All around the world, fermented foods and beverages are part of the human diet. In some places they make up a minor 5% of daily intake, while in others their role can be as substantial as 40%. Cultured foods are a part of every traditional diet around the globe. However, though most fermented foods have health-promoting benefits, their global consumption is declining as traditional food systems give way to the influence of a western diet and fast foods. In the U.S., the need for cultured foods is immense. This is because of the consumption of some of the strangest factory formed foods on this earth, but also because the food processing industry really changes for the worse the small number of fermented foods that we have. Sauerkraut is cooked and treated with regular table salt, which is basically harmful to the body. (Sea salt is the best…) Commercial yogurt has been pasteurized. This kills many of the enzymes and beneficial bacteria that comprise the very reason to consume yogurt!
Why cultured foods?
Cultured foods are foods that have been fermented. The fermentation process causes the production of enzymes and strains of bacteria which are beneficial for human health. Enzymes are big stars ultimately responsible for sustained human health and should be given a front row seat in any discussion on nutrition. Enzymes help us to completely break down any food that we consume. What is often forgotten is that they also help us to build everything up as well. Enzymes are important in digesting food, but also in powering all the other chemical reactions in the body. I believe that when enzymes are in abundance in the body, they also play a role in removing metabolic waste on a regular basis. This type of waste, if not cleared from the body, could eventually become problematic. By increasing your consumption of enzymes from your diet you give the body much more to work with for all of these important functions.
Why are enzymes so important?
In his absolutely groundbreaking book, Enzyme Nutrition, Edward Howell talks about how important it is to preserve the body’s supply of enzymes. His scientific studies of the function of enzymes in humans revealed that the pancreas has a limited ability to produce digestive enzymes over a lifetime. He strongly felt that a key to longevity is the supplementation of enyzmes through a living food diet, cultured foods and/or actual supplementation of dietary enzymes. These add to your own enzyme “bank account” and assure you that you will have plenty of enzymes to run all the functions of the body and take care of important housekeeping tasks.
Benefits of enzyme rich foods:
- Increase digestibility of food
- Beneficial for candida overgrowth
- Boosts immune system
- Increases alkalinity
- Provides a balance of friendly flora
- Improves colon health strength and elimination
- Controls cravings
- Eliminates toxins and undigested wastes in the body.
Why are fermented (cultured) foods important?
Consuming raw cultured foods means getting a phenomenal blast of enzymes! You will likely notice that your digestion will improve immediately. Cultured foods that are raw are easy to prepare and taste amazing.
Let’s not forget about the probiotics in cultured foods. Probiotics could be right up there with the importance of enzymes. Probiotics are another way of saying friendly bacteria and we are just full of it! In a healthy person, the bacteria that is beneficial to human health literally outnumbers the cells in our body. Despite having trillions of cells, we still have a greater number of gut bacteria. Perhaps we exist only to provide a warm home to these guys! Friendly bacteria is important also in breaking down food completely. One thing about bacteria like acidophilus is that it can neutralize the effects of poisonous wastes that can form from the breakdown of food, or the harmful fermentation of food in the digestive tract.
For example, meat is known to breakdown into such lovely substances as cadaverine. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. This substance is the end result of putrefaction or the rotting of meat in the intestines. This harmful substance can be rendered much less harmful by friendly bacteria. Along with the enzymes, the probiotics are assuring that our body has completely broken food down and neutralizes harmful substances and eliminates waste.
These beneficial organisms protect the lining of the intestines. Ever heard of leaky gut syndrome? Without beneficial bacteria, the lining of the intestines, call the mucosa can become inflammed. This may allow proteins that normally stay inside your stomach, small intestines and large intestines to enter your blood…Not good! This causes many different reactions including increasing your immune response to many foods and perhaps to pollens and other environmental allergens. You can prevent this leaky gut syndrome by consuming cultured foods each day. The probiotics contained in these cultured foods will coat the mucosal lining and protect your health.
Consume some cultured foods EVERY day. You will feel how your body is supported by the increased enzymes and probiotics. Your digestion may instantly improve. Even if you don’t have any instantly increased feelings of wellness, you will be doing your body a world of good. When people tell me that they do not feel well on a raw, organic vegan diet, I ask them about the consumption of these 3 crucial nutrition groups!!!
1) Cultured foods.
2) Enzyme rich foods ( cultured foods )
3) Greens, greens, greens.
I will talk more about this in future posts, but if people will increase their consumption of these, it is likely that their fatigue or digestive problems will decrease. Many natural medicine practitioners will do a knee-jerk reaction of telling their raw food patient that they just need to “eat meat”. I think there are other places to search for the remedy for deficiencies in energy and the 3 groups above are important pieces of the puzzle!!!
Fermented Foods List – Top 7
1. Kombucha: a tangy/sweet “mushroom tea”, referred to as the “immortal health elixir” dating back to the Chinese Qin Dynasty.
2. sauerkraut: raw cultured vegetables were known to provide essential vitamins on long sea voyages back in the 1700′s. Raw sauerkraut is great for re-establishing balance of friendly flora
3. Tempeh: - common in Indonesia, tempeh is a rich whole bean cake; higher in protein because of its method of fermentation.
