As research reveals more about the ways in which probiotics — the healthy live bacteria found in certain foods and supplements — can affect the microbiome, foods rich in probiotics are becoming increasingly common. For centuries, even thousands of years, people have relied on their diets to provide and nourish their microbiome. One way they did this was by eating foods that had been fermented with milk.
What are the benefits of lactone fermentation?
Fermentation was first used as a method of food preservation around 6000 BC, according to food and nutrition. Many of the most popular foods from cultures around the world are fermented, including yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso. Not only does fermentation add a distinct flavor to each of these foods, which is important in their culinary right, but it also adds a healthy dose of probiotics.
During fermentation, bacteria naturally break down food and form lactic acid as a byproduct, which helps keep disease-causing bacteria in check, according to the University of Missouri Extension (PDF). Lactic acid also appears to confer health benefits, according to research.
While more study is needed to determine the exact effects that certain bacterial strains may have, some studies have found links between a healthy microbiome and improved immunity, as well as a lower risk of irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain types of cancer.
I think researchers have only scratched the surface of what they will discover in the next 20 years in this field of study. This belief led me to include as many fermented foods as possible in my diet. Milk-fermented foods are some of my favorite things to eat.
How to ferment food at home
The first time I made sauerkraut at home, I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how easy it was (as long as I followed all the rules to keep it safe) or how delicious it turned out! My 90-year-old grandfather even said it tasted just like the sauerkraut his Polish mother used to make – now, that’s a huge compliment!
I highly recommend trying your hand at making your own sauerkraut. Not only are they super easy and delicious, but they’re also a cost-effective way to eat more cruciferous vegetables (the family of vegetables that includes cabbage, broccoli, and kale). Cruciferous vegetables can reduce inflammation in the body and lower the risk of some types of cancer, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
One of the benefits of making sauerkraut at home is that you know that it has not been sterilized to remove beneficial microbes. Plus major bragging rights! Research shows that raw sauerkraut is a rich source of probiotics such as lactobacilli. Eating more fermented foods may be a boon to your health! The majority of store-bought sauerkraut is pasteurized (it kills good bacteria). To find unpasteurized sauerkraut, look for sauerkraut in the refrigerated section that specifies that the product is “raw.” As an added bonus, research suggests that eating more fermented foods can have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits as well as reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Serve your sauerkraut with tuna salad, pork chops, or on top of avocado toast.
When brewing sauerkraut at home, hygiene is critical. This is because you will be fermenting the cabbage at room temperature, so you want to make sure that you don’t introduce any harmful microbes in the process. To ensure this, thoroughly wash and dry any tools you will be using, including the glass jar and lid. Boiling the jar in clean water for 10 minutes and letting it air dry will kill any harmful organisms, according to the Penn State Extension.