"Are these pickles good for my gut?"
Fermented vs. pickled - there is often much confusion around these 2 things, because they are sort of the same but also different.
They may hold intertwining and overlapping definitions, but I'd like to get that all cleared up for each of you RIGHT NOW.
Here's the deal: sure, pickled veggies and fermented veggies are (usually) both quite "healthy" for you...but some hold way more benefits than others - so choose wisely! Specifically, if you're looking for that "gut-healing" factor that lactic acid brings, you're going to need to get the FERMENTED kind. Pickled veggies that you buy off the shelf at the grocery store are just NOT going to cut it.
Why am I digging into the deep dark depths of confusion around pickling and fermenting? Well, the other day my dear friend texted me:
"Good for my gut" --> indicates she's looking for the fermentation process to have taken place (also a key indicator might be her explicitly asking if they are "properly fermented" - ha!).
Emily went on to send me pictures of pickled veggies - NOT fermented. So while she isn't going to harm herself by enjoying some crispy pickled peppers, she's also not paying her guts any special favours either.
And so without further ado, let's clear up the confusion once and for all...
Pickled foods means they have been preserved in an acidic medium - usually vinegar if bought at the store. While vinegar is a product of fermentation, it has simply been added to the veggies - the veggies themselves have not fermented - thus they lack the probiotic and enzymatic value of homemade fermented vegetables or the fermented veggies you find in a health food store in the refrigerated section.
That last part is key, if you can't be bothered to figure out all of the "acidic" details when you're shopping at your (local, organic, all-natural, health-focused) grocer --> opt for what's in the FRIDGE!
Next, read through the ingredients: if you can't figure out what something is, put it down and keep searching. Note that sugar is often used to get the fermentation process going...THIS IS STILL BAD PEOPLE! White sugar should be avoided at all costs - I'm serious, and over-dramatic or not, I'm asking you...as a friend...to NOT consume it! Other ways to get those fermentation juices flowing include natural sugars like from apples, date paste or even goji berries.
Sure, getting "Kiki-approved" fermented veggies might be a little bit of a mission if you don't happen to live in a wellness-loving urban sanctuary like Toronto (btw: one of my favourite local kimchi suppliers is Live Organic Food Bar), which is why I often suggest making it yourself.
Now that Emily is eager to jump on the fermentation train, we'll be experimenting in the kitchen together soon on something I haven't yet tried my hand at: coconut water kefir! She's asked me to teach her to make it - knowing I'm a lover of DIY gut-healthy probiotics. Truth is, I've only ever experimented with regular water kefir years back and it ended with me dropping the humungo glass jar I was brewing it in - spilling it all over my kitchen floor, and swearing that I'd never partake in such an atrocity ever again.
For a dear friend though, and now that I'm a little more acquainted as a raw vegan foodie chef (just kidding: I eat everything.), I'm ready to take the coconut water kefir plunge!
Our trials and tribulations in the kitchen planned for early April will be released on the blog soon after - stay tuned! Xo