Thursday, June 18, 2015

An Interest in Fermented Foods and Health

The views expressed here in this blog are my own. I have copied some views from elsewhere that express my ideas and beliefs, but they are my own views, nonetheless. I am no medical authority, but just a normal person interested in going back to healthier ways of eating and living.

My interests have diversified lately. I mentioned in my last post that I had bought the book "The Art of Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz. I took a couple of days of reading at the beginning of the book, and then flipping around and just checking out what all types of things can be fermented. Turns out, almost anything can be fermented. This quote, taken from the Weston A. Price Foundation website, and copied there from Nourishing Traditions: the Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon with Mary Enig, PhD, copyright 1999, explains:

"The fermentation process is accomplished by lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic acid bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Man needs only to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as he has learned to put certain yeasts to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine."
After taking time to read a lot of the new book, I am convinced that here is one very good example of why the American diet in particular is so poor; why there is such rampant obesity; why there is so much succumbing to auto-immune disorders, so many allergies, so much wrong in our gut. While some of these views I am expressing are also expressed in one book, website or other, they are also my own feelings on the subject. Thoroughly hopping onto my own little bandwagon here, I think that in a society where healthy fruits and vegetables are so very expensive, yet over processed foods, filled with every health-threatening additive (yet tasting so good!) are very inexpensive, this explains a large portion of our dietary and health problems. If one cannot afford to buy the fruits and vegetables, then settling for the processed foods that are cheap, high in empty carbs and sugars regardless of the threat to overall health, is the only alternative. And rampant health issues abound. 

Having dealt with yeast/candida issues pretty much all my adult life, I am very conversant with the effects of too much bad yeast in the gut. How does one get an overgrowth of candida in the gut? Well:

  1. Eating a diet in highly refined carbohydrates and sugar
  2. Consuming too much alcohol
  3. Oral contraceptives
  4. Antibiotics
  5. Chloride and fluoride in your water
Sound familiar? These are only some of the things, but since the advent of antibiotics, the upswing in candida has soared. Coincidence? Probably not. So, enough of my little rant. The thing is, reading The Art of Fermentation is opening my eyes to how the preserving of food was once done, before refrigeration and the advent of processed canning of foods. Our ancestors, people all over the world, have been preserving foods through fermentation since farthest antiquity. In most cases, all that is needed is salt and water. In some cases a little help must be provided, as in the case of things like yogurt and kefir (among other things), where a culture of some kind is required.

Sauerkraut ferment: Day 1, top; Day 5, below
One of the easiest things to ferment is cabbage, making it into sauerkraut. All that is needed is a glass or ceramic container, shredded cabbage and salt. In most cases not even water is required, as the cabbage is squeezed or pounded and with salt, creates its own liquid. Other things may be added to the cabbage for flavor variation, but in its simplest form, that is all that is required. It will need to ferment for a period of time; how long a time will depend on the amount of salt used (more will slow fermentation) and the ambient temperature. Lower temperatures, such as in basements, or indoors during winter time, will slow fermentation to the degree that it can take more than 6 months. Higher ambient temperatures and it can ferment far more quickly, as quickly as 2 weeks. The longer and slower the fermentation, the better the flavor, but that should not stop anyone from giving this a try. It has been slightly over 70 degrees in my kitchen since beginning my sauerkraut ferment 8 days ago. I tasted the sauerkraut last evening, even though it is not nearly fully soured, but I can truly say I have never tasted sauerkraut that tasted so good. I will post the tasty "recipe" I put together soon.

You may say that you like sauerkraut and eat it all the time. Yes, but. . . is it from a can? Has it been heat processed? Unless the sauerkraut has been raw-fermented, and without being heat treated for stability, killing off all the good, beneficial bacteria, then you are missing out, both on flavor and nutritional and health benefits. Some of the benefits of raw, fermented sauerkraut:
  • High levels of glucosinolates, shown to produce anti cancer activity. Not a cancer cure, but certainly worthwhile to have in the diet.
  • Natural probiotic bacteria. Naturally fermented sauerkraut contains no vinegar; lacto-fermentation gives it the characteristic sour flavor.  Its raw state means live, active cultures.
  • Healthy bowel flora: fermented sauerkraut helps cleanse the bowel, adding in helpful lacto bacteria; aiding in whole body health
  • High sulfur content in the cabbage is invaluable in skin cleansing, from the inside out. Think acne!
  • Fermented sauerkraut juice is a strong stimulant for the body to produce acid, helpful in Acid Reflux, where contrary to what it sounds like, means there is insufficient acid to digest foods.
  • Sheer diversity of probiotics in fermented foods offer a fighting chance against the bad yeasts in the gut.
  • Fermented foods are potent detoxifiers, helping out in such things as obesity, mood, diabetes, heart health, acne and many other things.
Just as a quick experiment, I made some "Dilly Beans". These raw green beans are fermented only a few short days in a brine with dill weed and seed before they are ready to eat. I ate one, single green bean from the jar after only 3 days. Let me say here, that introducing a goodly dose of healthy and active probiotics into the gut has some very interesting and explosive repercussions! Eat only a small amount of any fermented food at first, to allow the system to become accustomed to getting healthy!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.