Fermented foods have gotten a lot of attention over the past couple of years, and it’s definitely justified. Whether you’re suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder or recovering from a bout of antibiotics, fermented foods act as a probiotic to help restore your gut flora and feed the good microbes. It can also make certain compounds more bioavailable, depending on which bacterium and yeasts are used.
This recipe for a healthy, natural soda is considered healthier than regular soda because most of the sugar that is added to this recipe is consumed by the bacteria and yeast to maintain the fermentation process.
Unlike other fermented foods and beverages, a ginger bug doesn’t need a “starter”, it already contains the bacteria and yeast for fermentation, you just need to feed it sugar, particularly fructose to feed the right microbes.
What are the Health Benefits of this Natural Soda?
There are many ways to improve your gut flora, and of course there is no silver bullet, but below are a few suggestions on which juice to choose.
Obviously ginger is at the top of the list, since our ginger bug is the base for making this natural soda. Ginger has a long and proven record for supporting digestion and decreasing nausea.
Beets have a good range of vitamins and minerals and are particularly high in nitrates which stimulates blood flow by dilating blood vessels in your gut.
It is theorized that decreasing the abundance of Firmicutes in your gut and promoting other microbes such as Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus and Verrucomicrobia can improve digestion. A study showed these positive changes after regularly eating beets, while another study showed that fructose is the most important sugar for promoting these good microbes, which makes apple, pear, grape, pomegranate and watermelon juice great choices for step 2.
Aloe vera juice soothes your GI tract and maintains its health benefits when fermented. In fact, the antioxidant activity increases after fermentation. Aloe vera is low in sugar though, so it’s best combined with other fruit juice.
Green tea is high in antioxidants and specifically promotes Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus and Enterococus microbes.
Tips For Making Your Healthy Soda
One issue that many people have reported when making a ginger bug is producing alcohol. This usually happens when the fermentation process is too quick. When you grate your ginger, it speeds up the fermentation process and the microbes digest the sugar too quickly for you to replace it, potentially resulting in the formation of alcohol. You can slow down the process by dicing the ginger instead.
- Don’t use chlorinated tap water since this will suppress the yeast and bacteria that are working hard to ferment your ginger.
- Sterilize all your materials to prevent mold.
- Organic ginger doesn’t need to be peeled, but it’s advisable to peel non-organic ginger.
- Experiment with the types of juice or sweetened tea that you add. It all depends on your taste. I have used high fructose juices, but you can also use any juice or tea sweetened with honey or sugar.
- You can also blend up your own juice from any bumper crops you have harvested instead of purchasing it. If your fruit is not perfectly ripe, then simply add a tablespoon of extra sugar to make sure there is enough to feed the fermentation.
- A swing top bottle with a rubber seal will hold the gases better than a regular jar but be sure to use good quality bottles so that they can withstand the extra pressure build-up.
Healthy Soda Recipe
Ginger Bug Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons of diced ginger
- 2 tablespoons of filtered water
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 cup of apple juice
- 1 cup of pear juice
- ½ cup of grape juice
- 1 cup of beet juice
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Note: you can also use your own homemade syrup (diluted down with 4 cups of water) or blend 2 cups of fresh fruit with 2 cups of water instead of purchasing juice.
- Heat up 2 tablespoons of water and dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in a jar. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Add 2 tablespoons of ginger to the jar and cover the jar with a cloth or coffee filter and leave it at room temperature, but out of direct sunlight to ferment.
- Every day, for the next 5 days, you will need to feed it by adding 2 tablespoons of ginger, 2 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of sugar and give it a swirl. In cooler climates, this may take twice as long, but you will know that it’s ready because you will see bubbles forming and it will have a yeasty smell.
- Strain off a quarter of a cup of your ginger bug and mix it with 3.5 cups of juice. Leave it at room temperature for about 3 days, but this time you need to seal the jar so that the gases are trapped, therefore carbonating your juice.
- After the 3-day fermentation period, you should see dense bubbles forming which means it’s ready to place in the fridge to serve chilled and drink within 1 week. In colder climates, it may take 4 or 5 days to form enough bubbles, but you should taste it from the second day onwards, until you are satisfied with the sweetness and amount of fizz. This cheeky taste testing each day will also release some of the pressure building up in the jar.
- The leftover ginger bug can now be properly sealed and stored in the fridge, and if you feed it once a week, then it should last for another month or so. To make a second batch of soda, be sure to feed the ginger bug and leave it out at room temperature the day before, otherwise there is a risk of mold growing instead of fermenting the juice.
While not as healthy as other fermented drinks such as water kefir or kombucha, fermented sodas are still a healthy replacement for regular soda, especially since you can adjust the sweetness depending on which juice you use. Happy fermenting!