Pass the kimchee: Why fermented foods are good for you

Incorporating fermented foods such as kimchee, kefir and sauerkraut into your diet is both delicious and healthy.
By Tristaca Curley
kimchee Photo, Masterfile

Fermenting foods — like kefir, kimchee, kombucha and sauerkraut — is actually an ancient practice used by one-third of the world's population, even if it seems like a relatively new phenomenon in North American. Research shows that there’s good reason to incorporate these foods into your diet. During fermentation, the probiotics and other healthy micro-organisms that are created help “predigest” the food, making it easier to break down and absorb nutrients.

People who are lactose intolerant, for example, may find that they can eat yogurt or kefir without problem because the bacteria have partially broken down the lactose. Fermentation also improves absorption of many nutrients such as protein, magnesium, the B vitamins and zinc. Research also shows having high amounts of healthy bacteria in our gut can improve brain health and decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue and stress.

But beware that most fermented foods you buy in a supermarket, such as pickles and sauerkraut, have been pasteurized and cooked at a high heat, killing most friendly bacteria. So you'll have to ferment your own foods to retain these health benefits. Luckily, it's relatively easy to make your own fermented foods — kefir and pickled beets are two of my personal faves to make!

Make your own kefir: Add 2 tsp kefir grains to a jar of 500 mL whole milk. Cover and let mixture sit at room temperature for 24 hours. If you use lower-fat milk, this process can take longer. Strain out the kefir grains and drink the kefir straight or add to smoothies or muffins.

This story was originally published in Canadian Health & Lifestyle.


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