What are fermented vegetables and how do they benefit your health?

What are fermented vegetables and how do they benefit your health?

Vegetables, which normally have a short shelf life, can be preserved by fermentation. In doing so, the process also improves their taste and adds to their health benefits.

  • By consuming fermented vegetables, you can "reseed" your intestine with beneficial bacteria, which can promote the production of biologically active vitamins, minerals and peptides, as well as improve the bioavailability of minerals.
  • I recommend eating a variety of fermented vegetables on a daily basis, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, to optimize the microbial biodiversity of your intestine. If this is the first time you have eaten fermented food, start with as little as a teaspoon of fermented vegetables during a meal.
  • It turns out that fermented foods purchased in stores contain minute levels of beneficial bacteria, probably because the products marketed are pasteurized. That is why I strongly recommend buying traditionally fermented, unpasteurized products or, better yet, preparing them yourself.

🩺By Dr. Mercol

There is an abundance of nutritional therapies that can help you reach higher levels of health. However, the one I found that has phenomenal benefits for general well-being is the addition of fermented foods to your diet. Vegetables, which normally have a short shelf life, can be preserved by fermentation. In doing so, the process also improves their taste and adds to their health benefits. In this article, I will present the health benefits of fermented vegetables and how you can prepare them at home.

How does fermentation take vegetables to the next level?

Fermentation is an ancient culinary method that dates back to 10,000 years before our era. It was originally developed to safely extend the shelf life of food, in particular to prepare for difficult seasons and ritual festivals, and to improve its texture and taste. Traditional fermented foods were produced by allowing natural bacteria, such as the genera Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Pediococcus and Weissella, to activate the fermentation process by converting carbohydrates or yeast into alcohols or organic acids.

Nowadays, you can use a priming culture to inoculate food, in order to accelerate the fermentation process and produce constant quality. The type of fermentation commonly used for vegetables is called lacto-fermentation, during which lactic acid bacteria convert vegetable carbohydrates into lactic acid that acts as a preservative while providing health benefits.

According to a study published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, this process improves the nutritional content of food by promoting the production of vitamins and minerals, as well as biologically active peptides such as conjugated linoleic acids (ALC), exopolysaccharides, bacteriocins and sphingolipids. The researchers explained how these compounds contribute to the health benefits of fermented vegetables:

"Conjugated linoleic acids (ALCs) have a hypotensive effect, exopolysaccharides have prebiotic properties, bacteriocins show antimicrobial effects, sphingolipids have anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties, and bioactive peptides have antioxidant, antimicrobial, opioid antagonist, anti-allergenic and hypotensive properties. ”

All these benefits, in addition to the nutrients and phytochemicals that vegetables already have before fermentation, make fermented vegetables a good addition to your diet if you want to "re-seed" your intestine with beneficial bacteria and optimize your health in general. Not only that, fermentation also makes the minerals contained in vegetables more bioavailable, while their fibers serve as a prebiotic to help feed the beneficial microbes already residing in your intestine. With their increased number, these beneficial microbes contribute to the control of pathogenic bacteria.

Remember to add these fermented vegetables to your diet

I recommend eating a variety of fermented vegetables every day to optimize the microbial biodiversity of your intestine. Here are some of the most common lacto-fermented vegetables and their health benefits:

  • Kimchi: considered "the representative ethnic food of Korea and its unique food", kimchi is prepared by mixing Chinese cabbage or radish with garlic, ginger and red pepper powder, and letting it ferment. Other vegetables that can also be used include mustard leaves, lettuce, cucumber, burdock and green onions, among others. It has a complex flavor, the main notes being sour, salty and umami, with a distinctly strong acidity. It can also be spicy, depending on the amount of pepper used.

The ingredients of kimchi exert antibiotic effects against certain microbial species, desusing the growth of harmful microorganisms and promoting the proliferation of beneficial microorganisms. According to a study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, kimchi has "anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-obesity, probiotic, cholesterol-reducing and anti-aging properties".

  • Sauerkraut: produced by mixing finely sliced cabbage with salt to create an anaerobic environment and prevent deterioration, sauerkraut is a traditional food of sour and salty German origin that is widely consumed in Europe, Asia and the United States. Research strongly supports the pharmacological actions of this fermented vegetable, which includes anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
  • Table olives: considered the oldest fermented vegetable consumed in the Mediterranean region, table olives are produced according to three different methods: Greek, Spanish and Californian. In the Greek method, ripened black olives are directly placed in a high salt brine, which allows them to slowly lose their bitterness during the natural fermentation process. This takes longer than the Spanish method, which uses an alkaline treatment to eliminate the bitterness of olives before fermenting them in lactic acid bacteria.

