Fermentation is the process of converting starches and sugars into acids, thereby preserving them for longer. Certain foods and drinks can be fermented naturally over time with the help of sea salt, beneficial microbes (such as bacteria, mold and yeast) and food enzymes that ward off decay. The microbes involved in fermentation thrive in low-temperature, high-moisture and high-acid environments, and work to keep "bad" organisms from spoiling your food. Not only are these "good" organisms beneficial for freshness, but they also possess a host of health benefits, including improved digestion, nutrient absorption and immune-boosting properties.
Some of our favorite fermented foods include kefir (a fermented milk similar to yogurt), kombucha (a fizzy fermented drink made from tea), miso (fermented soybean paste) and naturally fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or kimchi (a spiced fermented cabbage). While there is no recommended daily serving of fermented foods, we recommend working them into your daily routine (or at least a couple times a week). Keep in mind that a little goes a long way, so a mere 1/2-cup of kefir in your morning smoothie or a small bowl of miso soup before dinner is enough for you to reap the benefits.
(Get the Kimchi Quesadilla with Salsa Roja recipe, pictured.)