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Benefits of Fermented Foods

When was the last time that you ate something fermented? If you have no idea, you’re not alone! Most fermented foods are eaten in countries other than the United States. The fermented foods most often found in the American diet are yogurt, sauerkraut and sourdough bread. However, it may be time to try something new. Some research has shown that fermented foods can provide specific health benefits.

What are fermented foods?
Fermented foods are foods produced or preserved with the help of bacteria. The fermentation process is commonly used in cultures throughout the world as a way to preserve food when not in season or not readily available. Fermented foods contain the beneficial bacteria culture, Lactobacillus acidophilus (a probiotic). This can be added to foods like milk and is naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables – the beneficial bacteria is in the soil.

When the bacteria feed on the starch and sugars found in many foods, the main byproduct is lactic acid, which inhibits the growth of other harmful bacteria that can cause foods to rot. Recent studies show that the lactic acid byproduct also helps aid digestion (especially with lactose or milk sugar), support immune function, increase nutritional value of foods (preserving), and provide an anti-inflammatory effect1.

Fermented Foods Around the World
Balao-balao- originating in the Philippines, this is a fermented shrimp and rice mixture
Nham – fermented fresh pork, a staple in Thailand
Temph –fermented soybeans (formed into a patty or cake form), originated in Indonesia
Kimchi – spicy fermented cabbage, from Korea, used as a condiment or side dish
Gari – is made by fermenting cassava, a carbohydrate staple in African countries
Kefir – fermented milk, a popular drink in Russia and Europe
Magou – fermented maize (corn) porridge, a staple in South Africa

Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
Fermented foods are becoming more readily available in the US. Want to add some to your diet? Here’s how:

Kimchi
Kimchi is a fermented spicy cabbage that is a staple food in Korea. It’s recently become available in many local ShopRites. Just check the international foods aisle or make a product request with your local ShopRite store manager (King’s Kimchi®).:
· Serve with a lean protein and brown rice – mix in with rice or top meat with this spicy cabbage.
· Add a thin layer to a turkey sandwich for a spicy kick.
· Top a grilled burger with kimchi in place of cheese.

Tempeh
Tempeh is fermented whole soy bean. It’s a great source of plant-based protein that has 0 grams of saturated fat and cholesterol.
· Grate and use in sauces or chili just as you would ground beef or turkey.
· Tempeh is similar to tofu in that it absorbs the flavors of whatever you’re cooking it with so don’t be afraid to use marinades, sauces and seasoning mixes. Tempeh works with kebobs on the grill, tossed in casseroles, scrambles, or even in a stir fry.

Kefir
Kefir is fermented milk. Less thick than yogurt and slightly creamier than milk, most people prefer to sip their Kefir like a smoothie.
· Drink as is for a nice, refreshing beverage. Try the many varieties available in your local ShopRite dairy aisle.
· Use Kefir to make a fruit smoothie or freeze in Popsicle molds or ice cube trays for a frozen treat.
· Pour over muesli or granola for a twist on breakfast.

Here’s to being “cultured” with fermented foods!

1. Gilliand, SE. Health and Nutritional Benefits from Lactic Acid Bacteria. Found online at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2271223.