• Haley Peck

Eat The Way Your Ancestors Did: Fermented Foods 101

One of the oldest methods of preserving foods is making its way back into today’s food culture: FERMENTATION. Civilizations all over the world have been fermenting different types of foods for centuries. The earliest record of fermentation dates back to about 6000 BC. Practices such as turning milk into yogurt, cabbage into sauerkraut, or soybeans into miso were necessary in order for our ancestors to preserve food, especially during times when fresh harvest wasn’t available or the cows weren't lactating. One thing our ancestors may not have known was the amazing benefits that their food-preservation methods really had on their health.

If you’ve ever had sourdough bread, beer, yogurt, pickles or salami, then you’ve eaten a fermented food! So what does it actually mean? When you consume fermented foods, you are feeding your body good bacteria (also known as probiotics). Some people get nervous around the word “bacteria”, but the kind we are talking about is actually really good for you.

According to Nourished Kitchen, “These bacteria, when ingested, populate the intestinal tract and begin to interact with the body in a positive way by training the immune system, manufacturing vitamins and keeping opportunistic bacteria at bay which is why it is an essential aspect of not only a traditional foods diet but also an essential aspect of healing protocols like the GAPS diet or the Body Ecology Diet.”

The majority of fermented foods have gone through a process called lacto fermentation. “Lacto” refers to a specific type of bacteria called lactobacillus, which has the ability to convert sugars and starches into lactic acid. Nourishing Traditions cookbook states, “lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted to lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria or lactobacilli.”

Why is it so good?

This friendly bacteria that’s created during the fermentation process promotes gut health, aids in digestion, helps boost the immune system and so much more. Here are some more health benefits of fermented foods listed by Dr. Joseph Mercola:

Research behind the healing properties of fermented foods is constantly growing. Dr. Rafael Kellman of Mind Body Green highly recommends fermented foods for “overall improvement of numerous symptoms, including depression, anxiety, brain fog, skin problems, hormonal issues, immune weaknesses, digestive problems, and fatigue.”

Wondering how to get your hands on some fermented foods?

I am a true believer that making food at home from good ingredients is always the best way to go. This way you know exactly what you’re putting into your body, and it also gives you the freedom to adjust the recipe to your liking. Oftentimes, food brands market their products as all natural, organic, homemade, etc., but still sneak in unnecessary added ingredients. If you are not one to get your hands dirty in the kitchen, don’t worry! There are many trusted brands that use high-quality ingredients that are worth noting, such as Bubbies and Wildbrine.

If you are willing to go ahead and make it on your own, there are TONS of recipes you can find online. Most websites recommend homemade sauerkraut or yogurt for beginners.

Kristi Arnold from Organic Authority gives some great recipe ideas for beginner fermenters. PaleoLeap also has a great simple sauerkraut recipes on her blog.

Don't be afraid to try it out. You never know, it could heal you of your ailments, or even become your new favorite food!


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