When it comes to the immune system, eating vegetables is a no-brainer. They’re full to the brim with vitamins and minerals, giving your body the nourishment it deserves. And thanks to the rich level of antioxidants, they also fight oxidative stress and inflammation. Vegetables are the complete package.
But what if you could take the immune-boosting benefits up a notch? It might be hard to believe, but even veggies have room for improvement.
Say hello to fermentation, a traditional preservation technique. It’s often used for cucumbers, cabbage, and ginger, but the method can be applied to any vegetable. The result? A delicious, pickled food that has remarkable benefits for your immune system.
Why Ferment Vegetables?
It comes down to your gut. Here, trillions of good and bad bacteria live together. A steady balance is vital for overall health, and it’s especially crucial for the immune system. That’s because the gut houses 70 percent of your immunity, and is the first line of defense.1 Think of it like bouncers at a club. Fermentation helps by letting good bacteria grow. These microorganisms “eat” sugar, or in this case, the carbohydrates in the veggies.
Other Benefits Of Fermentation
Beyond the immune system, eating fermented food supports digestion. You can be sure that nutrients will be properly absorbed! It also protects the intestinal barrier, controls inflammation, and fights gastric pathogens like Helicobacter pylori. Even mood will improve thanks to the gut-brain axis.3
How To Ferment Vegetables?
- Vegetables: Use whatever is in season. These veggies will be at the height of their flavor, texture, and color. Choose organic when possible. Pick one, two, or an entire “salad” of vegetables.
- Vinegar: For maximum flavor, use vinegar as a brine. Water works just fine, but it won’t have much flavor.
- Salt: Use 1 tablespoon for every 1½ pounds of vegetables. Salt promotes good bacteria, inhibits bad bacteria, and steadily controls the fermentation process. If you want to use less salt, bring in a starter culture. Read the directions carefully.
- Spices: Amp up the flavor with extra spices like whole mustard seeds, whole coriander seeds, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon sticks, or peppercorns.
- Sterilized jar: To sterilize a jar and kill harmful bacteria, submerge it in boiling water for 10 minutes. The lid should be submerged in warm, simmering water for 10 minutes. Wide-mouth Mason jars are popular amongst avid picklers.
- Wash and cut the vegetables into chunks or strips.
- Squeeze or press to release natural juices.
- Toss vegetables with the salt.
- If using spices, place 1 tablespoon at the bottom of the jar.
- Tightly pack in the vegetables, leaving 3 inches on top.
- Add vinegar until the vegetables are completely covered.
- Place in a cool, dark place.
After 3 days, the vegetables will have a tangy flavor. Give it a taste. If you’re happy with the tanginess, eat up. Otherwise, ferment for another 1 to 7 days, depending on your desired flavor.
|↑1||Vighi, G., F. Marcucci, L. Sensi, G. Di Cara, and F. Frati. “Allergy and the gastrointestinal system.” Clinical & Experimental Immunology 153, no. s1 (2008): 3-6.|
|↑2, ↑3||Selhub, Eva M., Alan C. Logan, and Alison C. Bested. “Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry.” Journal of physiological anthropology 33, no. 1 (2014): 2.|