Fermented vs. Pickled

A lot of press recently has been about the benefits of fermented foods. Fermented foods are full of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion. Proper digestion means fully breaking down all of the food we eat so the body can disperse those nutrients for maximum functioning of both body and brain. This is referred to as “gut health” and there is some speculation that good gut health is more important for good mental health than previously realized. This microbiata, or gut microbiome, communication between the gut and the brain is being referred to as “psychobiotics” and has been linked to disorders such as depression, anxiety and even autism. It appears that people with a richer microbiome – having more and greater variety of gut bacteria – are healthier, both physically and mentally. Eating fermented foods is one of the best ways to increase the amount and variety of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Some examples of fermented foods and drinks are: Sauerkraut Miso Kefir Yogurt Sour cream Wine Beer Brewed ginger ale Cottage cheese Whey Buttermilk Tempeh Soy sauce Kimchi Kombucha Yeasted breads (sourdough breads have unique yeasts that are different from commercial yeast) Poi Tabasco sauce Worcestershire sauce “Aged” cheeses like parmesan, bleu cheese, and feta cheese Vinegar The last item, vinegar, is what makes pickled things technically qualify as fermented foods. There is a bit of a distinction however. Fermented vegetables like “pickles” and sauerkraut were traditionally fermented in brine by covering with water, adding salt, and leaving at room temperature for several days, or longer, until they were bubbling with proliferating bacteria that fed on the naturally occurring sugar in the vegetables. This creates a plethora of bacteria, varying with differing foods. You can still find things that have been fermented this way at health food stores and specialty stores in the refrigerated section. Typically, commercially pickled items like sauerkraut and cucumber pickles are pickled with vinegar. While the vinegar is fermented, the vegetables have not been fermented. So, the probiotics contained in the jar will primarily be from the vinegar. If the vegetables were fermented the traditional way using water and salt, they would create a wider variety of bacteria than what is contained in the vinegar. Vinegar will also kill a lot of other bacteria, both good and bad bacteria. This makes it good for preserving food because it prevents bad bacteria from growing which would spoil the food. However, when you add vinegar to fermented foods, it destroys much of the good bacteria also. While pickled foods offer some probiotic benefit,...