I must confess. It took me a while to really appreciate the flavors of lacto-fermented foods. The only thing that I did like eating was yogurt, but when it came to fermented vegetables, well, I just didn’t see what all the fuss as about. I usually tossed out the pickles that came with a sandwich, and asked the hot dog vender to go easy on the sauerkraut. But then, something happened when I tried my first batch of live-culture sauerkraut! It dawned on me that all my previous encounters with sauerkraut and pickles were not “alive”. Because most commercially made preserved vegetables are done with vinegar and also pasteurized, there were no active healthful lactobacilli organisms to thrill my taste buds and make my tummy happy.
Now, almost 15 years since my first batch of sauerkraut, I am a devotee of lacto-fermented foods, and can’t imagine a meal without a little mound of sauerkraut or other tangy fermented vegetables on the side to perk things up. I even have it with my scrambled eggs in the morning.
10 Healthy Reasons for Eating Lacto-Fermented Foods
- Choline: Sauerkraut contains choline which is an amino acid needed for good liver health and the production of acetylcholine. This is a neurotransmitter that helps with memory and is protective against Alzheimer’s.
- Vitamin C: Fermented vegetables contain large amounts of vitamin C. This common, and over looked vitamin is one of the most critical nutrients for the immune system, vision health, and to buffer stress.
- Minerals: Lacto-fermentation increases the bio-availability of minerals present in food, such as manganese, calcium, and potassium.
- Bacteriocins: Lactobacilli competes with harmful bacteria such as shigella, salmonella, and e.coli. Therefore eating fermented vegetables on a regular basis protects against these pathogens.
- Vitamins K & B: The presence of lactobacilli organisms in the gut actually creates vitamins K and some B.
- Detoxifies: Fermented foods provide the most bio-available form of beneficial bacteria, and these probiotics are some of the best chelators available, capable of pulling toxins and heavy metals from the body.
- Improves digestion: As people age, the production of hydrochloric acid is reduced, which means that the stomach is less able to properly digest food. Lacto-fermented foods help increase the action of hydrochloric acid, while also protecting the integrity of the stomach lining.
- Prevents cancer:Lacto-fermented sauerkraut and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in indole-3-carbino, a well-known cancer fighter that helps to remove excess estrogen.
- Dietary Fiber: A delicious and nutritious way to increase fiber on a daily basis.
- Energy: According to Jeff Cox,
author of The Essential Book of Fermentation, the presence of lactobacilli microbes facilitates energy production:
” They turn sugars into lactic acid, an acid that links carbon with hydrogen and xygen to form the molecules of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in our bodies that provide us with energy as it is broken down into its constituent pieces.”
Tips on How to Make Lacto-fermented Vegetables
If you are new to fermentation, there are several basic points to follow:
- The vegetables must stay submerged beneath the brine (salt + water solution), as anything that stick up above the brine will start to mold.
- As the vegetables ferment, cardon dioxide is produced, and this needs to be released, while new air needs to be kept out, because the lactobacilli strains require an anaerobic environment to grow.
- Ideal temperature is between 72 – 75°F.
Admittedly making your own sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables may seem intimidating or just plain too much work. Traditional crocks require a lot of chopping of vegetables to fill them, and it you are using a mason jar, it’s a challenge to figure out a way to keep the vegetables safely submerged underneath the brine. However, there is a new system using wide-mouth Mason jars that simplifies everything!
Kraut Source: Fun and Easy New Way to Make Sauerkraut (and other lacto-fermented veggies)
Kraut Source – Fermentation Made Simple
Curious about Kraut Source? Please check it out on Kickstarter.
For Love of Food & Friends,
Cox, Jeff. The Essential Book of Fermentation: Great Taste and Good Health with Probiotic Foods New York: Penguin Group, 2013.
Campbell-McBride, Natasha.Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia York: Maple Press, 2012.
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