a serious comeback.

For millennia, traditional cultures around the world have made their own naturally fermented sodas and ale, as well as fermented dairy products, vegetables, fruits and even meats. Japanese cuisine features fermented pickles, natto and miso. In Germany, sauerkraut is a traditional dish. In other parts of Europe, sourdough bread is made from naturally fermented dough. In Korea, people eat kimchi made from live cultured cabbage.

While the processes for pickling and fermenting foods seem similar; the two kinds of food are made differently and offer different health benefits. There is some overlap in the two processes but to put it simply, not all pickles are fermented and not all fermented foods are pickled. Pickled foods are preserved in an acid such as vinegar. Fermented foods are processed using a starter, water and salt, which allows the food to create its own preserving liquid. The lactic acid created in this process is incredibly beneficial to digestion and makes the food both fermented and pickled.

A strong immune system depends on a healthy digestive tract. If digestive health is not up to par, chances are neither is the immune system. Healthy bacteria are key! That’s where fermented foods come in. They contain probiotics — friendly bacteria that colonize our digestive track, keeping our bacterial flora balanced.

Because of our culture’s reliance on pasteurized foods, we’ve eliminated most sources of these important probiotics that we used to consume on a regular basis. To make sure your diet contains these valuable live foods, consider adding the following:

  • Live cultured pickles, sauerkraut, vegetables and kimchi (you’ll find these in the refrigerated case)
  • Cheese made from raw milk
  • Unpasteurized miso (which has not been heated)
  • Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans
  • Fermented drinks and tea such as kombucha
  • Yogurt and kefir made with live cultures (not all commercially sold yogurt or frozen yogurt contains live cultures). Non-dairy yogurt varieties may also contain live cultures.
  • Probiotic supplements – we’ve got a large selection in our Whole Body Department

Look for “live food” or “contains live cultures” on the label of many of these products. Eat a variety. Remember: Different foods contain different strains of healthy bacteria. Start slow and work your way up gradually to what feels right for your body. Generally speaking, ¼ to ½ cup daily or several times a week works well for most people, but everyone is different. If you have digestive problems, be sure to check with your health care provider.

Sauerkraut can help you make sure your diet contains these valuable live foods.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to ferment your own food at home, give this sauerkraut recipe from The Healthy Home Economist a try. Other good resources for beginning fermenters include The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, this post from Nourishing Days, and the Wild Fermentation blog.

My idea of a probiotic-friendly lunch is a sandwich made with raw milk cheese, tomato, and live pickle slices, German-style mustard or honey mustard, and quality mayonnaise on dark rye bread. Delicious with a fresh green salad and probiotic dressing I make with olive oil, raw apple cider vinegar, a little raw honey, a little unpasteurized miso, and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano made from raw milk.

Do you enjoy fermented foods? What’s your favorite? Tell us in an email to [email protected].

With “A Kitchen Inspired” we will share with you the current and up and coming ingredients, products and cooking methods that inspire our team members, chefs and the kitchen at Whole Foods Market Dublin.

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company’s motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement.

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  • I was pleased to be in the crowd when Sandor Katz visited last year. Here’s some of the wisdom of fermented foods I took from him – http://harmonioushomestead.com/2013/03/18/fermenting-wisdom-sandor-katz/

  • thomasjs4

    I’m trying to remember, but I think I read that a lot of yogurts have been stripped of the “live and active cultures”, so you do have to read labels carefully. Is that right?

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