Are fermented vegetables allowed on the Alkaline Diet?
The answer to this question is yes, and it depends upon who you ask. Yes, a fermented vegetable contains acid. However you must observe what is the overall function of this food. Fermented vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin C, prebiotics, and probiotics. In my opinion of having studied diet and how it affects the body, fermented foods are essential to balanced health.
As you transition to choose eating more digestion balancing Alkaline Diet foods, also consider it very important to add in raw lacto-fermented vegetables. These are vegetables have been naturally fermented to enhance the bacteria that is already present on the vegetable by adding salt, sometimes water, then storing the mixture in an airtight glass jar to preserve and increase the gut health nutritional qualities of the vegetable.
Raw lacto-fermented means, the vegetables are left unpasteurized allowing them to retain their beneficial prebiotic and probiotic bacterium which has the potential to support healthy gut function. A crucial part of eating a better diet is also making sure that you have a balanced colony of bacteria, enzymes, yeast, and fungus (lovely, eh?) in your digestive system to help you digest the foods you have eaten. Even though we often equate bacteria to mean yucky germs, research is linking an imbalanced gut flora (bacteria) with symptoms of various diseases and suggests eating foods to support healthy digestion as a disease preventative.  Imagine it being as simple as a jar of sauerkraut having the properties to help you prevent disease! Guess what that means? Your grandma was right and you should be eating the sauerkraut she crafted for the family.
A Brief History of Lacto-Fermentation.
Our original intention for fermenting foods was for food preservation. Before the invention of the refrigerator, fermentation was our best way to have food last during long periods of time without spoilage. Food fermentation is used not only for vegetables, but also cheeses, meat, chocolate, coffee, bread, and many more that you may eat daily without realizing it has been fermented because this technique is so common place. Did you know that chocolate is a fermented food? In order to make our delicious desserts, we must first ferment the cacao bean.
What are the Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods?
- Immune system function support
- Probiotics and prebiotics of lacto-fermented food give a protective lining to the intestines
- Enzymes of lacto-fermented food improves digestibility when eating
- Vitamin amounts are increased once food has been lacto-fermented
- Bio-availablity of minerals is improved after fermentation
- Improve bowl movement ability
- May decrease symptoms of bloating and discomfort with digestion
Lacto-fermented foods are good for your digestion and they taste amazing as a side or topping for a large dinner salad. Pictured below is a quick salad made by chopping and tossing avocado, carrot, celery, daikon radish, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, unfiltered sea salt. The salad is served with a side of pink sauerkraut (from the red cabbage) and orange kimchi (from the turmeric). It is so deliciously healthy! Consider trying the addition of fermented vegetables with your meals if you are finding it difficult to eat raw vegetables, especially raw broccoli and cabbage. It could be that your digestion just needs a bacteria primer of ferments to establish the bacteria and enzymes needed to comfortably digest these foods.
What are the Best Books to Learn about Fermented Foods:
The art of fermentation is learned by 10% reading about the technique, and 90 % trial and error. Typically the times that my ferments didn’t work is because of a few different reasons.
- I tried to skip boiling the jars first. I have managed to have a few good ferments without boiling the jars first, which makes me tend to risk it.
- I didn’t add enough salt. When you first make your ferments, measure the salt. Each time you do this, taste the mixture once you’re done because you can measure the salt required by taste. It usually is more salty than you’d think it needs to be, and it must be good sea salt.
- I didn’t add enough sugar. This is true for kombucha or fermented sodas. The times that I didn’t get a good ferment was when I tried to skimp on sugar because I didn’t want to have it that sweet. But truthfully, the sugar is predigested by your bacteria and yeast in the ferment, so you’re not really eating it. Just give the ferment it’s sweet tooth craving for a good ferment.
- I used the wrong water. You can not use city tap water to make ferments. There are too many processing chemicals that kill the bacteria culture. Even carbon filtered city water will not work. It needs to at least be reverse osmosis filtered or distilled if you are using city water. (Now just imagine what that is doing to your gut when you drink tap water. That’s why I don’t drink it or cook with tap water, I drink spring water instead.)
Katz, Sandor Ellix; “The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World“; White River Junction, Vt. : Chelsea Green Pub., 2012.
Katz, Sandor Ellix, “Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, 2nd Edition“, White River Junction, Vt. : Chelsea Green Pub., 2016.
Rawlings, Deidre, Ph.D., N.D.; “Fermented Foods for Health: Use the Power of Probiotic Foods to Improve Your Digestion, Strengthen Your Immunity, and Prevent Illness“, Beverly, MA; Fair Winds Press, 2013.
YouTube Demonstrations of Fermentation
There are countless how-to videos on YouTube for how to make sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, sourdough bread. If you can ferment it, there’s probably a video for it. The Truth About Cancer folks created an easy to understand demonstration video for how to make sauerkraut. Sandor Katz also made a quick demonstration video on how to make sauerkraut. You’ll see in the video that he also uses red cabbage to give his kraut the beautiful pink color that mine has in the photo above.
- Bull MJ, Plummer NT. Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(6):17-22.
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