What are fermented foods?

Fermented foods provide large amounts of various probiotics (i.e. beneficial bacteria) in the best possible form that is easy for the body to utilise and absorb. These probiotics can travel all way down to the colon where most fermentation by the gut bacteria takes place.

Fermentation predigests the food, making it easier for our digestive system to handle, that’s why fermented (or cultured foods) are more easily digested by people with damaged guts and compromised digestion.

Importantly, fermentation process also releases vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients from the foods, making them more available for the body to utilise.

You can ferment any food you like, sauerkraut is one of the most popular and nutrient-rich fermented foods – see my special sauerkraut recipe here.

In this post I included two easy to make recipes for you to start enjoying these very valuable foods. Once you learn the basic methods, you can start experimenting with your favourite ingredients and make your own mixes.

I find fermenting vegetables using whey is one of the easiest ways to culture them. You can also use powdered kefir starter available from health food shops or online. To make whey, simply buy plain organic yoghurt (approx 250ml) and let it drip overnight using a sieve covered with muslin over a bowl. You should get around 1 cup of whey plus a smooth, cheese like spread, called labne, which is great to have on a piece of toast or cracker.

Basic fermented vegetables recipe

Mixed vegetables of your choice: cabbage, beetroot, carrots, broccoli, garlic, kale etc
A handful of dried seaweeds such as arame, kombu, nori or wakame (choose at least one)
1 cup whey (for approx 2 litre jar)
1-2 teaspoons Celtic or Himalayan salt (or to taste)
1 bay leaf
Filtered water

Slice the vegetables into a bite size chunks and pack loosely into a wide-mouth glass jar (up to 2/3 of the jar), add the seaweeds, whey, salt and fill in the jar with filtered water until the vegetables are completely covered (important to prevent spoiling and mould formation).

Stir the content a few times, close the jar and leave to ferment at a room temperature for 5-7 days.

The vegetables are ready when they become soft and tangy to taste (see my photo above). Next, transfer the jar to the fridge to slow down the fermentation process. The taste will change slightly with time as the fermentation keeps going and there’s a different mix of good bacteria over time. Consume within a week or two, although sometimes I keep the jars in the fridge up to a month.

When the liquid and the vegetables start getting low, add more fresh vegetables plus some salt, top up with water and ferment at a room temperature again. You can have this going for 3-4 batches, after this start with a fresh starter culture to get different bacterial mix to maintain variety of good bacteria in the gut.

If using the starter culture, take 1/2 litre of room temperature water and dissolve the contents of a kefir powder sachet in it, pour the mixture into the jar and add more water until the vegetables are covered, proceed as above.

If you are new to eating fermented foods introduce them slowly to your diet as they are powerful probiotics that may initially upset digestion of people with bacterial imbalances, leaky gut, IBS and other digestive problems.

Start with one teaspoon of the juice added to soups and stews (warm but not hot as heat will kill the probiotics) or diluted in water.

Gradually increase the amount of the liquid and start introducing the vegetables themselves, again starting with a small amount with each meal.

Beetroot kvass recipe

1-2 medium size beetroots
1 cup whey (for approx 2 litre jar)
3-5 cloves garlic (or to taste)
1-2 teaspoons Celtic or Himalayan salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon dill or caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
Filtered water

Slice medium size beetroot but don’t grate it too finely as this will make it ferment too quickly producing alcohol and spoiling the taste. Put the beetroot into a two litre jar, add Celtic salt, whey, garlic, dill or caraway seeds and fill up with water.

Let it ferment for 2-5 days in a warm place then transfer to the fridge. Drink as is or diluted with water.

Keep topping the water up in the jar so your kvass will be going for weeks. When the beetroot starts getting pale, replace it with a new one and keep going with the kvass as long as you wish! Start drinking it slowly, as stated above.

Fermented foods such as vegetables and bet kvass are excellent probiotic foods and will greatly assist with improving your digestion and support the immune system as well.


Good health and blessings
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Joanna Sochan
Holistic Health and Lifestyle Therapist
Natural and Lifestyle Solutions for Chronic Diseases

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Joanna Sochan is a Natural Therapist and founder of Naturimedica Holistic Health & Wellness. She has a passion for helping her clients transform their lives by becoming healthy and well naturally. Joanna is a fatigue, sleep and gut health expert helping tired, stressed or unwell individuals to regain their energy, sleep better and be happier, more relaxed and calm. Joanna practices in Sydney and Lake Macquarie, Australia and also conducts online consultations for clients Australia-wide. View full bio.