Why Fermented Vegetables are the Ultimate Superfood.
For the health-conscious and nutritionally-savvy among you, the term ‘superfood’ will be front of mind when grocery shopping and meal prepping. We like to think of superfoods as smart food choices, efficient ways in which we can complement and enhance our diets to ensure we’re giving it the fuel it needs to perform at its best. These star foods contain large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols (the specific ingredient that helps to protect cells from free radicals), vitamins and minerals.
They are nutrient powerhouses that your body can’t get enough of.
Nutrients in foods are symbiotic - they ride through the body and work collectively to serve and nourish every step of the way. Kale, blueberries, avocados and salmon are just a small collection of superfood stars that wellness and nutrition circles have been flying the flag for, but there’s an age-old technique which transforms plant-based foods into nutritional superheroes - the technique is fermentation.
There was a time when all those mysterious jars full of colourful cultured vegetables in your grandparents' cellar were enough to inspire a month’s worth of nightmares. Fast forward a couple of decades and we now know that they were really on to something.
This latest blog post from Loving Foods explores the art of fermentation and why cultured foods are a smart-pick for those who want to take a tasty journey to long-term health benefits.
The History of Fermented Vegetables.
At its simplest, vegetable fermentation is a natural metabolic process where naturally-occurring yeasts and bacteria break down the carbohydrates in vegetables to produce lactic acid and a plethora of essential vitamins. This is how cabbage becomes Sauerkraut, cucumbers become pickles, and what creates that refreshing ‘zing’ on the palette. Long before cultured vegetables became a cornerstone of good nutrition, fermentation was a process used to preserve vegetables. Before refrigeration, canning, industrial food processing and global transport networks, this was - and still is across many cultures - a necessity to extend the life of foods and prevent spoilage.
Plant-based fermented foods have been used for their medicinal properties throughout history. During the construction of the Great Wall of China in the 3rd Century, construction workers nourished themselves with acid-fermented vegetables, and the Roman writer, Plinius Secundus, lauded fermented vegetables as a way to heal and to treat stomach ailments. The famed explorer, Captain James Cook is also noted to have travelled on long voyages with naturally rich in vitamin C sauerkraut and lime juice to support the plight of scurvy.
Not only are fermented vegetables beneficial for good health, but they also helped to shape the world as we know it. Super indeed.
The Benefits of Fermented Vegetables.
The trillions of tiny creatures living in our bodies have been making headlines lately. During every moment of our lives, the battle for good over bad is no more prevalent than in our microbiome. The microbiome, also known as the ‘second brain’, is an idiosyncratic ecosystem of bacteria living in the gut, and it plays an important role in a range of bodily functions.
Fermentation unlocks key nutrients in the food, creates enzymes that aid in digestion, and supplements probiotics that your microbiome is calling out for.
Eating a variety of probiotic-rich fermented foods regularly is healthy on many levels. These foods are brimming with hard-working, beneficial bacteria that work to improve your digestion, fortify your immune system, assist detoxification, and contribute to a radiant complexion and balanced mind.
Get back into Balance with Fermented Vegetables.
Our healthy bacteria are sensitive to everyday nasties such as sugar, caffeine and processed foods. The toxins play a part in weakening and killing our good bacteria and allowing the bad to flourish. Consumption of fermented vegetables provides protection against this.
If you are new to fermented foods or have any stomach concerns, we recommend that you start slowly when incorporating fermented vegetables into your diet. The changes in your gut flora may cause some gut discomfort if you jump in pedal to the metal, so start slowly until you’re comfortable.
Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Krautchi - Cultured Vegetable Trailblazers.
Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Krautchi are the magical trio of the cultured veggie world. Starting with the most famed in the west, we have Sauerkraut. Automatically, our mind's eye jumps to a loaded hot dog or Reuben sandwich, but this age-old dish is a high-fibre, low-calorie, nutritional superstar - when it’s made right, and served sensibly. Loving Foods Organic Classic Sauerkraut is made with two simple ingredients: organic shredded cabbage and Celtic sea salt. Cabbage has a naturally high water content, so by twisting and mashing the leaves after letting it sit in salt, the juices start to get released and so the magic of fermentation begins.
All too often we see Sauerkraut on supermarket shelves that have added preservatives. Not on our watch. Our ‘kraut is unpasteurised with no unnecessary additions, so what you get is a pure, fresh flavour, and a nutritional kick to boot. What’s more, this fermented food supports the absorption of vitamins and nutrients from accompanying foods. Next time you’re loading up on your plant-based favourites, the addition of Sauerkraut will take your nutrition points to the next level.
When it comes to en-vogue ferments, however, there’s nothing quite like Kimchi. Kimchi is the feistier Asian cousin of Sauerkraut and the nutritional benefits are dependent on the quality of the ingredients used. Loving Foods Organic Classic Kimchi is a symphony of Certified Organic ingredients including cabbage, radish and onion, and these vegetables are bursting with nutrients including Vitamin C and B, Calcium, Vitamin K, Iron, and Fibre.
The addition of chilli, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper and Celtic sea salt takes Kimchi to the centre stage. This medicinal medley is delicious when topped on or added as a side to veggie-packed stir-fries and Bibimbap bowls. For a prebiotic and probiotic supermix, try Kimchi with grilled asparagus - the flavour profiles combine to create a dish that will make your soul sing.
Last but not least on the fermented vegetable trio is Krautchi. The term Krautchi was coined by the famous fermentation revivalist Sandor Ellix Katz in his book The Art of Fermentation. Katz describes it as "a hybrid of Sauerkraut and Kimchi," we like to think that if Sauerkraut and Kimchi had a lovechild, it would be Krautchi.
Taking inspiration from Katz, here at Loving Foods we’ve captured the essence of this dish in our Organic Krautchi Spring Medley. Carrots, kohlrabi, fennel, lemons and, of course, Celtic sea salt, give this veggie powerhouse a refreshing blast of nutrition with every mouthful. Ideal to take the lead on dishes into the warmer months, this cultured veggie is a delicious treat when loaded on greens and salads and is particularly tasty alongside creamy avocado.
Why Fermented Vegetables are the Ultimate Superfood.
The word ‘superfood’ can mean so many things to different people, but for us, if something makes you feel physically better, supports your body to function at its best and tastes delicious. that’s what makes a food type truly super.
With a rich history of cultures and advocates across the globe swearing by fermented vegetables and a myriad of current scientific studies shining a light on evidence for health benefits, fermented vegetables deserve the superfood accolade.
For those who are seeking an inexpensive way to bring superfoods into your daily diet, fermented vegetables are the answer. Are you a cultured vegetable aficionado already? Has this post inspired you to incorporate fermented vegetables into your diet? Comment below and share your stories.