Those Who Came Before Us Were Wise
Our ancestors fermented foods all the time and you would be hard-pressed to find a culture that didn't ferment and many still do.
They fermented foods mostly to preserve them but maybe they also knew (intuitively) that these foods were nourishing on a whole different level, who knows?
The art of fermentation is not lost that's for sure and it is well and truly making a come back as we begin to return to our ancestral roots (and rightly so).
There are many foods that can be fermented and it's much easier than you might think? You can ferment just about anything form the comfort of your own kitchen and there is really nothing more rewarding than enjoying your own ferments, it's quite a fun process too!
A great thing to start on a weekend where you have a bit more time, I highly recommend giving it a go if you haven't yet.
I often talk about fermentation over on our Instagram page so be sure to head over and like us and follow our stories, reels and posts.
In fact, I just recently added a reel about how to make whey (you will need this if you're lacto-fermenting things like fruits, nuts, fish etc.)
Fermentation has only been in my life for a short time but so far I am really loving it! It came about through my discovery of Nourishing Traditions (book), the Weston A Price Foundation and starting the GAPS diet in February of 2022.
So far, I've fermented cabbage, beets, carrot, fruit, coconut water, milk, and wild Alaskan salmon (OMG) and I am in love with it. I know it's good for my body and wellbeing in the long run.
The nutrition I'm receiving is much better also which I will get into soon...
Why Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are foods that are broken down by beneficial microbes so a few things occur during this process that benefit the person who consumes them, such as:
- The foods are pre-digested by the friendly microbes (making them much easier on your digestion)
- Fermentation adds important probiotics to your gut (good bacteria)
- The nutrients become more bioavailable*
- Fermented foods can be incredibly healing for many people
*Fermented cabbage for example, contains 10 x the amount of vitamin C compared to raw cabbage in a coleslaw!
There are 2 Ways to Ferment
- Yeast Fermentation: the yeast eat the sugars in the food and this makes alcohol (also known as alcoholic fermentation). A perfect example of this type of fermentation is wine! We are not saying that wine or other alcohol is good for you, we are just helping you to understand the different types of fermentation.
- Bacterial Fermentation: in this case, it's bacteria that eat the sugars and they make lactic acid - also known as lacto-fermentation.
Both alcohol and lactic acid are preservatives so they will naturally preserve the food but unlike alcohol, lactic acid won't get you drunk! 🤪
An Example of Bacterial Fermentation
If you chop up a cabbage and pound it with a wooden sauerkraut pounder (also known as a 'tamper') you will get a lot of juice and even more once you add in the salt!
This juice naturally is very high in lactic acid so this helps in the fermentation process and the salt is a vital part also as it helps to prevent and preserve.
Prevent bad fermentation form occurring when moulds and other harmful things start to grow.
What Foods are Fermented?
If you take a trip around the globe, you will find that every culture has a history of fermentation. The Eskimos in the North Pole would ferment their fish and even ferment whole seals, in the South Pacific they would ferment coconut and tubers and fish also.
In Europe you'll find fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) has been popular and is now in the West. They also would ferment beetroot to make a fermented tonic - called Beet Kvass and many more probiotic beverages.
In Japan, soy beans have been fermented since the beginning of time to make tempeh and also miso. We don't recommend tofu as a health food as the soy really needs to be fermented (and organic) to be healthy.
Even the aboriginal people of Australia fermented many of their foods and the tribes people of Africa.
Cheese and yoghurt are fermented foods and if they are organic they are even better for our health.
I don't believe pasteurised milk and dairy is good for health and actually contributes to much illness, allergies and disease. I only personally consume raw dairy but I won't get into that today as it's a but of a controversial topic.
How Fermenting Foods is Working with Nature
Sally Fallon Morell (author of Nourishing Traditions and many other titles and one of the founders/directors of the Weston A Price Foundation), has this to say about fermentation:
"What we are doing is working with nature here, we are preserving food in a way that increases the nutrient value"!
She also says that most modern methods of preserving actually decreases the nutrient value and deadens the food.
That is why she is a big believer and advocate for proper fermentation process and talks about the importance of using organic produce and filtered, chemical-free water as the chemicals from conventional produce and tap water will certainly destroy the beneficial microbes and even encourage the pathogenic bacteria to flourish!
Sally considers fermented foods to be "super raw" foods as they still contain all the vital enzymes (that help digestion), plus the nutrient content is better and more available and lastly, the foods have been pre-digested by the good bacteria so much better for your own digestion.
Raw Veggies and Unprepared Grains, Nuts etc are Hard on the Gut
It's no secret that raw things can upset your stomach and that they can cause digestive distress. If this is your first time hearing about this let me explain...
Most plant mater is hard to break down and actually gets broken down in our gut by our microbes (the good guys) but in this modern world, we are destroying our gut microbiome (the good guys are dying out and the bad guys are taking over) and this is due to many factors but especially the toxic herbicide - glyphosate!
Raw veggies for example, contain anti-nutrients and depending upon what the veggie is, it will contain different anti-nutrients.
For example; spinach and kale and beets contain oxalates and most humans no longer possess the specific bacteria - oxalobacter formigenes, to break down the oxalates and these then crystallise in our body leading to serious health issues like gallstones and kidney stones.
Another example would be cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli, these contain the anti-nutrient - goitrogen.
When we cook and ferment foods, we drastically reduce these harmful oxalates potentially preventing future health complications.
I highly encourage you to STOP putting raw spinach or kale in your smoothies - it will eventually make you sick! Read my blog "I Hate Kale Smoothies" here.
Save Your Digestion!
Did you know that 70% of our energy is actually spent on digestion?!? That's a LOT!
So if we can make digestion easier by eating foods that are easier on our digestive process and the organs of digestion, we can save a heck of a lot of energy and this energy can actually be used to produce cancer-fighting enzymes instead of digestive enzymes!
We Are More Bacteria than We are Human
Did you also know that we have 10 x the amount of bacteria to cells in our body, so by adding in more good probiotic foods and probiotic supplements, (the good bacteria/flora) you can help to keep the balance healthier. The ultimate healthy balance of good bacteria versus bad bacteria is 80% good VS 20% not so good.
Most of us unfortunately though, are walking around with a lot more bad than good and this is greatly affecting out health!
By adding in just a teaspoon of organic sauerkraut into your daily diet, you will be adding so much good ness in. If you don't enjoy sauerkraut, try kefir, coconut kefir, organic yoghurt (raw and homemade is the best),
Kombucha is great but not everyone can drink it, especially of you have a candida overgrowth problem as it can aggravate things. Anything yeast-based is not good if you have a yeast (candida) infection.
It's important though that when introducing probiotic foods into your diet, that you start slowly while your body adapts or you may get quite sick (this is usually just a die-off reaction from the bad bacteria dying but it's much more enjoyable if you go slow...
You can also add in the Perfect Kale or 3 Grass blend to your smoothies as these are fermented and naturally contain probiotics.
Where to Buy Sauerkraut?
While it is true that you can buy sauerkraut in the supermarket and in a tin, it is probably not the best option for your health as it is in a tin and tins often tend to leach chemicals into the food and it also may not be lacto-fermented either? It may be pickled which is a very different and not as healthy end product.
I'm not saying pickling is bad, if done right it is ok, but if you're after the gut-loving probiotic benefits, you are best to go to a health food store and buy a bottle of organic sauerkraut (there are so many amazing varieties these days) or you can easily make your own at home!
*Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is to be taken as health advice as there are instances where the use of antibiotics are necessary and even life-saving. We are simply offering information that goes against the status quo. Please do your own research and talk to your trusted healthcare provider when making decisions regarding your health.