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You won’t find hotter topics out there than fermented food and probiotics these days.

Google fermented foods and you will likely get flashy headlines like, “healthy gut bacteria linked to weight loss”, “gut flora as a forgotten organ” or,
“While bad bacteria be chillin’ – good bacteria be thrillin” … that was mine.

So what is fermentation, what are probiotics and why are they important?

Basically, fermentation is a process where a carbohydrate (starch or sugar) is converted into alcohol or lactic acid. Just think good bacteria!

Probiotics are a combination of live good bacteria and yeast that make our digestive system work more efficiently.

Here is why some claim they are important and how the two are linked:

When I started on my journey to a healthier lifestyle, I read several journals and articles about probiotics.
When probiotic food is digested in the stomach and passed into the intestines, it is their good bacteria that aides in the absorption of the vitamins and minerals that are present and ready to be put to use. When this function is compromised it can lead to such things as cravings and a depletion in energy.

Probiotics can be obtained in pill form.
As many of you know, I am not a huge fan of popping a pill for what’s deliverable through plants. Besides, who knows what’s really in those pills?
The good news is probiotics can be derived from fermented foods.

Some of the fermented foods I consume are miso, tempeh and pickled vegetables. To date, I am unsure whether I am receiving the proper amount of good bacteria in my diet with these foods.
At times, I wonder if this “good bacteria” theory is more hype than anything else.

Besides being linked to the benefits of digestion and absorption of nutrients, good bacteria have been associated with midigating the symptoms of asthma, allergies, bloating and gas, constipation, diarrhea, depression, anxiety and weight loss. It helps regulate metabolism.  It helps in the prevention of obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer. I’m sure the list goes on and because of that, I am cautious. Is there anything it doesn’t help?

A lot of these symptoms and conditions are thought to be alleviated through a whole foods, plant-based diet as well. Fermented or not.
Still, I’m not going to knock it and realize that I have more reading to do on this subject.
For now, I do the best I can to supplement my diet with fermented foods but don’t sweat it when I don’t eat them.

On to the bold burger recipe:

I received a similar recipe, to the one posted below, from a friend which sat in a folder for years. I didn’t know much about miso (that’s the fermented item) or those types of foods back then. I think I would have had to have given up my first child, all my belongings and fork over my social security number in order to get my hands on the miso. It wasn’t as readily available as it is today.

I did a simple on-line search for the recipe, before I posted this, to see if it existed and sure enough many versions of it popped up.
I made a few changes to make it more vegan friendly. If it doesn’t appeal to you, there may be others out there that could get your digestive juices going!

What makes this recipe daring isn’t the amount of miso or cilantro (yum!) used, but the Chinese five-spice powder. It has an intense anise flavor.
Add a bit less if you are not a fan of anise or fennel.
Normally, I would have made my own spice. However, I don’t use this often and so it was more advantageous to purchase a small bottle.


Black-Eyed peas Miso Veggie Burger

1 (16 oz) bag dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
6 tbsp miso
juice of 1/2 lemon and its zest
4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
2/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 onion, caramelized
1/2 red pepper, sliced
mushrooms, amount to your liking

Cook soaked black-eyed peas for about an hour or until tender on medium low heat.
Once cooked, drain and mash or grind quickly with a blender.
Add remaining ingredients but the onions, red peppers and mushrooms.  Form into patties and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Add onions, peppers and mushrooms to a hot skillet.
Oil for the skillet is optional. There is plenty of moisture from the mushrooms and onions that make oil unnecessary.
Lower heat and cook onions, peppers and mushrooms until you are satisfied with the coloring. Sometimes I cook them until they are just charred and other times until they are slightly browned.
Add patties.
Cook 3-5 minutes each side.

Serves 6-8 patties

List of popular fermented foods:
kombucha- a drink
kefir – a drink
pickled fruit
pickled vegetables
sourdough bread
* beware, some commercially available fermented products are pasteurized which mean they no longer contain the live good bacteria. Check the label.

Do you consume fermented foods on a regular basis? Please leave a comment…