Sunday, December 7, 2014

15 reasons why you should incorporate fermented foods into your diet + Kimchi recipe

How often do you eat fermented foods? At university I've been constantly hearing about the health benefits so I try to eat something fermented on a daily basis. Maybe a sandwich with sauerkraut, a dollop of kimchi on top of my soup or daal, a miso dressing on salad, yogurt with granola or fruit and so on. They're full of friendly gut bacteria that do a lot of good. But I wanted to know exactly how good so I pulled up a recent study published in the Journal of Scientific Research early this year that praises fermented foods and I'd like to share it with you.

The article is rather overwhelming, not because it's difficult to understand, but because there are just SO MANY reasons listed on why fermented foods are highly nutritious. Here are 15 reasons why you should incorporate Fermented Foods (with live probiotic cultures) into your diet:

1. They improve digestion.

2. Restore proper pH balance in the gut.

3. Raw fermented foods are rich in enzymes.

4. They increase the vitamin content.

5. They help absorb nutrients from the foods we eat with them (like legumes!).

6. Help preserve food for a longer period of time.

7. They're extremely economical.

8. They enhance the flavor of other foods.

9. Helps those with lactose intolerance enjoy dairy with products such as yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, etc.

10. Improvement of Immunity - those that consume fermented foods don't get sick as often!

11. Prevents toxins from being absorbed by the body.

12. Breaks down phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient that many grains and legumes contain, so that nutrients can be absorbed more easily.

13. Anti-inflammatory effect - protects against infection.

14. Anticarcinogenic - prevents various cancers.

15. Lowers cholesterol.

Here's the reference: Hassan, M.N., Sultan, M.Z., Mar-E-Um, M. Significance of Fermented Foods in Nutrition and Food Science. Journal of Scientific Research. Published: May 1, 2014.

Now that I've got you interested in fermented foods, why not make some? The easiest and mildest is sauerkraut, which is about 1 kilogram of cabbage to 2 tablespoons of sea salt. The longer fermented foods sit, the more sour they get. I just finished a kimchi that's been sitting around my fridge for 8 months and I just LOVED how sour it got -- it contributed the perfect acidity to my daal! Note:  I like to enjoy fermented foods best raw instead of cooking them because the cultures are alive and most beneficial for health.

Salt is really important in keeping harmful bacteria at bay, so it's necessary to use the recommended amount of salt given in the recipe. Generally speaking, one kilogram of vegetables requires 2 tablespoons of salt.

It is crucial to sterilize all your equipment: After washing your jar in hot soapy water, add some boiling water to it to sterilize it further. The bowl you use to massage your vegetables should be clean. Your vegetables should be washed thoroughly. Your hands as well! And your utensils. It's the best way to make sure no scary bacteria gets in there. But once the mixture sits and becomes sour -- the pH rises and that prevents the bad bacterias from forming because they don't like the highly acidic environment.

After 2-3 days of sitting out on your counter, place your ferment in the fridge. It's the safest place and will also make sure that things don't get overly sour for your taste. (The warmer it is, the more sour it will get and also the longer it sits, the more sour it will get.) Just make sure there's enough liquid to cover the surface to prevent mold from forming on the top. You can add extra boiled, salted water in case your jar does not have enough liquid.

It's the holiday season so why make some kimchi instead of buying something they'll never use? They make a great host/hostess present as well! ENJOY!

1 large jar + 2 small ones
Adapted from My New Roots

1300 g / 1 large head Chinese cabbage, chopped into chunks
500 g / about 5 carrots, sliced thinly
150 g / about 6 spring onions, sliced thinly
50 g / 2 thumb-size pieces ginger, grated
15 g / 4 garlic cloves, grated
2 1/2 tbs Korean chili powder
3 tbs sea salt

1. Wash and prepare all your veg - a food processor helps!

2. In a very large bowl, place all your veg along with the chili powder and salt. Massage the contents very well until everything is well combined. Allow to sit on the counter for an hour or so, after which point a good amount of liquid should be released.

3. Sterilize your clean jars with hot water. Drain the warm jars and then very tightly pack the veg into them, making sure to leave at least 3 inches gap from the top. (If you don't do this, your precious kimchi liquid will overflow onto the counter once the bacteria starts becoming active and you'll have a bit of a mess to clean!)

4. Make sure that the vegetables are tamped down and that liquid is above the vegetables as this protects the kimchi from mold development. You can add extra boiled, salted water in case your jar does not have enough liquid to cover the vegetables. Loosely place the lid on the jars and place in a warm area, maybe on a tray (just in case) for 1 - 2 days. After 24 hours, open the lid and smell it, does it smell sour? If not, allow it to continue to ferment. It's usually after 48 hours that I smell that it's sour and it starts to bubble inside, which is another sign that the process has begun! When this happens, place the closed jars in the fridge and enjoy regularly over a myriad of dishes! Kimchi pancakes anyone?

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