The process of lacto-fermentation is common in traditional diets in all indigenous cultures throughout the world. Each culture has its own cultured foods that are passed down from generation to generation. These foods are unique to the people that make them. We live in a world that is full of bacteria and fungi and we live in a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria and could NOT exist without them. We are slowly beginning to realize this. Sandor Katz (The Art of Fermentation) says that it is a “biological imperative.” We evolved with bacteria and they are essential to life.
Originally fermentation provided a unique way to preserve foods for extended periods of time. During fermentation, sugars in the foods are converted into lactic acid by lactobacilli bacteria. These bacteria are all around us and when used in this way not only preserve the food but increase nutrient levels, make nutrients more available and are easier to digest, because in a sense they pre-digest the food. Even when these foods have been heated they are more easily assimilated by the body. These bacteria also make it impossible for dangerous bacteria to exist because they change the ph of the food. Pathogenic bacteria like to live in a ph environment of anywhere between 4 and 10 depending on the bacteria (for example botulism likes a ph of 4.8 or higher). Fermented vegetables are much more acidic - usually below 4. This makes fermented foods very safe to eat.
When a food is fermented many beneficial bacteria are produced. These helpful bacteria, or probiotics, play a huge part in keeping us healthy. They make many B vitamins and Vitamin K in the intestinal tract, detoxify harmful chemicals, prevent inflammation of the intestinal wall, protect us from pathogenic microbes, breakdown fiber, maintain the appropriate ph of the part of the body that they live in and prevent toxins, hormones and cholesterol from being reabsorbed into the blood stream. They also play a role in filtering what is absorbed through the intestinal wall.
There are hundreds of species of microorganisms living in our body, and this equals about 3 lbs of weight or about 30% of the contents in the colon! Probiotics are the key to a balanced and healthy immune system. Some things that can cause problems within this delicate balance are overuse of antibiotics (antibiotics kill all bacteria, not just the bad ones), alcohol, large amounts of sugar, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), radiation, chlorine, fluoride, bacterial dysentery, stress, high meat & high fat diets, antacids, and other anti-bacterials (even natural ones like oregano oil). Eating fermented foods on a regular basis will help to bring your intestinal flora back into balance.
Some examples of foods high in beneficial microorganisms are naturally fermented yogurt, buttermilk, most cheeses, apple cider vinegar, kefir, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi! There are many more as well. These food items, if purchased in the grocery store, have usually been made non traditionally with artificial flavours and non cultured vinegar (as in pickles and sauerkraut). They have also been subject to pasteurization which kills any of the beneficial bacteria that may have been there. The exception would be miso or yogurt. Read labels to find out if the foods contain these symbiotic micro~organisms or check with your local whole foods store. Some stores carry naturally fermented apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut and/or pickles in the refrigerated section.
I recommend that you try your hand at making your own fermented foods. It’s highly rewarding and really very simple!
Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free
What You Need:
-1.5lbs of nappa cabbage
-1 bunch of green onions
-3tbsp of chopped ginger
-3 cloves of garlic
-1/8 cup of chilli flakes
-1/8 cup of real sea salt
-large sterilized glass jar
1.Chop your cabbage and green onions into bite sized pieces.
2.Using a food processor, grate the carrot and apple. Add these to the cabbage bowl.
3. Place the ginger, garlic and chilli flakes in the food processor (use the small attachment bowl for this) and blend until everything is chopped and it is starting to become a bit of a paste.
4. Add the chilli mixture along with the salt to the vegetable bowl.
5. Using your hands, work the vegetables until they are soft and starting to release their juices (this takes 5-10minutes).
6. Leave on the counter for a few hours, periodically squeeze the vegetables.
7. Using a wooden spoon place the kimchi in a sterilized glass jar, pressing it in tight to prevent air bubbles. Leave a few inches at the top of the jar for the gas to escape. Put your lid on fingertip tight and leave on the counter for 2-4 days to ferment. Open the jar periodically to let some of the gas out or you will have kimchi juice all over your counter.
8. Taste the kimchi after a few days to see if it is to your liking. The longer you leave it the more it will ferment. Place kimchi in fridge. Will keep for several months.
Kimchi tastes great eaten straight out of the jar (make sure you wash spoon in between bites), on top of rice, mixed into scrambled eggs, on toast with avocado, in buddha bowls and many other delicious ways. For the best gut health, eat a least a tablespoon of fermented foods a day!
Love and light xo,