Natural fermentation (or lactofermentation, named for the lactic acid it produces) is a wonderful traditional method of preserving organic vegetables and enhancing their nutritional value. It uses only salt, nature, and time. (To this, we sometimes add whey but it’s not strictly necessary.) Lactofermentation dates back to the foodways of Rome and ancient China, and is common to modern cultures all over the world. With the rise of industrial food, however, the health benefits of fermentation were lost, as the use of vinegar replaced the development of living cultures, and pasteurization was used to produce a consistent, shelf-stable product.
The benefits of eating raw lactofermented foods like our krauts and kvasses are many! Here are just a few of the ways these living foods support your health:
Improve Digestion & Metabolism Raw, lactofermented foods are a great source of good bacteria and enzymes (similar to what you would get from eating yogurt) that improve your digestion, nutrient absorption, and metabolism. Good bacteria play a key role in your immune system, too, by helping to fortify your gut against harmful bacteria.
Get More from Proteins Lactic acid, the main by-product of natural fermentation, supports the growth of healthy intestinal flora, normalizes stomach acid levels, and helps the body assimilate proteins. That’s why it’s good to have kraut with meat and eggs.
Absorb Iron & Other Nutrients Lactofermentation has been shown to neutralize or break down certain naturally occurring plant-food “anti-nutrients” (such as phytates and oxalic acid) that block mineral absorption in the body. One study found better human absorption of iron from lactofermented vegetables compared to the same mix of fresh vegetables. (1)
Good Source of Vitamins Lactofermented foods can be higher in vitamins than their raw ingredients because the good bacteria aid in vitamin synthesis. Sauerkraut, for example, has been found to have higher levels of vitamin C than the raw cabbage from which it is made. (2)
Overall Better Health! A 1999 Lancet study showed regular consumption of naturally fermented vegetables positively correlated with low rates of asthma, skin problems, and autoimmune disorders among children attending a Waldorf school in Sweden. (2)
Adapted from Why Eat Raw Lacto-Fermented Vegetables by Dan Rosenberg. Sources: (1) Svanberg, U. et al. (1990) Bioavailability of iron in lactic fermented foods. In Processing and Quality of Foods, Vol. 2, eds. P. Zeuthen et al., p. 2.116-21. Elsevier Applied Science, London; (2) Sally Fallon (1999) Nourishing Traditions, New Trends Publishing.
Photo by fishermansdaughter