A common question that I get when I start talking about the health benefits of fermented foods is, “What foods are fermented?” So I decided to make a list of fermented foods.

pickles

You can ferment almost any food including vegetables, fruits, legumes, dairy, meat and fish! In order for a food to be fermented, beneficial microbes have to be present in the right environment including the correct pH and temperature range. Some ferments are anaerobic which means they are done in an airtight container without the presence of oxygen, as done in lacto-fermentation. Other ferments are aerobic which means they need exposure to oxygen therefore they are not done in an airtight container.

Fermented Vegetables (traditionally fermented by anaerobic lacto-fermentation) 

Commonly fermented vegetables:

  • Pickles (cucumbers)
  • Sauerkraut (cabbage)
  • Kimchi (cabbage and other veggies)
  • Capers (flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a shrub like bush)
  • Olives
  • Pickled Peppers and Radishes

But almost all vegetables can be fermented by anaerobic lacto-fermentation, I have done:

  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Beets
  • Green Beans
  • Garlic
  • And more!

Fermented Dairy

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Cultured Butter
  • Crème fraîche
  • Cheese

Other

  • Soy Sauce
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Kombucha
  • Vinegar
  • Miso

Most of these traditionally healthy fermented foods normally loaded with beneficial microbes are now being mass produced, packaged and sold at conventional grocery stores. The downside of mass production is that these foods are being pasteurized to increase shelf-life therefore killing the good bacteria. Additives and preservatives are also a disadvantage in modern food production.  If you buy sauerkraut that is not refrigerated, from an aisle at the grocery store, chances are that it has been pasteurized, and therefore does not contain live, healthy bacteria. Look for foods that are refrigerated, are organic and better yet they list the live bacterial or yeast cultures present in them.  A good rule of thumb for all food that you buy is to make sure you know all of the ingredients.  Better yet, fermenting at home is the way to go!  It saves money and it is fairly simple to do.

-Brenda Meeuwenberg, NTP