Getting Started With Fermented Foods Part 1: Buying Guide

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If you want to start including fermented foods in your diet, there are 3 ways you can go about it:

You can:

  1. Buy them

  2. Use a starter culture

  3. Make them from scratch

Or you can do a combination of them all.

In the next 3 posts I’m going to walk you through the 3 options, so you can choose which works best for you.


Buying Ferments

If you aren’t feeling super confident to make your own ferments, then your next best option is to buy them ready made. This is a great way to get a taste for what you and your family like before you learn how to make them yourself.

Even if you do make all your own ferments, store bought versions are great to try for inspiration.

Unfortunately a lot of ferments you see on the shelf are mass produced and don't contain the benefits traditional ferments do . The ferments you want to eat are the ones fermented with traditional techniques. These are good for your guts and full of beneficial bacteria, vitamins and minerals.

The best place to look for these is at your local health food store in the fridge section.

Here’s a run down on what to look out for when buying your next ferment:

(Please note I am not affiliated with any brands mentioned in this post. These are products that I personally use and recommend).


Cultured Vegetables (Sauerkraut and Fermented Whole Vegetables)

  • Always choose cultured vegetables from the fridge section. These ones are full of live bacteria (like a probiotic) that are good for our guts. Steer clear from your supermarket ones on the shelf. These have been pastuerised (heated) which kills all the beneficial bacteria.

  • The only ingredients on the label should be vegetables/herb/spices and salt - no sugar or vinegar.  

  • Some brands add starter cultures for consistency in their products and this is normal. 

  • My favourites: Nourishing Wholefoods, Gutsy Ferments, Lewis & Son, and Peace Love and Vegetables


Kombucha/Kefir

  • Always choose a kefir or kombucha from the fridge section (the ones on the shelf have been pastuerised which kills all the beneficial bacteria). 

  • The only ingredients on the label should be tea, sugar, water, fruit/roots/spices to flavour and kombucha/kefir culture.

  • Sugar is a normal ingredient needed for the fermentation process. It provides a fuel source for the culture to convert it to beneficial bacteria.   

  • My favourites: Buchi Kombucha, Nourishing Wholefoods and Remedy.


Yoghurt (Coconut or Dairy)

  • Choose a plain variety with no added sugar.

  • The only ingredients on the label should be milk and live cultures (except for coconut yoghurt which usually contains tapioca starch to thicken and a natural sweetener).

  • The more variety of live cultures listed the better. Lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus bulgaricus, bifidus and streptococcus thermophilus are the most common.

  • Choose organic when possible to ensure you are getting yoghurt from happy, healthy cows (or coconuts). 

  • My favourites:  Coconut - Born Cultured or Coyo, Dairy - Barambah and Jalna.


Other ferments made with traditional techniques

  • Miso - look in the fridge section of your health food store. The only ingredients on the label should be rice, soy beans, salt, koji starter, and perhaps other grains or vegetables depending on the variety. Avoid any miso paste containing preservatives, additives or sugar. These have most likely been pasteurised which destroys all the beneficial bacteria. My favourite brand is Meru Miso.

  • Cultured dips/vegan cheeses - Look for these in the fridge section of your health food store. Botanical Cuisine make the most delicious variety of vegan cheeses and cultured dips. Other great brands to look out for are Peace Love and Vegetables and Nutty Bay.


The best place to buy them

  • Farmers markets - This is the best place to get your hands on locally produced ferments and speak directly to the producer.  

  • Health food stores - Check the fridge section for what's on offer, look for a locally produced product or ask staff for their recommendations.


Where to from here?

Once you find a favourite ferment (or two), that you and your family love, the next step is to learn to make it yourself.

In the next 2 posts I’ll run you through the options for making your own ferments.