The process of fermenting foods has been practiced by many civilizations for hundreds of generations. And thanks to people becoming
more health conscious today, eating these foods is once again gaining in popularity.
To understand why fermented foods are so good for us, we need to know a bit about bacteria. Simply put, bacteria (the plural of bacterium)
are the smallest things known to man that can be considered alive. They exist everywhere – in water, soil and just about every living
creature on earth. And while it is estimated there are over 10 trillion cells in the human body, there are actually ten times as many bacteria
cells as human cells, (a number beyond comprehension!)
There are many types of bacteria, but for the sake of this article let’s just say there are two – good and bad. A newborn baby begins to
develop beneficial bacteria from mom’s breast milk. Part of the learning process of a child’s immune system is to distinguish between the
good and bad bacteria.
The bad bacteria in our bodies can contribute to a wide variety of illnesses, including strep throat, eczema, tuberculosis and meningitis. Some
believe they can cause almost any disease, including allergies, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Harmful bacteria that cause bacterial
infections and disease are called pathogenic bacteria.
Our bodies require good bacteria, known as probiotics, for many healthy reasons. Here are just a few of them:
help keep our digestive tract in good running order, which in turn can prevent many digestive illnesses
break down foods to aid in the absorption of their nutrients
absorb fatty acids, which cells need to grow
destroy many of the cancer causing carcinogens found in processed meat
maintain the immune system throughout our body
help limit the growth of bad bacteria
Therefore it can be said that good bacteria have an enormous influence on our digestion, detoxification and immune system.
It should be noted that whenever you take antibiotics, you are killing bacteria, including the good bacteria that you need for your optimal health.
Antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers have the same effect. In fact, increased use of antibiotics have led to the adaptation of antibiotic-resistant
bacteria, which can lead to outbreaks of so-called “super bugs”. Also all of the foods and drinks we now buy from our grocery stores are processed,
pasteurized, homogenized, etc. Instead of the nutrient rich foods full of probiotics that were enjoyed in previous generations, the average diet today
consists mainly of sugar laden, lab created dead foods.
Incorporating fermented foods into our daily diet is one of the best ways of keeping an ideal good-to-bad bacteria ratio. These foods are known as “the
perfect gut food”. Many fermented foods make excellent detoxifiers, meaning they can help rid your body of a wide variety of toxins and heavy metals.
Fermented foods are foods that have gone through a process in which bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating “lactic acid”. This process
preserves the food, and produces beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics. You can make your own fermented
foods at home very inexpensively, usually only a few pennies per serving. Fermented foods can be stored much longer than regular foods, without the risk
of losing their nutrients.
Here are some fermented foods/drinks you might want to try. Most health stores should carry them.
Be sure they are labeled as organic, unpasteurized and/or containing live cultures:
Sauerkraut can be eaten as a side dish, added to your soups and casseroles or used as a topping on your burgers. Its only
ingredients are finely-chopped cabbage and salt.
Kefir is a creamy dairy product with a somewhat sour/tart flavour. Some have likened it to drinking yogurt.
Kimchi is known as a traditional Korean side dish. There are many varieties of Kimchi, but it frequently consists of
cabbage, scallions, radish and cucumber, along with added spices.
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that could very easily replace all of your pop in the fridge. It can be made or
purchased in a variety of flavours, and is carbonated. The ginger kombucha I like to drink tastes just like ginger ale.
I’m including a very basic recipe for making enough sauerkraut to fill one Mason jar. You can see that the process is quite simple.
Remove the outer dead leaves of the cabbage, then slice it into thin ribbon-like slices
Place the cabbage in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with 1½ tablespoons of Himalayan Pink Salt or Kosher Salt
Massage and squeeze the cabbage and salt combination with your hands for 5 to 10 minutes. It should take on
the texture of coleslaw
Add the cabbage to a Mason jar or canning jar, packing it in tightly with each handful. Be sure to include the
liquid from the mixing bowl
Cover the mouth of the Mason jar with a cloth and rubber band, which will allow air to flow in and out of the jar
Occasionally over the first 24 hours press down firmly on the cabbage. You should see a liquid begin to rise over
the top of the cabbage
Because this is a small amount, the fermenting process should be quicker than normal. Keep away from direct sunlight
and store at room temperature.
There are no steadfast rules on how long to ferment, go by taste. Start tasting after 3 days. When it tastes
good, screw on the lid and refrigerate. It should last for months
As long as it smells good and tastes good, it will be!