Thursday, January 20, 2011

Discovery: Food Fermentation

I've known that "good bacteria" are good for us but I never really realized how necessary they are or how readily available they are through fermented foods.

I've learned that there are an estimated 400 types of these good bacteria (probiotics) living in our gut - nearly 3 pounds of it! There are even ten times more bacteria in our gut than there are cells in our body.

It made me wonder - if we have so many of these bacteria why do we need to help them along by eating foods that contain them?

I had to take into consideration what the good bacteria are capable of doing:

*They break down undigested foods by renewing essential enzymes and good bacteria.
*They help in the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
*They contribute in the breaking down of fibers and undigested starch.
*They improve our immune system by increasing our ability to fight disease.

I realized that by eating foods containing probiotics it keeps our gut healthy and therefore keeps us healthy. People throughout the world have been wisely consuming foods containing probiotics (through the eating of fermented foods) for thousands of years - and they still do! They must have somehow figured out that not only is food fermentation a great way to preserve food but it also improves digestion and boosts the immune system.

People from Asia, Nepal, Africa, Middle East, and Europe eat: Kimchi, Kombachu, Miso, Tempeh, Kefir, Water Kefir, Sauerkraut, Apple Cider Vinegar, Yogurt, Pickles ... and much more!

There are so many fermented foods to choose from - their diverse flavors, aromas and textures are so enlivening and refreshing!

Fermented foods have seven main benefits:

1. It cultures large amounts of healthy bacteria.
2. It preserves food.
3. It enhances one's diet.
4. It enriches food with essential fatty acids, vitamins, amino acids and protein.
5. It eliminates anti-nutrients.
6. It decreases cooking time.
7. It normalized the acidity within the stomach.

So how do you go about fermenting food?

Basically, (and this is taken from Nourishing Traditions) "Fruits and vegetables are first washed and cut up, mixed with salt (and herbs and spices) and then pounded briefly to release juices. They are then pressed into an air tight container. Salt inhibits putrefying bacteria for several days until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the vegetables for many months."


Concerning food fermentation, Claude Aubert worded this beautifully:

"There is something fascinating about micro-organisms. They are everywhere: in the air, in water, in our bodies, on our bodies, invisible and without number, capable of multiplying with extraordinary rapidity, agents of illness and even death but also the foundation of life and health. Microorganisms frighten us: aren't these germs responsible for deadly scourges? Aren't they responsible for serious food contamination?

Down with the one-celled organism, we say! Long live disinfection! Germicides, fungicides, antibiotics, antiseptics, sterilization, freezing - we lack no weapons in the war against germs. Medicine, agriculture and the food industry make us use them all. We should consider not how to kill microorganisms but rather how to use them in ways that encourage their proliferation in our foods. We should consider how to put to use the numerous types of microorganisms that, far from contaminating what we eat, improve its flavor and nutritive value in such a way as to turn simple foodstuffs into true natural remedies."

Having realized the wonderful benefits of fermented foods I've made it a goal to eat more fermented foods with our meals. I've added sauerkraut, beet kvass, pickles, ketchup and salsa to our storage of fermented foods. They're all so easy to make and we know exactly what's going into them and how nutritional they are.

(Many of the fermented foods that sit on the store shelves use vinegar as a brine solution which creates an acidic food but many of these products are also pasteurized - greatly diminishing their nutritional value and killing off all the beneficial bacteria.)

Below this post is a post sharing the simple steps for making some delicious sauerkraut!

Fermented foods. What an exciting discovery!

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