Children and fermented foods: how to introduce them to the good bugs

food and mental health
Probiotics and prebiotics: the close relationship
August 23, 2020
Can sauerkraut help you lose weight?
September 24, 2020
Show all

Children and fermented foods: how to introduce them to the good bugs

Pot of sauerkraut

The current pandemic has highlighted the need to maintain the immune system of all members of the family. This is particularly so for children and fermented foods. The stronger their developing immune systems, the better they can handle all invading bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19.

One of the immune system’s strengths is its adaptability. According to a new study published in Science magazine, the immune system may have been trained to recognise the now-infamous COVID-19 “spike” protein through its previous experience with common cold viruses.

LJI Research Assistant Professor Daniela Weiskopf, Ph.D said in a statement that: “We have now proven that, in some people, pre-existing T cell memory against common cold coronaviruses can cross-recognize SARS-CoV-2, down to the exact molecular structures.” Prof Weiskopf co-led the new study with LJI Professor Alessandro Sette, Dr. Biol. Sci. 

She went on to say that this could be the reason why some people who have contracted COVID-19 show milder symptoms that others who get very sick. 

While ongoing research is still needed, a preliminary study released in June has shown evidence that the prevalence of COVID-19 deaths is lower in countries shown to have higher rates of consumption of fermented foods. 

“Although this study is only indicative of the role of diet in COVID-19, it is, however, another piece of the hypothesis proposing that traditional fermented foods may be involved in the prevention of severe COVID-19 at a country level,” the team wrote in the study. 

It is to be stressed that this is a preliminary study and has yet to be peer-reviewed.

But it does point to the importance of foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt and miso in maintaining the immune system. Keeping young folk healthy and fit is all about a healthy lifestyle, great diet and care and attention. Children and fermented foods are an important combination to consider.  

Your growing child will benefit from eating the right balanced diet, including fermented foods, to maintain a healthy immune system to ward off bad bugs. However, they may, at first, baulk at the distinctive sour taste.

Introducing kids to fermented foods

Fermented foods usually have a sour taste. Think sauerkraut, which is German for “sour cabbage”. The cause of the sourness is the creation of lactic acid produced during the fermentation process. You can get an idea of the way we ferment our sauerkraut on our video here.

The success of the fermentation depends on creating the right anaerobic (no oxygen) environment for the good bacteria, the lactobacillus amongst others. This converts the sugars into lactic acid with the trademark sour taste.  

Even in Western cultures, children used to eat fermented foods as part of their diet. However, this has shifted in recent years as more and more processed, sugary foods have entered children’s diets. A sour taste is becoming less common and children may well be not familiar with the taste, at least in countries such as Australia and the US.

But how to introduce children to the sour taste of fermented foods such as sauerkraut?

Start slowly

Make sure you introduce the new tastes slowly and gently into their diet. No need to rush the kids into eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut or yoghurt. The new taste may be overwhelming to their young palates, particularly if they haven’t tried these unfamiliar-tasting foods before. Increase the amount gradually as they become more used to the flavour. If they are young babes, try dipping your finger in a jar of sauerkraut to introduce them to the taste at an early age and build on these beginnings.

Add to existing food

No need to make the kids eat sauerkraut from their plate. What about adding to their existing food? If your child enjoys salad, try adding a small amount of sauerkraut to the dish. Just a spoonful will be enough to start. Hopefully, they won’t notice a thing!

Make sure it’s the right fermented food

Introducing your child to eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut will pave the way for their excellent gut health. With all its related health benefits. But make sure it’s teeming with the beneficial bacteria! Many industrial producers of items such as sauerkraut and kimchi pasteurise their products, killing all the good bugs. 

At Gutsy our sauerkraut and kimchi are not only unpasteurised but also organic and locally grown. Only the very best quality fermented vegetables go into making our food.

Introducing fermented foods such as sauerkraut to children may seem adventurous and interesting. But by introducing them to the sour flavour gradually, you stand a high degree of success.

Keeping children’s immune system supported during the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount for their good health. However, feeding them fermented foods is not intended as complete protection against the virus. Please observe the advice of medical experts, wear face masks where appropriate and observe safe distancing. 

Ensure your children understand the importance of these and always consult your health professional on any dietary changes for any members of your family.