Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Strange rather than mild… This is not an official motto for the group of ingredients and dishes that fall under the category of fermented foods, but it could be.
Many fermented foods contain probiotics, which are live microorganisms that, along with the good bacteria in your gut microbiome, can contribute to regulating your digestive system and improving your overall health.
However, not all fermented foods contain live probiotics. High heat kills probiotic microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast, so any item that has been cooked or pasteurized, such as shelf-stable pickles, will contain none. And if you’re looking for probiotic-rich foods, make sure the label indicates that the food contains live or active bacteria.
“In general, fermented foods are beneficial, and no one type is better than another,” said lead researcher Erica Sonnenburg, of the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Here is a list of beneficial fermented foods:
Yogurt and kefir
You may be eating fermented food every morning without realizing it. And many brands of yogurt contain probiotic microorganisms (indicated on the label as “live and active bacteria”) that add to this popular product’s refreshing taste.
Kefir is lighter in density than yogurt, which is why it is often classified as a “drinking yogurt” or fermented beverage. It can be found in the refrigerated yogurt section to be eaten on its own, but it can also be added to your morning smoothies.
Yogurt or kefir can be used in place of buttermilk, milk, or sour cream, and in your favorite baking recipes. Add some to pancakes or waffles on the weekend, bake a batch of blueberry kefir pancakes, or even try a sweet cobbler.
White, yellow, red, sweet, salty… whatever your preference, there’s a miso style to suit your taste. The flavor and color of this versatile Japanese soybean paste depends on the ingredients used and the length of fermentation time.
Choose a few types of miso and spread them out on different dishes to savor a range of flavours. While miso soup is one of the most common ways to consume this paste, it can also be used as a condiment or savory addition, similar to mayonnaise or soy sauce.
Create miso dressing for seafood, chicken, or tofu, blend it into salad dressing, or dip it into carrot miso or umami-rich miso sauce for noodles.
No longer a religious fermented beverage, kombucha is now easy to find in large retail stores as well as high-end markets and local breweries. It’s technically a fermented tea, and can be flavored with all kinds of fruits and herbs to make it sweeter and more complex.
Plain or flavored kombucha can serve as a base for non-alcoholic cocktails or spirits. Kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol, no more than 0.5% in brands packaged in glass bottles. Strong kombucha has a higher alcohol content, and is similar in liquor to apple juice or hard soda.
And it’s very easy to make your own kombucha at home. All you need is brewed black tea, sugar, a bottle of plain kombucha as your base drink, and a few weeks to get it ready.
Sauerkraut and kimchi
These two styles stand out as the most popular, within the fermented cabbage category. And while there are differences in the way they are prepared, sauerkraut and kimchi are definitely the most powerful of the aforementioned fermented foods.
But that doesn’t mean that they always taste strong for most tastes. Not all kimchi is spicy, but can contain other vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and cucumbers, as well as a variety of flavors and textures.
And if you really love sauerkraut and kimchi, combine them into a perfect sandwich for fermented lovers. Try kimchi in place of coleslaw in tacos, stir it into scrambled eggs for breakfast, toss it into a grain salad or stir it into fried rice.
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