Now just hear us out on this …
Inside your gut is a whole battalion of bacteria busily trying to keep you in optimum health.
While that knowledge may make you feel a little squirmish, the fact of the matter is that you need these troops to help nourish you and fight disease. The challenge is in optimising the ratio of good to bad bacteria, to form the foundation for physical, mental, and emotional well-being – and that’s where fermented foods can come to the rescue.
Recognised as “probiotic powerhouses”, fermented foods can assist with a multitude of gut health issues, such as IBS, and can also assist with digestion, building a robust immune system, increasing alkalinity and neutralising pH levels in our bodies, providing a healthy balance of friendly flora in the gut, strength and stamina, controlling cravings for unhealthy foods, eliminating toxins and undigested wastes in the body, weight loss, and better skin.
Because your gut is the largest part of your immune system, what you feed it matters. Sugars and refined carbohydrates cause damage, while fermented food heals, aiding your immune system and helping ward off disease. Fermented foods are highly potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a range of toxins and heavy metals and are said to be able to help slow or reverse some diseases. Natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to break the food down to a more digestible form and be much more highly efficient in absorbing the nutrients.
What are they exactly?
Fermented foods have been through a process whereby natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food, creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, B group vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Far from faddish, fermented foods have been enjoyed for years by different cultures around the world – from Germany to Korea to Ancient Rome – however modern day food processing and preparation has seen a vast decline in their consumption.
Let’s have a look at some of the tasty options available – some of which you’ll be familiar with and maybe already incorporating in your diet, and others which might go on your experimentation list. It’s best to vary the fermented foods and cultures you eat, to get a wide variety of beneficial bacteria.
- Pickled vegetables – anything from carrots to zucchini, celery, onion – as a snack, in salads or accompanying meals.
- Miso (from Japan) – a rich rich salty paste made from grains, beans and koji spores that is the base of a soup. Ensure you get one that has not been pasteurised for the most health benefits
- Seed cheese is a tangy “cheese” usually made from sunflower seed, pumpkin seed or other seed/nut combinations.
- Rejuvelac – as the name implies, this is a rejuvenating drink – a slightly lemony sour, refreshing super sprout drink made from sprouted grain, which provides a highly concentrated source of potent energy and helps improve digestion.
- Sauerkraut (from the Roman era) – made from shredded cabbage fermented in its own juice with other vegetables and spices added for extra flavor and variety. Over time, the veggies become sweeter, soft, and zesty. Great not just for your gut, but for brain activity as well, helping ward off anxiety and depression) Over time, between 4-10 days (or much longer depending on how you like them), the veggies become sweeter, soft, slightly pickled, zesty and incredibly tasty.
- Kefir (from Russia)- a tart, yogurt-like fermented drink that contains friendly bacteria and yeasts that work together to provide natural probiotic-rich properties. It can be made with raw dairy milk or a blend of coconut meat/juice and sometimes nut milk.
- Coconut Yogurt
- Water Kefir – a mild sweet-sour fermented fizzy drink
- Tempeh (from Indonesia) – a fermented “bean cake” offering a complete protein with all of the amino acids)
- Kombucha (dating back to the Chinese Qin Dynasty)- a fizzy, tangy sweet fermented black tea, often called the immortal health elixir, with loads of nutritional benefits , such as active enzymes, amino acids, probiotics and polyphenols that build a strong gut.
- Kimchi (from Korea) – a spicy dish typically made from fermented cabbage which can help enhance digestion and nutrient assimilation, and improve the look of your skin.