fermented foods by Simon Brown
Learn what fermented foods are, how to use them and the many benefits of regularly eating fermented foods. Fermented foods are an important part of many cultural diets and an important source of nutrients. They are an essential part of a macrobiotic diet.
what is the definition of fermented foods?
Fermented foods are foods that have been left in a salty liquid, known as brine, until they develop healthy bacteria, know as probiotics. The healthy bacteria is thought to improve the condition of our instances, the function of our immune system and aid in digestion. The definition of a probiotic is – A live microbial feed supplement, which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance.
The human microbiome is a mix of trillions of bacteria, viruses and funguses, concentrated on our various skins. These include outer skin, lining of our lungs and air passages, as well as our intestines. There is much ongoing research into the microbiomes. The general consensus so far is that they are important for our health. Our microbiome may help are immune system, aid digestion and help keep various skins in good health. More speculative thinking suggests that our microbiome may not only respond to our emotions but also influence our food choices and emotional responses.
To keep our microbiome healthy it is useful to eat fermented foods, to supply new bacterias, as well as foods that feed the existing microbiome. These include fruit and vegetables with their skin on, along with mushrooms. Try to buy organic and eat raw fruits, salads and vegetables to increase exposure to micro nutrients.
foods high in healthy bacteria
- Miso soup
- Pressed salads
- Live yogurt
health benefits of fermented foods
Research suggests that fermented foods help prevent or aid recovery from;
- Colon cancer
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Infectious illnesses
- The ill effects of stress on intestinal flora
Fermenting vegetables started around 4000bc in India where cucumbers were pickled. Pickling was a useful way to preserve vegetables. The use of sauerkraut dates back to Roman times. It became a vital ingredient for sailing ships between the 1500s and 1800s as its high vitamin C content protected sailors from scurvy. Kimchi became popular in Korea from the late 1500s. Russian scientist and nobel prize winner, Élie Metchnikoff, published research on healthy bacteria and its influence on the intestines in 1907. He is considered the grandfather of natural immunity.
the importance of temperature in the growth of healthy bacteria
Healthy bacteria lives between 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) and 40 degrees C (100 degrees F) so keeping foods in the fridge will inhibit the production of healthy bacteria. Similarly heating foods risks killing the healthy bacteria. It is therefore best to keep fermented foods at room temperature or keep them at room temperature for at least 2 hours before eating. Being exposed to the air will expose the foods to spores. Generally the warmer the air the quicker the fermentation and the more healthy bacteria we consume.
Many salty fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, pickles, shoyu and umeboshi will store well at room temperature. To get the best effect from foods like yogurt, natto and salads they need to be left exposed to the air for several hours before eating. In the case of salads they will need to be exposed to the air for the maximum time before adding oil or any dressing. You can wash the salad vegetables before leaving in the air.
Pasteurizing foods kills off the healthy bacteria, so fermented foods will ideally not have been pasteurized. Similarly, cooking foods will kill the healthy bacteria, so adding miso or shoyu to hot dishes may eliminate any benefit in terms of healthy bacteria. A more healthy approach would be to add diluted miso to a soup after the soup has been served and just prior to eating, when the liquid will be cooler. Miso and shoyu can be added to sauces at temperatures up to 40 degrees C or 100 degrees F.
One way to speed up the growth of bacteria in vegetables is to mix them with salt and press them between two plates with a weight on top for an hour or more. This is known as a pressed salad in macrobiotic cuisine.
helping healthy bacteria through our stomachs
Our stomach acids reduce the number of healthy bacteria that get through to our intestines. It therefore helps to keep ourselves more alkaline. This would imply that eating fermented foods with alkaline forming foods helps enrich our intestinal bacteria. So for example acid forming foods like coffee, alcohol, sugar, meats and shell fish may, in some people, reduce our ability to absorb healthy bacteria into our intestines.
As stress can lead to greater acidity, it may help to try a short meditation before eating or to stay in the moment to enjoy a calm state of mind.
examples of fermented foods in the macrobiotic diet
The macrobiotic diet is very high in fermented foods and potentially high in healthy bacteria. Dishes that are potentially high in healthy bacteria include miso soups, pickles, pressed salads, raw salads, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto and dishes seasoned with shoyu or soya sauce.
healthy bacteria in raw foods
In addition to foods that have been fermented, many raw vegetables will grow healthy bacteria on their skins. If we leave a salad exposed to the air, spores in the air will attach to the skins of the leaves and start to breed, forming healthy bacteria. Research shown on the BBC?s Truth About Food, demonstrated that raw vegetables could be many times, more effective than commercial probiotics in encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria in our intestines.
Simon is available for online and in person macrobiotic consultations and courses to help you enjoy foods that will help you feel healthy. Call 07543663227 or email to discuss any health issues.