The Californian method is a combination of Greek and Spanish methods, in which the olives are first stored in brine for a certain period of time before undergoing alkaline treatment. Some of the benefits associated with consuming table olives include the cardioprotective effects of their monounsaturated fatty acids, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects due to their vitamin E and phenolic acid content.

  • Beet Kvas: this fermented beet juice has a long tradition in Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries, where it is consumed for therapeutic purposes as a health tonic in general. It is also commonly added to soups, sauces and dressings. A study published in the journal Nutrients showed that lacto-fermented beet juice helped modulate intestinal microflora and metabolic activity, while exerting antioxidant actions.
  • Fermented blueberry: blueberries are full of antioxidants that help control free radicals and fight inflammation. They are the best food sources of bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonols, ellagic acid and resveratrol. Researchers have discovered that the fermentation of blueberries can help improve their bioactivity by preserving phenolic compounds that oxidize easily during food processing, storage and maturity.

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry involving laboratory mice with amnesia suggests that blueberry vinegar, produced by the fermentation of fresh blueberries, effectively improves short-term memory. Other animal studies also suggest that grown blueberry drinks could also be effective in reducing the risk of diabetes and obesity.

Other beneficial fermented herbal foods that deserve to be mentioned include tempeh, natto, miso and Korean chongkukjang (fast-fermenting soy paste), doenjang (soy paste), ganjang (soy sauce) and gochujang (hot chili soy paste). They are all soy-based products, but they differ in the fermentation process, additives and microorganisms produced, as well as in the taste, texture and way they are incorporated into meals.

Prepare your own fermented vegetables in 6 easy steps

A BBC report revealed a " Strive difference" between fermented foods bought in stores and homemade ones. Unsurprisingly, the versions purchased in stores contained minute levels of beneficial bacteria, while the versions prepared at home were rich in a wide range of probiotics. This is probably because the products marketed are pasteurized, which kills the bacteria they are supposed to bring.

That is why I strongly recommend that you buy fermented products in a traditional way, unpasteurized or, even better, to prepare them yourself. Fermented vegetables, in particular, are much easier to prepare than you think. You can create your own fermented vegetables at home by following these six easy steps:

1. Get your organic vegetables and herbs. Firm vegetables such as cabbage are a good "back" for preparing fermented vegetables. You can also choose to use a hard root vegetable of your choice, such as carrots, radishes, turnips or beets. You can spice up the preparation by adding chili. A chili pepper is more than enough.

Herbs such as peeled garlic or ginger, and herbs such as basil, sage, rosemary, thyme or oregano, must be added in small quantities, because fermentation will concentrate their pungent flavors. Finally, you can increase the mineral, vitamin and fiber content of your mixture by adding sea vegetables or seaweed, such as whole dulse or flakes and pre-moaked wakame or sea palm.

2. Choose your brine and culture medium.For your brine, I recommend using celery juice, because it contains natural sodium and keeps vegetables in anaerobic mode. One liter of celery juice is enough for 10 to 14 liters of fermented vegetables. You can opt for wild fermentation. But if you find this method too long, I recommend inoculating the brine with a priming culture to speed up the fermentation process. Kefir grains, whey or commercial priming powder can all be used for vegetables.

3. Compact the vegetables in the jars. Grate and cut your vegetables, and combine them with the growing brine, then compact them properly in jars. Cover the vegetables with a cabbage leaf folded on the sides and pack with a pestle to remove the air pockets. Be sure to cover the vegetables with brine and that the brine reaches the top of the jar to remove the air. Close the lid without tightening to allow the jars to gradually evacuate the gases produced during the fermentation process.

4. Let your vegetables ferment in a relatively warm place. The ideal temperature for fermentation is between 20 and 23°C. The maximum temperature is 29°C. Remember that heat kills microbes. It can take 3 to 4 days for the vegetables to ferment in summer and 7 days in winter.

5. At the end of fermentation, store your vegetables adequately. You can determine if your fermented vegetables are cooked by tasting them, making sure to use a clean spoon to avoid contaminating the whole lot with the bacteria in your mouth. Once you are satisfied with the flavor and consistency, place the jars in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process. Fermented vegetables can be kept for several months.

If you have never eaten fermented foods before, you may need to gradually integrate them into your diet. Consumption of too much can cause a healing crisis that occurs when probiotics kill pathogens in your intestine. When these pathogens die, they release powerful toxins. I recommend starting with as little as a teaspoon of fermented vegetables during a meal. Observe your reactions for a few days before moving to another small portion, and increase your dose gradually, according to your tolerance.

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