Dr. Lin joins us today to discuss the importance of fermented foods in the diet.
Fermented Foods: The Sixth Food Group?
by Dr. Steven Lin
It seems we go to such lengths to make sure our food is rid of bacteria these days that the idea that we’d encourage bugs into our food seems ludicrous. Fermented foods for the most part are a lost art that provide us with bacterial support to ensure our gut and mouth microbes live happily within out digestive system.
The Human Diet and Bacterial Fermentation
Let’s take a quick trip around our ancestral societies. Across the world people were known to eat a high amount of fermented foods.
Europeans consumed lacto-fermented dairy, sauerkraut, grape leaves, herbs, and root vegetables. The Alaskan Inuit ferment fish and sea mammals. Indians consume lassi as a pre-dinner yoghurt drink. In Bulgaria incredible health was send through the consumption of raw fermented milk and kefir. Across various Asian countries it was pickled vegetables of all type. Chinese workers were known to eat acid-fermented vegetables while building the Great Wall of China. Centuries ago, the Koreans developed kimchi by acid-fermenting cabbage and other vegetables. Today African cultures still routinely use lactic acid-fermentation as a way of preserving crops like corn.
Ok could you pick up the pattern there? Humans have nearly universally eaten fermented food. Why? Bacterially cultured foods promote the health of our microbiome. Our new knowledge into the microbial role in gut health shows us why fermented food and bacteria are in fact the sixth food group.
Fermented Food and Human Health
s no coincidence that fermented foods were consumed across the globe in all civilizations. They are chock full of probiotic bacteria as well as prebiotic fibres that we know feed the entire microbial colonies. The key lies within the chemistry of Lactobacillus bacteria which have the ability to convert sugars into lactic acid.
These bacteria readily use lactose or other sugars and converting them to lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural preservative due to it inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. It also increases or preserves the enzymes and vitamins improving digestibility.
When fresh vegetables weren’t as readily available throughout the year, they were often preserved through fermentation.
Due to improved transportation and storage, vegetables are available all year around; whilst refrigeration and canning have become the methods of choice. Whilst convenient for retaining vitamin content, they lack many of the crucial elements that fermented foods provide to feed our mouth and gut microbiome. Dairy is boiled and homogenised and plants sprayed with fertilisers we’ve lost the connection to the intricate bacterial processes of food.
Feed Your Mouth and Gut Bacteria with Fermented Vegetables
Today, unless you can get your hands on good quality, grass fed, raw dairy very, the best way to include bacterial rich foods into your diet is by eating a small serving of fermented vegetables with every meal you can.
If you’re purchasing fermented vegetables it’s important to note that cheap jars will usually be devoid of any live bacteria. Good quality fermented vegetables should be packaged in glass not plastic, submerged in juices and refrigerated. They should be cultured for a minimum of 10 days and cured in the fridge for 6-8 days.
How To Make Homemade Fermented Vegetables
Use organic vegetables like carrots, peppers, kale, seaweed, collards, and broccoli are good choices.
Juicing stalks of celery to create the brine. The sodium in celery helps to encourage the growth of bacteria.
Put the vegetables and celery brine in an airtight jar, make sure to fill to the brim. Optionally you can add some herbs of your choice for taste. Then cover the mixture with a cabbage leaf.
Seal the jar and keep in a warm, slightly moist place for 2 to 4 days. A portable esky filled with warm water to store the jars. Alternatively warm wet towels can be used to cover them and set them in a casserole dish filled with warm water. Maintain a temperature range 20 to 25 degrees celcius
After several days, move the jars to the refrigerator to be stored until consumption.
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