Hot Topic: Fermented Foods
Fermented foods, at one time touted for their long shelf life, crowd forward-thinking menus today as diners clamor for more of these tangy dishes. Dietitians, celebrity chefs, cookbook authors and home cooks show no sign of letting this trend ebb—to consumers’ benefit. Often containing probiotic bacteria to aid digestion and possibly even boost immunity, fermented foods go beyond tasting great to help you feel better, too. One easy way to get more fermented food into your diet: Drink kefir for breakfast, adding a tablespoon or more of wheat germ and berries for additional vitamins and minerals.
Fermenting food is an age-old process that occurs when bacteria and enzymes convert sugars into alcohol, gases and acids. The result is food that is easier to digest and doesn’t spoil as quickly. Some people with dietary intolerances, such as lactose intolerance, can eat yogurt, kefir and hard cheese because they are fermented.
Fermented foods include old favorites such as sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, vinegar, aged cheese, wine and beer. Other lesser known Asian specialties popular on menus and in health food stores these days include kimchi, a spicy, cold Korean side dish usually made with cabbage; natto, Japanese fermented soybeans; and kambucha, a Chinese fermented black tea. And, because they last longer than their fresh counterparts, fermented foods can help you save some money. Wondering how you can work wheat germ into fermented foods dishes? Add wheat germ to your yogurt parfait; sprinkle it on your aged gouda cheese or other favorite aged-cheese sandwich before you melt it; shake a little over the top of your pasta along with parmesan cheese; or, if you’re baking your own sourdough bread, replace some of the flour with wheat germ.
Ready to dive into the fermented trend? Take a look at Sandor Elliz Katz’s award-winning book, The Art of Fermentation, or Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook for recipe ideas. Other easy ways include whipping up a light vinegar-based salad dressing for your salads, creating dishes with yogurt-based sauces such as this Salmon with Lemon, Dill and Wheat Germ Sauce or enjoying smoothies containing yogurt, as in this Protein-Rich Smoothie with Wheat Germ and Chia Seeds.
Have you tried kimchi, natto or kambucha? What did you think? Let us know below!