Benefits of Fermented Foods in Meals
Why should you bother to take a few extra minutes for the first try of including fermented, or cultured, food into any main meal?
- Meal has less carb sugars due to the process of fermentation, which will stabilize blood sugar levels post meal
- You’ve made the meal easier for digestion, reducing bloating and “bathroom issues”
- You will eat less, consuming less calories, due to the high nutrient density of the ingredients
- If used chilled or barely warmed, you will introduce beneficial bacteria to repopulate the gut microbiome, with these beneficial bacteria thriving on food source’s fiber, leading to sustainable weight loss
Serve Up Fermented Foods Two Ways
Chilled: Keep the Probiotics Alive
An easy way to quickly add a fermented food into a meal is to serve it chilled, which preserves both the texture, flavor, and beneficial bacteria created safely during the fermentation process. Author and speaker Summer Bock recommends just “Two forks of fermented foods a day.” This will help with cleansing, repopulating, and healing the gut, which will lead to sustainable weight loss.
I’ve repeatedly scooped at least 2-3 heaping tablespoons of a fermented condiment or garnish onto a meal and marveled at the how well it tasted in the dish.
Warmed: Nutrient-Dense Calories
Experimenting with a fermented food warmed or heated through in the meal is the second way to capitalize on the amazing texture, taste, and volume of nutrient density to your meal. The larger the volume of the fermented food added to your dish, the more dramatic the flavor, so be sure to taste the ferment first, determine the portion size, and write it down!
How to Use Ferments in Meals
Taste It First
The process of fermentation creates a “super food” from the raw ingredients. You’re not just eating a carrot, you’re eating your way to a better weight! 😉 While the flavor of a fermented carrot may not change too much each time you make a new carrot ferment, there are environmental factors that you will taste after fermentation that make it different from the consistent flavor of a raw carrot.
The process varies depending on the specific environmental conditions. The environmental factors that will impact the flavor of (the fermented carrot) are:
- overall temperature during fermentation; a warmer than 72 degree fermenting location will cause the process to happen quicker, oftentimes leading to a softer texture and a little saltier of a taste.
- fermentation time; a quick ferment of 3-5 days will have a firmer texture than a longer ferment. A fermented sauerkraut of 2 months will be different in texture and taste than a 2 week ferment.
- quality and type of salt used for the brine (water and salt liquid); a pink Himalayan salt will taste different from a plain sea salt. For consistency, just use the same type of salt for your ferments and you won’t have to adjust a recipe for the variance!
In general, a fermented raw food will taste a tad saltier, highlight the flavor of other herbs and spices used in the ferment, and may have an added tang. The texture and the water content of the raw veggie will be different as well. Taste your ferment and judge how these factors will compliment the dish’s recipe and adjust the recipe accordingly.
Consider the Right Portion Size
The best thing about eating fermented food is that the meal’s overall portion size can be smaller due to the higher nutrition content. You will find that you don’t need as big of a meal portion size because you will be full from less food since it is fermented.
And yet, portion control on fermented veggies is almost a moot point: you are eating veggies, which are pretty much a “free” food group on any “diet” plan!
In general, anywhere from 1/2 cup to 2 cups fresh veggies is a great portion size. When I’m cooking with a fermented food, I tend to add in around 1/2 cup for the first try. For example, add 1/2 of basic sauerkraut into whipped mashed potatoes. Turn the blender on one more time so that they get mixed throughout the mashed and you will end up with a good hint of kraut in each serving of mashed potatoes.
When I’m making our favorite America’s Test Kitchen Baked Ziti recipe, I only add in 1/2 cup of basic kraut to the large 17 inch round skillet meal. If you like the taste, then I highly recommend adding another forkful or two on top of the cooked meal, which add live probiotics back into the meal.
For condiments, adding a tablespoon portion is a good starting point. I like to add fermented hot sauce to meals as they simmer and then add another dash before serving. Since fermentation brings out the flavor of the veggie well, people will notice just a splash of heat!
Write It Down (and Share It)
Having a pre-determined beginning portion size, like the 1/2 cup chunky veggie and 1 T condiment, will help you remember your recipe adjustments. After the meal, go back to the recipe and write down your comments: “Good with 1/2 basic kraut mixed in with pasta @ end” or “try 2 T of fermented hot sauce while simmering and then just a dash before eating.”
Not yet ready to mess with a good recipe?
- Try putting a forkful on the plate and it eat with the meal to try the flavor combinations on the plate as opposed to the pan.
- Splash a dash of just the fermented veggie brine (liquid) into your soup or salad dressing.
- Add the brine into a smoothie or fresh juice mix
Find a flavor combo that worked well? Please share it as a comment and take a picture and post it to the Reset Your Weight Instagram feed for us to try!
Here’s a few to write down to get you started:
- 1/2 cup basic kraut after you whip the mashed potatoes in the mixer
- 1-2 T pureed fermented hot sauce into pork or beef soups when you saute the onions and garlic
- 1/2 cup basic kraut mixed into baked ziti just before you sprinkle cheese on the top and stick it under the broiler
- add 2 T basic kraut to any salad
- adding 1-2 T kraut into a wrap or burrito
Cooking With Ferments: Recipe Round Up
The cookbook, Ferment Your Vegetables, by website author Phickle has many recipes using ferments.
Here is another great cookbook that features how to cook with a variety of ferments: Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen, which can be previewed on her website, Leda’s Kitchen.
Fermented Sauerkraut in Meals
For more inspiration, check out these sites for using fermented sauerkraut in a meal:
Fermented Kimchi in Meals
Kimchi is like basic kraut with a spiced kick. Here’s a few sites that have tried and true meals that use fermented kimchi:
Baking with Fermented Foods
Feeling brave? Try this recipe:
- Cookie Madness‘ Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with sour cream frosting
Reset Your Weight
I hope that I’ve given you enough basic ideas on how to start cooking with fermented foods, especially an easy to make ferment like Basic Kraut. Not only will your taste buds thank you for the extra pop of flavor, your gut will reward you with better digestion and, over time, with weight loss as it maximizes the food fuel.
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