Happy Halloween Week! We can do so much this week to detour the barrage of candy and sugar that is ever-present the end of October. I am so happy to discover and share a quick trick to help us make a fast get-away from all the candy and sweets and to help us launch a healthier Holiday season.

Last week while at Disneyland with grandkids, we learned that our 20-month-old grandson, Max, and 4-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, absolutely adore crunchy dill pickles! We shared a giant Disneyland dill pickle with them every day we were there. And maybe you remember the hilarious “Andy of Mayberry” episode where Aunt Bea tested her questionable dill pickles for the County Fair on the ever-obliging Andy, Opey and Barney. They crunched down pickle after pickle just to not offend her!

Well, it turns out that sour foods are actually very GOOD for us! Do you enjoy a good “pucker-up?”  I hope so, because the truth is that fermented foods have great health value!

It’s important to note there’s a big difference between the “pickling” Aunt Bea did and true “fermentation.”  Most grocery store brands of pickles use vinegar as a preservative for pickling.  This process discourages growth of any probiotics which could actually promote gut health. No worries, however, there are still valuable health benefits from regular store-bought pickled pickles.  

For pickles to be beneficial for gut health, however, we want to be sure we’re shopping for PROBIOTIC or FERMENTED pickles. Read on.  If it has “vinegar” listed as a primary ingredient, they’re pickled and not fermented. There’s a link at the bottom of this article that explains the difference beautifully.

Regular pickles still have excellent health benefits!  Here are several:

1.  Eating dill pickles provides the body with fiber which is essential for regular bowel movements. 

2.  Eating dill pickles helps fight cellular damage thanks to the antioxidants they contain.

3. Eating dill pickles helps reduce muscle cramps, including menstrual cramps. Research shows that drinking pickle juice alone may reduce or even eliminate muscle spasms.

4.  Eating dill pickles helps reduce blood clotting thanks to Vitamin K and works to strengthen the bones. (Hello, my friends that battle osteoporosis like I do! We need to be eating more pickles!) Vitamin K is also important for brain functioning!

(As a side note to this:  pickle juice is an excellent 0-calorie extender or replacement for fattening salad dressings.)

There’s another link at the bottom to read more about dill pickle benefits.

So why is fermenting (not pickling) of such great value to gut health?

In general, fermentation breaks down nutrients into more easily digested forms.  When bacteria in fermented foods proliferate, their vitamin levels increase and digestability improves. 

“You aren’t what you eat. You are what you digest!”

Dr. Josh Axe says: “The process of fermentation can elevate superfoods, herbs and nutrients to a whole new level. When an ingredient is fermented, it creates new compounds that can have numerous benefits on the body. Also, fermentation is known to increase absorption and digestion.  Remember, you aren’t what you eat, you are what you digest.”  

Dr. Josh Axe’s article (with another link below) is really interesting and teaches you how to easily ferment your own vegetables using a salt, a starter culture, sugar or whey to get the process started. 

My husband keeps us easily supplied with lentil sprouts for our morning smoothies, so perhaps this will be an easy step forward, to keep some fermented veggies on hand!  We’ll keep you posted.

Here are the easiest fermented foods to just buy at the grocery store and experiment with. There are lots of “fermented veggie recipes” with a quick Google search and I’ve included one below with good old sauerkraut.

  • Kefir, a tangy, tart yogurt like drink
  • Kimchi, fermented cabbage, like sauerkraut but with Korean flavors
  • Miso, a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by soybeans for a salty flavor
  • Natto, a beloved Japanese dish of fermented soybeans, a plant-based protein
  • Sauerkraut, fermented cabbage
  • Tempeh, made from soybeans and easily used as a vegan substitute for meat
  • Yogurt

I’ll be honest, fermented foods are not in my personal diet at all right now. But they should be and we’ll be buying some sauerkraut today to start enjoying. When I ate hot dogs (many years ago before I knew how terrible they are for us)  the mustard, the relish and the saurrkraut were the best part for me.  It’s time to enjoy a dogless hot dog again!

And that’s about as far as we have gone into fermented foods, but we’re always up for our family motto of many years: “Try something new!”

How can you talk about sauerkraut and not have some new recipes?  I tell you, there’s some yummy sounding stuff out there when you google for “fermented food recipes!” To get us started with something that’s pretty easy to make and sure to please, here’s a recipe for Potato Sauerkraut Pancakes!  What a delicious Autumn supper or brunch it would be, with a green side salad, baked squash and/or fresh fruit.

Sauerkraut Potato Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 2 packed cups potatoes (shredded or grated. Russets or Yukon gold or red potatoes are all fine.)
  • 1 1/2 packed cups sauerkraut.  (Make sure you drain out any liquid)
  • 2 tbsp rosemary (Chopped. You can use another herb of your choice. Thyme would be great here, or sage)
  • 2 tbsp chives (chopped, optional)
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour (sub an equal amount of chickpea flour for a gluten-free version)
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (chickpea brine. You can swap this with ½ teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or spray for frying.

Instructions

  • Place the grated potatoes, sauerkraut and herbs in a bowl. Add the all-purpose flour, salt, pepper and stir in the aquafaba. Mix well and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
  • Mix the batter once again thoroughly before beginning to make the latkes, to ensure that the liquid hasn’t all pooled at the bottom.
  • Heat a large cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan
  • Drop the batter into the skillet with a heaping tablespoon and immediately flatten into a pancake using the back of the spoon or a ladle. Make sure the pancakes aren’t too close (I cook four at a time in my 16-inch cast iron skillet)
  • When the edges are browned, check if the bottom of the pancake looks golden-brown. Turn the pancakes over and continue to brown on the other side.
  • Serve hot. You can serve with vegan sour cream or applesauce, but we to tear into these without any accompaniments.

Notes

  • Make sure you add the starch from the liquid you squeeze out of the potatoes back into the pancakes–you will be surprised at how much starch collects, especially if using russet potatoes, and it is invaluable in helping bind the pancakes together. To do this, collect the liquid from the potatoes in a bowl, let it stand five minutes, then gently pour out the watery portion and use the starch that has collected at the bottom of the bowl.
  • You can make these pancakes nearly oil-free by using a cooking spray. Oil will give you a crisper texture, but the pancakes made with cooking spray will still be quite delicious.

Once again, I am so happy to have and share this nifty trick to treat our tastebuds to something new and healthy. As a bonus: It’s a quick detour from all the Halloween candy and sweets to set the stage for a healthier November and December.  Woot!  Happy Halloween!

LINKS and RESOURCES:

“Are Pickles Good For Health” by Brad Dennis, Ph.D.
CLICK HERE  Dr. Dennis recommends a brand called “Bubbies” at Amazon

“Dill Pickle Benefits” by Dr. David Wolfe:
Click HERE

“The Outstanding Benefits of Fermentation for Gut and Immune Health” by
Dr. Josh Axe
CLICK HERE


Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are happy empty-nesters and grandparents in Sandy, Utah where they center their online business for Meridian’s amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE