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Monday, October 5, 2009

Cultured Food From the Grocery Store

A while back, we featured a post about the amazing health benefits of fermented foods (also known as cultured foods). In short, fermented foods contain helpful probiotic bacteria, as well as high concentrations of protein and vitamins. There's a whole world of fun to be had experimenting with fermenting at home, but it's just as easy to get these health benefits at your grocery store. Fermented foods are as diverse in taste and nutrition as the corners of the world that they come from, but here are a few good products to get you started:

Vinegar is a commonly known fermented food, although most commercial versions don't contain live cultures. Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar is raw and organic, and contains a little of the vinegar "mother", the live culture that is responsible for vinegar fermentation. For the greatest health benefits, use it in your favorite salad dressing or another raw recipe.

Yogurt, on the other hand, frequently contains live cultures (just check the package to make sure it says so). Greek Yogurt, such as Oikos Organic, is a thick, rich variation on the more common type. It's great with fruit, and the plain flavor makes an especially good substitute for sour cream.

Kombucha, or fermented tea, is an ancient tradition in Asia and a recent health fad in the United States. In general people seem to love it or hate it, but it can be an acquired taste, so it may be worthwhile to try a few different varieties. My personal favorites are the botanical flavors of GT Kombucha, which contain the essences of herbs and edible flowers.

Vegetable Ferments include an especially wide range of products, from traditional pickles to kim-chi and sauerkraut, but again it can be difficult to find commercial versions with live cultures. The Zukay Live Foods line includes several styles of cultured salsa and relish, which sound like a great place to start a foray into the world of vegetable ferments.

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