From kimchi to kombucha, the probiotics contained in gut-friendly fermented foods could have a far greater impact on digestive and overall health than we realise.
If you’ve ever lamented over its taste the first time you tried laban or wrinkled your nose at the smell of your grandmother’s jar of homemade sauerkraut – you’re not alone. Fermented foods are almost always an acquired taste.
But they’re one worth cultivating, as the potential health benefits of fermentation continue to be spotlighted. And while we’re already walking around with billions of strains of so-called ‘healthy’ or ‘good’ bacteria in our digestive tracts that aid in promoting gut health, boost immunity, and help prevent disease, sometimes these ‘good’ colonies can get depleted. Illness, a poorly balanced diet, or certain types of medication such as antibiotics can all affect the robustness of the colonies inside us.
This is where probiotics can help replenish what’s been lost – whether by taking a probiotic capsule or powder supplement, or by choosing foods that contain naturally high sources of probiotics. And this is where fermented foods come in, as fermentation processes make them hotbeds for ‘good’ gut bacteria.
According to the U.S.-based Mayo Clinic, in order to attain optimal health benefits from probiotics, a daily dose of around 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) is needed. And while fermented foods can and do contribute to these CFUs, as of yet, researchers are unable to measure reliably exactly how much of a dose we’re getting through the various kinds of fermented food or cultured beverages we consume.
That being said, if you’re of the mind that every little bit helps, here are a couple of easy, at-home recipes to start incorporating more of them into your diet.
You’ll want to toss this spicy condiment in absolutely everything – from quick-and-easy stir-fries, to rice dishes, and noodles. It’s the perfect topper.
Prep time: 30-45 minutes
Serving: Makes 1 quart
• 1 medium head Napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)
• ¼ cup iodine-free sea salt or kosher salt
• Water, preferably distilled or filtered
• 1 Tbsp grated garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
• 1 tsp grated, peeled fresh ginger
• 1 tsp granulated sugar
• 2 Tbsp fish sauce or salted shrimp paste, or 3 Tbsp water
• 1 to 5 Tbsp Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
• 8 ounces Korean radish or daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
• 4 medium scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
• Cut the cabbage. Cut the cabbage lengthwise through the stem into quarters. Cut the cores from each piece. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips.
• Salt the cabbage. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften. Add enough water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top of the cabbage and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar or can of beans. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.
• Rinse and drain the cabbage. Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times. Set aside to drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the spice paste.
• Make the spice paste. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting. Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce, shrimp paste, or water and stir into a smooth paste. Stir in the gochugaru, using 1 Tbsp for mild and up to 5 Tbsp for spicy; set aside until the cabbage is ready.
• Combine the vegetables and spice paste. Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and add it to the spice paste. Add the radish and scallions.
• Mix thoroughly. Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they’re thoroughly coated. Gloves are optional but recommended to protect your hands from stings, stains, and smells!
• Pack the kimchi into the jar. Pack the kimchi into a 1-quart jar. Press down on the kimchi until the brine (the liquid that comes out) rises to cover the vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of space at the top. Seal the jar.
• Let it ferment for 1 to 5 days. Place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. Let the jar stand at cool room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 1 to 5 days. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid.
• Check it daily and refrigerate when ready. Check the kimchi once a day, opening the jar and pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gases produced during fermentation.) Taste a little at this point, too! When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it’s best after another week or two.
(Source: www.thekitchn.com/Photo credit: Emily Han)
A star combination, this bowl of comfort food gets a deliciously tangy kick from slow-cooked sauerkraut.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
• 1 ½ pounds ground beef
• ½ cup finely-chopped onion
• ¾ cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
• 1 Tbsp snipped fresh parsley
• 1 ½ tsp salt
• 1/8 teaspoon pepper
• 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
• 1 large egg, beaten
• ½ cup whole milk
• 2 to 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 can (27 ounces) sauerkraut, undrained
• 1/3 to ½ cup water, optional
• Additional snipped parsley
• In a bowl, combine first 10 ingredients; shape into 18 meatballs, 2 inches each. Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs. Remove meatballs and drain fat. Spoon sauerkraut into skillet; top with meatballs. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through, adding water if necessary. Sprinkle with parsley.
• Freeze any extra cooled meatball mixture in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Microwave, covered, on high in a microwave-safe dish until heated through, stirring gently
• Kimchi – Korean spicy fermented cabbage.
• Kefir – A sour, fermented yogurt drink with live cultures.
• Kombucha – An effervescent black or green tea that’s been fermented.
• Pickles – Not just a topping for your hamburger!
• Sauerkraut – Shredded cabbage fermented with salt and lactic acid bacteria.
• Miso – A fermented Japanese soybean paste used in soups and sauces.
• Yogurt – The humble dairy product has always packed a probiotic punch!