Fermented foods are all the rage again and rightly so! Different cultures around the world have been participating in this artisanal craft for thousands of years – it is a way of eating that our systems are very familiar with and serves them beautifully. Thank goodness we are harking back to sauerkraut, raw dairy, kombucha and pickle eating after becoming tired, sick and lost amongst bleach, chlorinated water, pasteurisation and obsessive cleaning.
Before we had fridges and gross DPB tin cans we had to preserve our food through lacto-fermentation. This process is basically taking some veg, chopping it up, putting it in some kind of storage container, pouring water and salt over it, then leaving it weeks or months (you can actually do this with any veg, meat, fish or fruit). During this storage time the starches and sugars from the food (the bits that can cause the bloat) are eaten up by loads of different bacteria which then produce enzymes that preserve the food! Coolest of all is how this process enriches the food and water with various strains of probiotics, beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids…all brilliant for our digestion and us as a whole.
To really appreciate why it’s so good to eat fermented foods rich in bacteria, consider this:
If we unravelled our digestive system it could cover the space of a tennis court. Spread all over the tissues would be the trillions of bacteria, virus, fungi and micro creatures: all of them ready to support and protect us from all the variety of things that we come into contact with. They help us utilise the good stuff from what we eat and drink, they clean out or detox our system, control parasites, produce antibiotics, grab onto and throw out the toxic biproducts we breathe in….the list goes on and on. They are our delightful little housekeepers! We are in fact 90% bacteria remember.
Awesome things that go on when eating and drinking fermented foods:
Lactofermented food normalises the acidity of the stomach and promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestines – this flora is fab at gobbling up starches and sugars that slow down our metabolism & make us crave sugar. Helping peristaltic movements of the intestine this stuff is also great for constipation.
With more than 95% of the ‘good feeling’ neurotransmitter serotonin being found in the gut (only 5% in the brain) it’s no wonder a healthy gut makes a happier person. When given a healthy environment to thrive, serotonin increases its ability to help calm the digestive tract and strengthen the communication between the gut and the brain. Good communication = decreased levels of anxiety and depression.
Get more from your food
The vitamin levels of the original prepared ingredients are increased after fermentation. Their digestability is also increased which saves us wasting energy and nutrients in breaking down the food matter – rich in enzymatic juices or organic acids means we can get to the goods easy as!
The production of lactic acid produces anticarcinogenic substances that help inhibit and deactivate toxic material we come into contact with like car fumes and chemical laden beauty products. Perhaps this is why lowered rates of athsma, skin problems and autoimmune disorders have been linked to the probiotic nature of fermented foods.
Fermented foods help support the immune system by not only being high in vitamin c but by also producing antibiotic substances that help fight off viruses and infections that may come into the system.
Pancreas pumper & liver lover
Lactic acid activates the secretions of the pancreas which is great news for us all but particularly diabetics. And the liver, which can get laden with fat, welcomes the production of the fat metaboliser, choline.
It seems Hipocrates really was right when hundreds of years ago he stated that “all diseases begin in the gut” as it is well proven that around 85% of our immune system is held in our gut. Sounds like it’s times to reintroduce this ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and move away from a diet in which everything has been pasturised and processed! Yes!
FERMENTED FOODS & DRINKS: sauerkraut/vegetables, salsa, ketchup, raw dairy, pickles, water/milk/coconut kefir, kombucha….
HOW? Add sauerkraut/veges to salads or as a side with any meal. Raw dairy can be consumed however you fancy! yoghurt with fruit or as a dip, cheese to nibble or melted on top of veges, milkshakes…Kefir beverages and kombucha can be sipped first thing in the morning or before meals.
WHERE TO BUY? from the links above or in health food stores and farmers markets that stock good quality organic produce.
HOW MUCH? introduce fermented foods slowly and gradually, starting with a few sips of juice from plain fermented vegetables and notice your reaction. Do the same if you are a first timer to raw dairy products – start with butter and cheese then move on to yoghurt and milk. Being full of active enzymes and active nutrients you can experience “detox” reactions as healing and restructuring of the bodies tissues take place….which is all good but can be uncomfy if you go too hard and fast! Some people of course won’t have any reactions, in which case, guage how much feels good and is enjoyable to eat.