If you’re looking for an effective, natural way to boost your health you need to start fermenting! Fermented foods are the ultimate superfood. Not only do they help support your body with cleansing, detox, healing but they flood your gut with beneficial bacteria that are the cornerstone of supporting long term health.
Every traditional culture, when you look at their traditional diet, ferment foods. Whether it’s veggies, dairy, nuts, beans or grains – not only does it help preserve food for longer but it also creates easily digested probiotic rich foods that can boost your health and support your immune health.
Fermented or ‘cultured’ vegetables are so simple to make. Just shred cabbage or a combination of different vegetables and packed them tightly into an airtight container – normally with some herbs or spices and a brine solution. They are then left to ferment at room temperature for several days or longer to enable beneficial bacteria levels to build up. The friendly bacteria naturally present in the vegetables quickly lower the pH, making a more acidic environment so the bacteria can reproduce. The vegetables become soft, delicious, and develop that familar “pickled” taste.
The reason they are so good for us is that fermented foods are chockful of a whole array of these beneficial probiotic bacteria. It’s a simple biological process by which sugars are converted into cellular energy and lactic acid which helps preserve the food while increasing probiotic bacteria levels. But it addition to preserving food, it also makes the nutrients in the food more bioavailable. For example, the amount of bioavailable vitamin C in sauerkraut is 20 times higher than in the same helping of fresh cabbage this is because in the fresh cabbage, vitamin C is bound in the cellulose structure, which can be more difficult to digest and absorb. As specific health-promoting bacteria grow, they consume sugars and produce valuable enzymes. Fermented foods are therefore pre-digested making them easy to digest.
Some fermented foods are also outstanding sources of essential nutrients such as vitamin K2, which is essential for heart health and bone health. Just half an ounce (15 grams) of the traditional soya product called natto daily can provide all the K2 you’ll need. Fermented food is also a potent producer of many B vitamins – vital for energy production and supporting adrenal health for example.
A healthy microbiome can transform our endocrine, immune, digestive, and nervous systems — and by supporting the microbiome, fermented foods help bring renewed health to your whole body. Here are some of the key benefits:
Boost Gut Health
Fermented foods are more easily digested and rich in probiotic bacteria to support digestion. This enables you to digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates more easily as well as provide support to the gut barrier lining. They are particularly beneficial to take after antibiotics to reinoculate the gut flora. The beneficial yeasts and bacteria in fermented foods can also help fight infections for example in the urinary tract, which are typically caused by an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria.
An estimated 80 percent of your immune system is actually located in your gut. Probiotics play a key role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. So a healthy gut is essential for a robust immune system and can be effective for reducing your risk of allergies and inflammatory conditions. Some fermented foods like kefir also provide a wealth of amino acids which are equally important for immune function
Cleanse & Detox Support
Fermented foods are fabulous for cleansing the body. Known for their chelating properties beneficial bacteria in these foods are potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out toxins and heavy metals.
Studies have shown that probiotics may help fight obesity. For example a 2011 study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that fermented kimchee had a significant impact on the weight and body fat of the overweight and obese patients who were being studied. Restoring your gut flora is therefore a key part of any weight loss programme. Taking a couple of spoonfuls of sauerkraut with each meal is an easy natural way to boost your beneficial bacteria
There are a variety of fermented foods available – here are some popular ones to try:
Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is based on shredded cabbage but may also include other vegetables such as carrot. If purchasing sauerkraut choose an organic raw brand as many commercial brands will be heat-treated and will lack any beneficial bacteria. Based on cabbage it provides plenty of vitamin C, vitamin K and fibre.
Kimchi. A popular Korean fermented food. While recipes vary it normally contains fermented cabbage, radish and other vegetables as well as spices including garlic and chilli. A good source of vitamin A, C and B vitamins. Popular served with spicy beef dishes.
Kefir. I have written about Kefir in a previous post. Kefir (which is normally made from milk), is rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species) as well as beneficial yeasts, which can support digestive function and immune health. It is made with kefir ‘grains’, which are not actually a grain but are a mother culture. Although cow’s milk is typically used, it can be made with sheep’s milk, coconut or nut milk. You can also make water kefir using water grains. Kefir can be made at home or can be purchased in health stores or online.
Kombucha. Called the ‘Immortal Health Elixir’ by the ancient Chinese – has been consumed for more than 2,000 years. It is made from sweetened tea that’s been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (known as SCOBY). It is rich in many of the enzymes your body produces for digestion and it aids cleansing and supports liver health. Kombucha contains glucosamines, which are beneficial for cartilage structure and to prevent arthritis. It is also antioxidant rich and good for immune health. You can buy kombucha online or make your own using a SCOBY starter.
Yogurt / Coconut yogurt. A popular traditional food yogurt is typically made from dairy. Homemade yogurt is healthier than shop bought and richer in probiotic bacteria. Use high quality organic and grass-fed whole milk for best benefits. Depending on how long it has been fermented for yogurt will contain less lactose than milk, which can be helpful for anyone with lactose intolerance. You can also make yogurt from coconut and nut milks to make it dairy free.
If you are interested in incorporating fermented foods into your diet note that there is a big difference between homemade fermented foods and shop bought versions. Many commercial varieties are not only packed in salt, sugar and vinegar but are pasteurized which destroys much of the beneficial bacteria. Beware of some “probiotic” yogurts, too. Many contain added sugars and syrups and typically levels of beneficial bacteria are lower than homemade versions.
If you are interested in making your own fermented foods we run fermented food and gut healing cookery days – contact us to find out more. Check out my recipes on my website www.christinebailey.co.uk or in my book Eat to Get Younger: Tackling Inflammation and Other Ageing Processes for a Longer, Healthier Life. ISBN-13: 978-1848191792 Singing Dragon.