Lacto-fermented vegetables are a healthy addition to almost any diet. But what exactly are they and why should we consume them? Let’s begin with what Lacto-fermentation means.
What is Lacto-Fermentation?
Lacto-fermentation of vegetables is a process by which the bacteria leuconostoc is formed. Basically what this process achieves with food is the production of a probiotic. Many of you are probably thinking that a probiotic can be bought in a pill form or consumed through dairy products. While this is true, there are many who do not consume dairy and making a natural probiotic is so much better for you taking a synthetically produced pill.
Why Should We Consume Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods can greatly improve digestive health as well as brain function. The human body is approximately 90% bacteria and the digestive system contains anywhere from one to three pounds of bacteria at any given time. The entire digestive tract is made up of bacteria that must be kept in balance. Balance is important because when bacteria levels are out of balance it can lead to illness.
Acid Reflux and Heartburn are caused by LOW Stomach Acid and Fermented Foods Help!
The majority of individuals suffering from heartburn and acid reflux experience relief of symptoms once they make fermented foods part of their daily diet. That is because many of those people suffer from low stomach acid (not a high level of stomach acids as most believe) and adding the fermented foods into their diet boosts those levels.
Poor Carbohydrate Digestion Leads to Bloating and Pressure
Unbalanced bacterial levels in the stomach usually result in carbohydrates not being properly digested. Undigested carbohydrates travel through the digestive system and cause the buildup of hydrogen gas which causes pressure and bloating. Bacteria love hydrogen and they flourish in a hydrogen-rich environment. A buildup of pressure in the stomach from poorly digested carbohydrates forces the lower esophageal sphincter muscle to release some of that pressure by allowing stomach acid back up and into the throat, causing that burning sensation referred to as heartburn or acid reflux. A simple fix for this issue is often adding fermented foods to the daily diet.
Healthy Gut = Healthy Brain
Keeping the bacteria in our digestive system within the normal range can help us feel better not only physically, but also mentally. The stomach contains many neurons in what is called the gut-brain axis. In fact, the stomach contains more neurons than the spinal cord. This explains why mental clarity may be affected when the bacteria in the stomach is not at a normal level. When the digestive system is working properly it leads to improved health all over. In fact, according to medicine, a disruption in the gut-brain axis can be responsible for many behavioral and mental issues such as depression, anxiety, cloudy thinking, and impaired memory.
Does this Mean Adding a Few Pickles to a Burger will Set Your Health on Track?
As you may have guessed, the answer is “no”. There is a difference between pickling and fermenting. Pickling involves a pasteurized canning procedure where all bacteria are removed from the process and the food being preserved is stored in vinegar that prevents further bacterial growth. Simply buying a bag or jar of sauerkraut is not going to give you the same effect as sauerkraut made through the actual fermenting process. But there are some fermented vegetables available commercially that contain live bacteria. These can be located by carefully reading labels.
Pickling and fermenting are not the same.
In Lacto-fermentation lactobacilli known as leuconostoc is activated by adding a little salt and natural pressure from the gases that the fermentation process produces. The lactobacilli are visible on vegetables such as cabbage – look for the white film on the leaves. This naturally occurring lactobacilli serve as a form of natural protection for the plant, keeping other harmful bacteria from proliferating and leading to rot. By consuming organic vegetables one can be sure those healthy bacteria are intact (chemicals that are applied to conventional vegetables kills this healthy bacteria).
How to Make Lacto-Fermented Vegetables
Making Lacto-fermented vegetables takes several days but the process is relatively easy. There are many different opinions on the fermentation process. The biggest differentiations are in the length of time and the containers used. The time required to ferment vegetables in summer is shorter than fermenting in winter due to warmer ambient room temperature in most regions.
For the method shared here, a large glass dish with a plastic lid works best. A top that easily opens to periodically release the gases that form during the fermentation process is important. Add Cucumber Kimchee to savory meat or vegetable dishes, or serve as a side dish or condiment.
- 12 small Persian Cucumbers
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 6 green onions sliced into small rounds
- 1 Small yellow onion chopped into several pieces
- 1 small peach with pit removed
- 1 Small apple cut into several large pieces
- 1.5 tablespoons of red chili pepper powder(simply grind red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Wash and slice cucumbers, with the peel intact, into small quarter pieces.
- Place cucumbers and salt into airtight glass containers and glass container and allow to remain on a countertop at least 10 hours.
- After 10 hours add the garlic and green onions.
- Place apple, peach and yellow onion in a food processor and blend until liquefied and then pour into the cucumbers.
- Add red pepper powder and vinegar and mix well.
- Leave on the countertop for 5-9 days while periodically mixing and opening top to release gases that are formed.
- Once the fermentation process is complete you can transfer to smaller glass containers and store in the refrigerator.