Every health expert on the planet might extol the values of raw food but the process of fermentation can elevate the most humble vegetable to superfood status.
‘A week-old carrot will grow limp and grey, even when stored in the refrigerator,’ says Donna Gates, author of Body Ecology and high priestess of probiotics, ‘while a fermented carrot stays crisp, crunchy and bright orange.’
Today, our appetite for cultured food is growing as quickly as the beneficial bacteria they produce. Twitter is brimming with recipes for sauerkraut and coconut yoghurt, restaurants are responding to a demand for tangy side-dishes and even Red Bull makes a drink using a kombucha culture.
I recently wrote a feature for the The Sunday Times Style Magazine looking at just how beneficial these living foods can be and thought I would share with you some snippets from it this week.
The Forgotten Food Group
Fermented foods have been an essential part of traditional diets for centuries: Genghis Khan fed fermented vegetables to his plundering hordes, Captain Cook took sauerkraut on his epic sea voyages and Hippocrates – the founder of modern medicine – was said to use apple cider vinegar to control bacterial infection.
Science is now confirming ancient wisdom about cultured foods and the beneficial bacteria they contain. We know that up to 80 per cent of the body’s immune system is located in and around the gut and studies suggest restoring our intestinal flora could help with everything from diabetes and heart disease to colon cancer and chronic anxiety.
Personally I try to consume some kind of fermented food every day (usually a good scoop of sauerkraut) and I encourage all my clients to do the same – whether they are trying to prevent urinary tract infections or sort out digestive issues.
Here are just a few ways the forgotten food group can bolster your health:
Fermented foods not only reduce inflammation – a key cause of heart disease according to Dr. Mark Hyman – but studies suggest they can also help lower triglycerides (British Journal of Nutrition, 2006) and cholesterol (Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research, 2010).
Heidi Klum and Halle Berry have spoken of their love of sauerkraut and studies (British Journal of Nutrition, 2013) suggest it might be the secret tool to weight loss: ‘The probiotics in fermented vegetables aid weight loss by balancing your inner ecosystem,’ says Donna Gates.
Fermented foods can also help cut sugar cravings – after a few weeks you’ll be hankering for that sour tang instead.
Protection during Chemotherapy
‘If the gastrointestinal tract remains healthy and functioning, the chances of survival increase exponentially,’ says Jian-Guo Geng, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, who has been studying a new drug which stimulates cell growth in the intestines.
Your Mind and Mood
You may have heard that probiotics are great for soothing the stomach, but did you know a daily dose could also calm your mind? A recent human study found that eating probiotics daily reduced stress and anxiety while holistic physician Dr. Kelly Brogan says that disruption of our gut ecology may be a ‘major player’ in depression.
To read the original article in the Sunday Times, click here
For those who want to learn how to make cultured foods at home I highly recommend Kevin Gianni’s E-book ‘Cultured.’
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