Are you throwing away the money you spend to help your gut?
Fermented foods are everywhere these days—in the news, scientific studies, online, at big supermarkets, and even gourmet restaurants are catering to people’s love of ferments and their desire for their probiotic health benefits.
However, for as many brands and types of probiotics, there are just as many myths when it comes to getting the best probiotics.
You could be wasting hundreds of dollars a year if you don’t have the facts — or worse, spreading mis-information. Trust me, you don’t want to be that person at the party 😉
Below are 10 myths that you need to know about so you can make informed decisions!
Myth 1: All Fermented Foods Have Probiotics
Not all fermented foods have probiotics. That said, almost all ferments have incredible healing powers and advantageous elements. Check out my list of 11 favorite fermented foods here, to learn more about their health functions and probiotics.
Myth 2: Kombucha Is a Cure-All
Kombucha isn’t a cure! For some people it’s an extremely beneficial beverage, but is not a panacea. Read more here.
Myth 3: All Sauerkraut Brands are Legit
Unfortunately, depending on what brand of sauerkraut you buy, there’s no guarantee that your jar is actually packed with nutrients and probiotics. Most store-bought sauerkraut is typically pasteurized, using heat that kills the probiotics. You find these primarily on the shelves unrefrigerated. Some companies place their pasteurized sauerkraut in the refrigerated section
Besides lacking in the probiotics they claim to have, the majority of store-bought brands contain preservatives and added sugars. While authentic sauerkraut is extremely beneficial, some of these corporate brands use preservatives that can be disadvantageous and harmful.
When you’ve completed fermenting sauerkraut or other cultured veggies, they must be stored in a cold place. If not refrigerated, it’s not legit. The reason they’re found in the fridge is because they haven’t been pasteurized and won’t be shelf stable unless stored in the fridge.
One prime example is Bubbies, a brand that flash heats their kraut at 130 to 140 degrees.
The brand uses heat to stop the production of carbon dioxide, ensuring that the bottles don’t explode, and claims the process only only decreases culture content by 10 percent.
I call BS.
When there is no more carbon dioxide produced it’s because there’s no more fermentation, meaning there’s no more bacteria—beneficial or not. It’s just not a ferment without carbon dioxide. Most probiotics die above 120º F. That’s a fact.
I used to own a sauerkraut company and know for a fact that as long as your jars of cultured kraut stay refrigerated, these bottles will not explode. We never had that problem. By “not making their jars explode” they are pasteurizing the product.
Learn how to shop for the right probiotic-rich ferments, but keep in mind that you have to do your research (or let me do it for you) to stay up on the best brands. Your best bet is to learn to make your own. This not only saves money, but it allows you to know exactly what’s going into your body! Learn how here.
Myth 4: Kombucha SCOBYs Should Be Refrigerated
This one’s for you avid fermenters. Kombucha brewers with good intention pass along this myth, thinking that otherwise, kombucha mothers will rot and “go bad”. In cold temperatures, bacteria and yeasts that are responsible for keeping the SCOBY healthy become inactive and incapable defending against mold. Instead make a kombucha SCOBY hotel.
Myth 5: You Always Need a Starter Culture to Make Cultured Veggies
Starter cultures—a preparation of beneficial microorganisms—have been used for hundreds of years, ensuring the quality of some fermented foods. These starters initiate the fermentation process, while determining how exactly the ferment will affect the body. Some ferments require a starter culture such as Kombucha SCOBYs, Dairy Kefir Grains, Water Kefir Grains (Tibicos), and Vinegar Pellicles. These are all examples of SCOBYs (Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeasts). Notice the similarity here – all liquid ferments.
Then there are powdered starters like Tempeh, Yogurt, and Cheese starters. These organisms are required to add to make it work. Notice the similarity here – all protein-based ferments.
Next up are wild ferments such as Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Cultured Veggies, and Sourdough & Injera (some people use a spoonful of the previous batch to inoculate their new batch – but you don’t have to!)
Starter cultures are not required for vegetable ferments.
Starter cultures have been made popular by companies wanting to sell them. We live in a society where over-sanitation is popular; we fear letting processes take their natural course.
