Research over the last few decades has revealed that the health of our gut microbiome has a far-reaching and profound impact on our overall health. One way (of many!) to foster a happy gut microbiome is to eat fermented foods.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, AKA beneficial bacteria, and can be highly nutritious additions to your diet because they support digestive health, immunity, detoxification and overall well-being.
The primary benefits of fermented foods are:
- Pre-digestion of foods making the nutrients more bioavailable
- Generation of additional nutrients (such as B vitamins, amino acids, etc.) or removal of anti-nutrients from foods (such as phytates, oxalic acid, etc.)
- Detoxification support
There are a multitude of fermented foods and beverages to choose from. Almost every culture around the world has one! Some of the common ones you may have come across are sourdough bread, miso, tempeh, poi, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, kombucha, yogurt, kefir…just to name a few!
One of my favorite ferments is water kefir. It’s a probiotic beverage made using water kefir grains or a kefir starter culture. The culture consists primarily of lactic acid producing bacteria and some beneficial yeasts.
You may know of kefir, which is a dairy-based beverage traditionally made with cow’s milk, however water kefir is completely dairy-free and is typically made using sugar water, coconut water or fruit juice. Water kefir is rich in amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals so having a small cup each day is a delicious way to boost gut health!
The simplest water kefir recipe is to mix ½ cup of sugar in 4 cups of lukewarm water in a mason jar, along with some (optional) fresh or dried fruit. Add the kefir grains or kefir starter culture and let ferment for 1-2 days. While this concoction is simple yet delicious and beneficial, below is a water kefir recipe that takes the health benefits to new heights with the addition of two powerhouse anti-inflammatory ingredients: ginger and turmeric.
Ginger Turmeric Water Kefir
- 3 cups raw coconut water (I use Harmless Harvest)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tablespoon peeled and freshly grated ginger root
- 1 tablespoon peeled and freshly grated turmeric root or 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 packet water kefir starter (I use this one)
- Add the coconut water and orange juice to a saucepan and very gently heat to lukewarm, or about 90ºF.
- Into a quart-sized mason jar, add the coconut water and orange juice mixture together with the contents of one foil packet of kefir starter.
- Add ginger and turmeric.
- Stir to mix well. Put lid on mason jar. Make sure the lid is air tight!
- Let this mixture ferment at room temperature (72-75ºF) for 24 hours.
- Remove the lid and taste. For a tangier drink, let sit for another 12-24 hours.
- When you’re happy with the flavor, stir again, put on the lid and place into the refrigerator.
Note: In your refrigerator, fermentation continues but chilling will slow down the fermentation process. Enjoy within 2-3 weeks!
The great thing about water kefir is that you can keep it going and going. One packet of kefir starter can be used an average of seven times. After you’ve made your initial batch and are getting towards the end of your jar, reserve six tablespoons of water kefir which can be used to ferment 1 quart of liquid for your next batch. You can use the same recipe as above or try something new.
Have fun and good luck! Don’t worry–it’s almost impossible to mess this up!
Disclaimer: All fermented products present potential health risks. Individuals are responsible for assessing the safety of consuming fermented foods.418