Why are fermented foods important, and why are they a staple in many cultures known for their longevity? Here is the basic premise: Years of poor eating habits coupled with antibiotics and other gut-unfriendly habits will take their toll on our digestive flora, and eating fermented foods can restore our gut balance because they are full of probiotics and other beneficial bacteria known to thrive and multiply in our digestive tract. It works like the positive ripple effect.
Our digestive system is closely linked to our immune system. It is so very ironic that sick people are given antibiotics to kill whatever bacteria is making them ill, but they are not given probiotics to restore the balance of bacteria which has been upset by the antibiotics! Very often, these people will get sick again because healing them of one dis/ease has paradoxically made them more susceptible to many others; and they are also now prone to yeast infections since the good bacteria is what keeps yeast in check. Studies have shown that animals with poor intestinal microflora are a lot more likely to get sick; but once the flora has been restored to its optimal levels, the immune system is once again strong enough to fight off aggressions.
Also, a healthy digestive system is key to having a beautiful flat tummy. No woman or man desires a pudge-y belly, with fat drooped over the waistband, that gets in the way of feeling sexy, vibrant, and youthful. We ALL want a fit flat stomach, preferably with muscles that are clearly defined and without layers of unnecessary weight covering them up. If you’re ready to add even just a bite more of cultured / fermented vegetables to your diet on a daily basis – no matter the diet you follow – check out the Remineralize Your Body Now online course (it’s a program where you go at your own pace) for easy how-to’s, recipes, and all the education you need to heal your digestive system & gut health.
Is there a difference between fermented and non-fermented foods?
Yes, there is! For instance, if you eat soy, always make sure it is fermented. When soy milk was all the rage, it was touted as being a miracle food which would lower your chances of getting cancer because cancer rates in Japan are lower, and the Japanese eat a lot of soy. Well, Japanese people don’t eat that much soy to begin with, and the soy they do eat is generally fermented. For instance, soy sauce is fermented. Miso is fermented. Soy milk is not fermented; it is generally produced using solvents and harsh chemicals, and is in no way a healthy food! It’s also genetically-modified (GMO) – and anything that is changed from its’ original DNA state is to be avoided at all costs. Be sure your soy, if ever consumed, is GMO-FREE!
Another benefit of fermented food is their ease of digestion. Many foods such as grains contain phytic acid, a compound which binds to iron, calcium, and other minerals, and limits their absorption. Fermenting reduces the levels of phytic acid (soaking overnight and rinsing removes some) making the foods a lot easier to digest. Additionally, they’re higher bacterial content (think good bacteria) helps with digestion even more.
Fermentation in general, without necessarily getting rid of phytates, can help with digestion simply because the resulting food is high in healthy gut-friendly bacteria. Try eating regular raw cabbage, or cooked cabbage, and you might get some gastric distress. Try eating raw sauerkraut, and odds are you will feel great. As you learn to culture more foods, you will find more and more example like this. Start with just 1 tablespoon and slowly work it into your daily meal plans.
To top it all, fermentation can unlock many nutrients which were too low to make a difference before culturing took place. For example, dairy products which are cultured contain more vitamin K2, a vitamin that isn’t well known enough that is nearly non-existent in modern diets BUT is critical to good health. We need it, and we have to find a way to get it into our bodies whether we’re vegan or not.
Can we just buy cultured products from the store for their healthy bacteria?
Yes and no. Actually, for most people, the answer will be a resounding no! Health food stores are full of supposedly cultured products such as yogurt; and I’m not against eating them but most of the time, the product which was brimming with good bacteria at the time of packaging is nothing but an empty shell by the time you buy it.
If you are curious about whether or not your yogurt contains healthy bacteria, try mixing a quarter cup of yogurt for every quart of milk. Cover the mixture and leave it at room temperature overnight, or about 24 hours. Do you now have yogurt? Or is the milk still liquid and hasn’t really changed? Worse yet, is it pinkish and doesn’t look too appetizing anymore? If the mixture has not thickened, your yogurt was essentially dead. Yikes!
Curious to know more? Join me and my colleague Joanna Steven on our Remineralize Your Body program to remineralize yourself and restore your energy, hormonal balance, and natural beauty! Learn all about juicing, blending, seaweeds, cultured drinks and fermented vegetables, phytic acid breakdown and nutrient activation, and much more, along with daily coaching with our remineralization team!