Many cultures around the world use fermented foods to add nutritional value to their diet. Fermentation is a process where bacterial cultures are added or developed naturally in foods in order to change their biochemical make-up. Foods prepared this way contain microorganisms with numerous health benefits. Western society does not have a specific fermented drink, except of course beer. However more and more research is showing that this isn't exactly good for our health. With our global village party in full swing, we can borrow traditions and recipes from anywhere in the world. You may also be more motivated than ever to try them out once you learn how much they can improve your health!Read more about the health benefits of beer
To reap the rewards of these fermented drinks, here are some examples to try!
1. Fermented Milk
Kule naoto is a fermented milk drink made by the Maasai people of Kenya. Strains of beneficial bacteria are added to the milk which is then stored at specific temperatures for the milk to ferment. The end result is a drink with lactic acid bacteria (probiotics), known to enhance the immune system and lower cholesterol. Kefir is the version available in North America found in the dairy section of the grocery store. It tastes somewhat like sour cream and is similar to yogurt in texture but is thinner.
2. Fermented Soy
Fermented soy products include soy milk and tempeh which comes in a solid block and can then be chopped up and put in a stir fry. The lactic acid found in fermented soy may improve fat metabolism as found recently in a study on rats. Specific strains of lactobacillus also increased the spread of the appetite suppressing hormone, leptin.
Kombucha is a fermented black tea that contains high amounts of antioxidants and healthy bacteria. Popular in Russia and Germany and also known as tea kvass, this tea makes for an excellent digestive aid. Studies show that it contains high amounts of glucaric acid which are connected to cancer fighting properties. There are many flavored varieties available in health food stores now, however the taste is somewhat tart but has a pleasant fizziness to it.
An alcoholic drink prepared from a fermented cactus plant from Mexico, Pulque is full of B vitamins which gives the body energy as well as many other benefits.
Most cultures around the world provide some sort of fermented drink or food to accompany the diet and enhance your health. Now that so many varieties of foods are available to us in grocery stores, it would benefit us to learn about these practices. If you have digestive issues, you can start drinking any one of these drinks in the morning or after meals to improve digestion. If you have trouble digesting tofu on its own, try fermented soy instead. Fermentation breaks down the food to make it more digestible.Read more about label reading
Finally, for those more adventurous souls, try out a fermentation class and start making all your own fermented foods and drinks. It's easier than you think and less expensive. Once you become comfortable with it, you can invent new foods to ferment and impress all your friends with your exotic inventions!
Photo credit: David Niergarth