Fermenting Foods for Flavor, Fun, and Nutrition

By guest blogger Paulette Millis, speaker, trainer, and writer about good nutrition

Preserving foods by fermenting to make them more digestible and more nutritious is as old as humanity. This technique, lactic fermentation, produces foods that have biological energy, and it is time to renew this practice.

Fermentation has largely disappeared from our Western diet, partly because it is an artisanal process, and also because processed, refined, and pasteurized foods have taken its place. Lactic fermentation was the prime method of preservation before heat sterilization was discovered.

The miracle of lactic fermentation is its ability to preserve vegetables for months using neither heat, cold, or preservatives, while retaining the foods’ freshness and nutrient value.

Many of our basic staples are actually fermented. For example, bread, aged cheeses, coffee, wine, beer, chocolate, tangy sauerkraut, and traditional Asian foods such as tofu, miso, tamari, and tempeh. Yogurt is likely the best-known cultured food. Soy sauce is made from fermented rice, wheat, and soybeans.

Anyone can learn to ferment food! It is easy, doesn’t require a lot of expertise or equipment, and can be done in your kitchen.

The benefits of fermenting are many:

• Uncooked lacto-fermented vegetables retain their enzyme and vitamin content, therefore, this is the ideal state in which to eat them. To reap the benefits, all you need are a few tablespoons a day. Do not eat them in large quantities, though, for they are very acidic.

• Fermented foods protect against disease, and are a powerful aid to digestion. These live, unpasteurized foods carry beneficial bacteria into and through our digestive systems, breaking down food and making it easier to digest, and preserving the nutrients in the process.

• Lacto-fermented foods normalize the acidity of the stomach, stimulating acid-producing glands if acid is low and the inverse effect if acid is high.

• Lactic acid helps break down proteins and aids in iron assimilation.

• Secretions of the pancreas are activated (particularly important for diabetics).

• Sauerkraut is high in choline, a nutrient that helps lower blood pressure and aids in metabolism of fats.

• Raw sauerkraut and other fermented veggies are recommended for constipation as well.

• Fermentation preserves food. “Fermentation organisms produce alcohol, lactic acid, and acetic acid, all ‘bio-preservatives’ that retain nutrients and prevent spoilage.” (quoted from Nourishing Hope).

Making your own is easy and a fun family activity! Vegetables are grated or cut up, seasoned with a bit of salt or milk brine and herbs, and left to soak in their own juices.

The lactic microbial organisms develop spontaneously, converting the natural sugars into lactic acid. The environment is thus acidified, making it impossible for bacteria to multiply. The salt inhibits putrifying bacteria for several days, until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the veggies.

Use only the best-quality organic vegetables, sea salt, and pure filtered water.  Do NOT use chlorinated tap water when fermenting because chlorine inhibits lactic fermentation.  Two to four days at 72 degrees F (22 degrees C) generally is needed to ensure fermentation. Lacto-fermented veggies will have flavor that increases with time—experts say sauerkraut is best at 6 months—but they may also be eaten immediately.

How to Make Dill Pickles


Well-cleaned small cucumbers, packed in sterilized quart jars with one-inch headroom.

(For each quart)

1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt

1 Tablespoon mustard seeds

2 Tablespoon dill seeds or

1 fresh dill head

2 cloves raw garlic, sliced

2 acidophilus capsules or 4 Tablespoons whey

Pure filtered water


Add all ingredients to the top of the cucumbers in the jar, and pour enough water to cover the cucumbers. The top of the liquid needs to be 1 inch below the top of the jar.  Let sit on counter for 3 days, then refrigerate or place in cold storage. Best left to sit 6 weeks or more.

Variation: For fermented beans or sliced carrots and cucumbers, use same method as above.

CAUTION: The USDA and the FDA recommend that all fermented foods should also be canned in a hot-water bath to protect against botulism. However, traditional lacto-fermentation methods such as those described here seem to effectively prevent botulism by creating a sufficiently acidic environment. There is good reason to think these recipes are safe without canning.  Readers should of course use their best judgment.

Paulette Millis is the author of 3 books, the most recent being Eat Away Illness, and numerous articles and columns.  Paulette is a Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner (ROHP), a Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner (RNCP), and is a member of the International Organization of Nutritional Consultants (IONC).  For more information, check Paulette’s website HealingWithNutrition.ca [www.healingwithnutrition.ca].


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6 Responses to Fermenting Foods for Flavor, Fun, and Nutrition

  1. Mike Lieberman March 15, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    been wanting to make pickles for a while. now need to wait for cucumbers to come back into season. already have the sauerkraut down. need to expand to other fermented foods.

  2. Erna Lake March 15, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    I have been doing the Fermented Veggies for awhile .. for my Adrenal Dysfunction. I grow Wheatgrass and do shots of it every morning. I am expanding to grow more Wheatgrass.
    The Fermented Veggies are kept raw and I put them in my Green juice for lunch.
    Thanks for the article.

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  4. christine gallo March 17, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Just catching the fermented foods info. Paulette does not mention fermented beverages. I have been making Kombucha tea for years. It has great digestive benefits and is so refreshing. Kombucha is easy to make, but you have to locate a ‘mushroom’. Once you get a mushroom you can share-it grows a new one each fermentation, hence, the jarful in my fridge.

  5. Soymoon April 11, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    Loved the article, fermentation is truly health building.
    One small correction: tofu is not fermented. It is a fresh food.

    Thanks for all you do.

  6. Ruthie February 8, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    Hi there mates, pleasant piece of writing and nicee arguments commented here,
    I am truly enjoying by these.

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