Nutrition 101

In a Pickle?

All About Pickling, Fermentation, Probiotics and Prebiotics:

Pickling – when a food is pickled, it has been preserved in a brine (salt solution) or an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Pickling is not just limited to pickles and beets. Almost anything can be pickled, from avocados to zucchini, from fish to various meats. The fastest and easiest way to pickle something is to boil a combination of vinegar, sugar, salt, and various herbs and spices and pour the mixture over the item to be pickled. After it soaks for a short time, the item is “pickled.” Because of the high acid content, the pickling process also protects the food from bacteria, allowing the food to last much longer than the average shelf life. The pickling process also gives the food a sour or salty taste.

Fermentation – fermentation is considered a pickling method and only requires a container and salt. Fermentation is one of the oldest and basic methods to preserve food. To make homemade pickled food into a fermented product, food is submerged in a liquid brine for at least 10 days. During the fermentation process, natural bacteria convert the carbohydrates and sugars in whole food items, like vegetables or milk, into an acid. This becomes an ideal environment to preserve food by suppressing and inhibiting the growth of other microbes that would cause spoilage. Fermentation typically takes longer than pickling and ultimately alters the food's color, flavor, and texture. The process gives fermented foods and drinks their tangy and sour taste. Fermentation also creates probiotics that aids in digestion and provides health benefits. Fermented foods and drinks include things like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, miso, and tempeh.

Probiotics – probiotics are the "good" bacteria — or live cultures — just like those naturally found in the gut. These active cultures help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora (the bacteria that live in your intestinal tract). Probiotics boost immunity and overall health, especially GI health. Probiotics have been used for management of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and may be recommended when being treated with antibiotics. Some strains of these live cultures may help prevent specific allergy symptoms, reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance and more. However, effects can vary from person to person. The most commonly consumed probiotics are strains of two main species –

Lactobacillus may be the most common probiotic. It is found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help with people who can't digest lactose, the sugar in milk.

Bifidobacterium is also found it in some dairy products and may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.

Prebiotics – prebiotics found in the indigestible fiber in carbohydrates, provide food for the probiotics. Foods rich in prebiotics include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal and legumes.

According to our Experts, all fermented foods are pickled, but not all pickled foods are fermented! Click here to find out more!