Fermented Foods: Precious Allies for Our Health

Indeed, this is no secret: fermented foods are real assets for our health and well being. Fermentation is an ancient culinary tradition which is present in a number of cultures around the world and serves primarily to preserve food. It is very popular these days and as a result fermented foods are back on our plates, and for good reasons…

The many health benefits of fermented foods

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Fermented foods are a great sources of friendly bacteria for our gut flora, which is why their main benefit is that they improve digestion. They reinforce our immune system and increase the amount of nutrients present in the foods (in particular the B group of vitamins, including B12 which is so often deficient). They encourage the absorption of proteins and fats, as well as the creation of amino acids. They are rich in enzymes, these catalysts that are ever so precious for our digestion and vitality. Finally, they contribute to reducing inflammation.

These natural probiotics are a better alternative to taking supplements, which are so often (and understandably so) recommended by naturopaths. They are more efficient and more natural of course. If on top of that you fermented and mixed your own foods by hand, chances are they will have fed on your own friendly bacteria, which will multiply and repopulate your gut when you eat them, for your own good! This is clearly natural magic at work! Your own culture of bacteria will be of optimal quality, unlike some of the supplements sold these days.

The key balance between good and bad bacteria

In these times of processed and industrial food, our internal balance between friendly and harmful bacteria is often at risk. The nasty ones often take over, which means we are more prone to viruses, infections and other bugs which multiply and create havoc inside our bodies, affecting our health and well-being (think of recent epidemics of intestinal flu). Traces of antibiotics are too often present in our food, our water, our environment and of course our medication, which also contributes to unbalanced gut flora.

Yet everyone agrees on this principle: our gut is clearly the second human brain. Good or bad digestion (and thus absorption and elimination) have a direct and undeniable impact on our health. When all is in order, we feel light, have more energy, even our mood is affected. No need to go into details of how bad digestion feels, because we’ve all been there. Let’s also mention that fermented foods also help with allergies and skin problems, as well as mood swings and depression, amongst other ailments.

Healthy and delicious foods that anyone can enjoy!

For some, consuming more fermented foods will suffice to improve digestion and the ensuing well being. Amongst the better known fermented foods are of course yoghurt and cheese (but remember pasteurisation kills the probiotics), as well as beer and wine.  In raw and living foods, we talk mostly about sauerkraut (well known in this part of the world) and its many variations, as well as miso, shoyu, tempeh (all made from fermented soy) from Asia, but also fermented drinks such as Kombucha or Kefir, as well as fermented breads, sauces and other preparations made with fermented cereals and nuts.

Fermentation Master Class at Simply Raw in Switzerland

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The good news is, fermented foods are easy and very cheap to make at home! But like any new technique, you need to learn the basics and put this knowledge into practice before you can start developing the habit and pleasure of making your own fermented foods. To help you do just that, I have invited Guest Raw Chef Amy Levin, who launched her new class on fermentation just last year in the UK, with great success. Amy Levin will be coming to Switzerland with fermentation specialist Jo Balfe to teach a full-day Fermentation Master Class.

Hosted by Simply Raw in Morges, this class will only take place once this year and the date is Saturday 31 March 2012. If demand is very high, we might add another session on the Sunday 1st April. During this class, you will learn how to make your own sauerkraut, kimchi (the Korean version with cabbage and other vegetables), fermented nut cheese and sauces, as well as kombucha and kefir, and more!

For more information on this class, and to sign up, click here >>. Note that several pre-bookings have already been received so don’t wait too long as places are limited!

Tips on how to eat fermented foods: It is best to consume them at the beginning of your meal, in small quantities. Add a tablespoon of fermented vegetables to your meals, or enjoy a fermented drink to improve digestion. You don’t need to consume large quantities, it’s the regularity that will bring the benefits. The leading expert of gut flora and digestive issues Donna Gates recommends “popping a spoonful of cultured veggies into your mouth before or after eating a sweet food. The cultured vegetables provide an alkalizing antidote to that sugar since the microbiota will dine on the sugar and it is less likely to harm you!”.

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