Nutrition Trend: Fermented Vegetables
Written by Arielle Kestenbaum | Reviewed by Nikita Kapur MS, RDN, CDN, CLT
Fermented vegetables have been around for many years, because of their natural ability to extend shelf life and give foods unique flavors. The reason it has now become somewhat of a “craze”, is because of the recently learned health benefits this process is said to have on food. Fermentation involves naturally occurring yeasts, bacteria, and other microbes to break down vegetables, fruits and other food items. This process is what allows cabbage to become sauerkraut and even grapes to become wine.
Fermented vegetables are not only said to boost vegetable intake, but even add additional nutrition benefits. When fruits or vegetables are sealed in a jar with vinegar, they begin to anaerobically ferment (produce energy without oxygen). Many enzymes and vitamins are created during this fermentation process, which ultimately can break down the parts of the food that may be difficult for us to digest, making vitamins and minerals easier to absorb. It is said that these fermented foods are considered to be probiotics, promoting the growth of “good” intestinal bacteria. This may support what is said to be true of the two major health benefits of pickled foods; lactose intolerance prevention and inflammatory bowel disease relief. Picked vegetables have many other positive nutritional effects as well. It is said to increase the amount of B vitamins (good for our blood cells), omega-3-fatty acids (good for our heart), lactic acid (good for our skin) and other immune chemicals that can fight off harmful bacteria.
Not all fermented vegetables are actually good sources of probiotics, and do not provide the nutritional benefits discussed previously. In fact, most pickles found at a grocery store are just cucumbers in vinegar. Look for refrigerated pickles that use salt for pickling (a form of lacto-fermentation) Many other fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, can also lose its probiotic effect because of the pasteurization that is done to the food. Pasteurizing sauerkraut will rid all of the live probiotic bacteria, and is therefore important to look for unpasteurized brands of sauerkraut at the grocery. It is helpful to know which brands to look for at the grocery store, in order to receive all of the wonderful nutrients our food has to offer!
List of brands to buy fermented vegetables:
1. Farmhouse Culture
2. Eden Organic
3. Bubbies brand of pickles and sauerkraut.
4. Real pickles organic ginger carrots
5. Westbrae organic miso
6. Wildbrine salsa rojo
7. Food and ferment’s beet kvass
These brands are found at Whole Foods and many other local health food stores.