These companies play to this desire for control, offering starter cultures as products, convincing users that they are more safe. However, starter cultures can totally change the taste and textures of your ferment. They can, at times, aid the process of your product, but because these products bypass the early stages of fermentation, the starter cultures actually prohibit the development of zesty flavors and natural organic acids.
There are certain companies that will say a starter culture produces more vitamins and minerals, but there are no regulations on these claims. Many of them do not actually possess any higher quantity of vitamins! Specifically, most brands claim to provide high doses of vitamin K2, when in fact, this is false. There are no bacteria in the starter cultures able to convert vitamin K and yet they still maintain these claims!
There are a few instances where, for certain health reasons, it may be wise to use a starter culture. But this is rare. I’ve seen it as a possible way for histamine intolerant folks to withstand sauerkraut.
The idea that you need a starter culture to produce fermented veggies is absolutely false. After all, the ancient process of making vegetables did not begin with a starter culture.
Myth 6: Probiotic Supplements Are Better Than Fermented Probiotic Foods
Nope. Natural probiotics you get from probiotic-rich foods are superior to probiotic supplements.
Probiotic-rich fermented foods hold up to 100 times more probiotics than most supplements on the market. When you eat unpasteurized fermented foods, you also get the live bacteria and the substrate that they grow happily in, along with nutrients and pH to keep the bacteria alive. Additionally, those fermented foods contain natural antibiotics which kill pathogenic bacteria. You won’t find any of that in supplements. Plus, you don’t get the organic acids and bacteriocins that are found in fermented foods.
Many supplements do contain great probiotics, but ultimately, without the appropriate internal environment for the probiotics to thrive, it’s like throwing apple seeds on concrete and expecting a tree to grow. Probiotic companies try to make their products better by adding prebiotics. Prebiotics are misunderstood, read the next Myth to see what I’m talking about.
Myth 7: Prebiotics Are Good Food For All Probiotics
What you thought: Prebiotics are just as important as probiotics.
What’s actually true : Prebiotics only feed the genus Bifidobacterium. So all you people taking Lactobacillus with added FOS (frusctooligosaccharide) are not helping matters at all.
Myth 8: You Should Eat Fermented Foods All the Time
You know that cliche phrase, “Everything in moderation.” In this case it’s true. For some clients, introducing fermented foods can actually lead to bloating, gas, bowel issues, and belly aches.
Consuming ferments has its obvious benefits, but when we start replacing natural, raw veggies, meats and fruits with fermented foods, the “healthy” can become unhealthy.
That’s why it’s important to slowly introduce ferments into your diet, and in appropriate quantities, so that the good bacteria you’re introducing can fight off bad bacteria properly, without extreme reactions.
A healthy amount of fermented foods is having a small amount with your meals. It’s not meant as a meal replacement. In Germany, people eat raw sauerkraut with dinner regularly. In Japan, miso soup is a popular appetizer. In Korea, kimchi is consumed with breakfasts. Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years, but never as a meal replacement. Always listen to your body!
Myth 9: You Have to Keep Ferment Crocks in Separate Locations While Fermenting
There’s no way that your ferments can contaminate one another. It’s not like bacteria can crawl or float out of one jar and into the one beside it. They aren’t sperm; they don’t have a little tail! They don’t have spores.
However mold can cross contaminate throughout your fermentation station, so if you are having trouble with ferments going bad, you may want to experiment with airlocks and replacing the air filters on your central heat and air if you live in a humid environment. Stayed tuned for more about this topic in future articles.
Myth 10: Everyone Should Eat Fermented Foods
Just because my business is to promote fermented foods, I’m not going to bullshit everyone into thinking that ferments are a must! I’ve worked with individual clients on how to cure their gut using other methods as well, and I firmly believe that because everyone’s bodies are different. Healing is so personal, and comes in many different forms.
For example, when I was struggling with histamine intolerance I had to avoid fermented foods for two months, while figuring out how to resolve that issue. Oftentimes those with SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) can’t handle high quantities of ferments. In some cases, people can’t even handle probiotic foods at all.
All in all, the goal isn’t necessarily to eat fermented foods. The goal is to be healthy and have an awesome gut! Many find that fermented foods work wonders for them, and they might work for you or your clients. The best thing is to educate yourself so you can avoid mistakes and get to your optimum health sooner.
Comment below and let me know which one of these myths surprised you the most!