Names like ‘kimchi’, ‘kombucha’,’sauerkraut’ and ‘kefir’ are all rather strange looking words that are popping up a lot more frequently. They may be fairly new to our vocabulary but these fermented foods and drinks date back centuries ago, originating as a preservation method in ancient China. Today’s hype, however, is due to the numerous health benefits that these fermented foods and drinks offer us.
Through fermentation, the naturally occurring bacteria on the food or live culture, feed on sugars, producing an acid. It is the acid which preserves the food/drink. Enzymes beneficial to our health, vitamins and of course the beneficial bacteria are also produced during this process. The beneficial bacteria increase the diversity of the good bacteria in our gut (also called our microbiome) resulting in numerous health benefits. These include modulating the immune system and lowering the risk of:
– Digestive disorders like IBS, ulcerative colitis and leaky gut
– Inflammation related illness
– Asthma and hayfever
– Hormonal imbalances
– Food allergies and sensitivities
– Obesity and weight gain
– Autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, IBD
– Anxiety and depression
– Bad bacteria present in out digestive tract
That’s a pretty big list of reasons why we should be eating fermented foods, but what exactly are they and where can we get them?
Well the best way to get them into your diet is to make them yourself as many of the shop bought varieties have been through a process of pasteurisation which kills off the majority of the good bacteria.
Kefir – a probiotic rich drink made from starter grains that look a little like small cauliflower heads. They are just a combination of bacteria and yeasts that react with sugars. You can make kefir from milk sources such as cow, goat, sheep or it can be made with coconut milk, almond milk or even water. It contains high levels of vitamins and minerals particularly vitamin B and K, has numerous health benefits and is especially great at healing a leaky gut.
Sauerkraut – a fermented cabbage which is high in fibre and beneficial bacteria. The fibre is the food for your good bacteria, so this is a great source of prebiotics (food for bacteria) and probiotics (good bacteria) in one. Super high in vitamin A (really important for repairing the intestinal lining), vitamin C (again great for gut healing as vitamin C is required for collagen formation which forms the basis of our connective tissue lining our gut), vitamin K and B vitamins.
Kimchi – a staple Korean spicy dish, similar to sauerkraut but with an added kick! Similar benefits to sauerkraut.
Kombucha – a fermented fizzy tea. This is made from sugar, water and tea. An organism known as a ‘SCOBY’ feeds on the sugar producing a probiotic rich drink. Most shop bought kombucha contains sugar so you are better making this yourself. The sugar that you add to the mixture is used up by the organism and so you are left with a sugar free drink when it is ready.
To learn more about making your own fermented foods, please get in touch. I put on very affordable workshops to teach you how to make your own at home along with starter kits to get you going. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.