4. kefir : originating in the Caucasus of Russia, kefir – is a fermented milk(coconut or Almond milk) drink high in probiotic cultures. Also beneficial for candida overgrowth.
5.Miso : a traditional Japanese food, miso is a rich salty paste made from grains, beans and koji spores.
6. Seed cheese : a delicious tangy “cheese” usually made from sunflower or pumpkin seed.
7. rejuvelac : a slightly sour, lemony, fermented drink. Loaded with friendly flora and enzymes.
Cultured foods are delicious…your body will tell you to have more!
Enjoy cultured foods like Coconut Yogurt, Kombucha, Raw Sauerkraut, Seed Cheese, Rejuvelac, Misco, Tempeh and much more. The benefits that you are receiving from your raw food diet will increase dramatically. Enjoy and let us know your favorite vegan yogurt , kefir recipe or cultured food recipes!!!
A world of therapeutic food
Many of the fermented products consumed by different ethnic groups have therapeutic values. Some of the most widely known are fermented milks (i.e., yoghurt, curds). Containing high concentrations of pro-biotic bacteria, these can lower your cholesterol level.
“Kefir is easily digested and provides beneficial micro-organisms that contribute to a healthy immune system.”
One fermented food that has received much attention is the viscous, acidic, mildly alcoholic milk beverage produced by fermentation of milk with a particular grain in Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries. Kefir is easily digested and provides the human body with beneficial micro-organisms that contribute to a healthy immune system — a boon to patients suffering from AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes and cancer. Traditionally it has been used for the treatment of tuberculosis and cancer. Another naturally fermented dairy product, koumiss, found in the Caucasus region, is used in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
“Antioxidant and other properties are reported in foods such as natto, a sticky dish high in protein and popular at breakfast in Japan.”
Other widely-eaten types of health-boosting sustenance include fermented soybean products found around Asia. Antioxidant and other properties are reported to exist in foods such as natto, a sticky dish high in protein and popular at breakfast in Japan, that may help prevent people from having brain haemorrhages. Natto is also rich in vitamin K2, which stimulates the formation of bones and might help to prevent osteoporosis in older people. Similarly, consumption of Indonesia’s tempe reduces cholesterol levels and, like China’s douchi, lowers high blood pressure.
“China’s douchi lowers high blood pressure”
Korea’s famous accompaniment, kimchi, may take the prize for most benefits however, reportedly helping to prevent constipation and colon cancer and reduce serum cholesterol, as well as possessing anti-stress effects and the ability to ameliorate depression, osteoarthritis, liver disease, obesity and atherosclerosis.
In the Himalayas, a fermented leafy vegetable product called gundruk and a fermented radish tap-root ( sinki) have large amounts of lactic acids, ascorbic acid, carotene and dietary fibre, which have anti-carcinogenic effects. In order to gain strength, ailing persons and post-natal women in the Himalayas consume bhaati jaanr extract (a fermented rice food-beverage) and kodo ko jaanr (a fermented finger millet product) due to their high calorie content.
One of the important outcomes of food fermentation is the enrichment of food with essential amino acids, vitamins, mineral and bioactive compounds. For example, during tempe fermentation, vitamins like niacin and riboflavin are increased by using the starter culture Rhizopus oligosporus . Similarly, thiamine and riboflavin increase during fermentation of idli, the fermented rice and black-gram (a type of legume) product of India and Sri Lanka.
“Pulque is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages and is prepared from the juices of cactus plants in Mexico.”
These clever processes developed by humans to extract additional nutritional value from food, are not only found in Asia. Pulque — one of the oldest alcoholic beverages prepared from the juices of cactus plants in Mexico — is rich in vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and biotin.
Another important reason to ferment foods is to coax micro-organisms into producing enzymes that also provide very useful services. These enzymes degrade anti-nutritive compounds and thereby make edible, with enhanced flavour and aroma, things that otherwise would be indigestible and/or unpalatable. Bitter varieties of cassava tubers contain a potentially poisonous substance that can be detoxified via lactic acid bacteria, as in gari and fufu, fermented cassava root products from Africa.
“Bitter varieties of cassava can be detoxified via lactic acid bacteria, as are gari and fufu in Africa.”
Many people suffer from lactose intolerance or lactose malabsorption, a condition that causes lactose, the principal carbohydrate of milk, to not be completely digested. The cultures used in making yoghurt and curds, contain substantial quantities of ß-D-galactosidase, something that is thought to help alleviate the symptoms of lactose malabsorption. Yoghurt, as a viscous food, may delay the stomach emptying and that way help lessen lactose intolerant symptoms.
Healthy, but not appreciated
Although fermented foods are marketed globally as health foods, functional foods, therapeutic foods, nutraceutical foods or bio-foods, due to urbanization, changes in life-style, and the shifting from traditional food habits to commercial fast foods, the production and consumption of traditional fermented foods is in decline.
Even when fermented foods are being consumed, they are increasingly likely to be from packets in supermarkets, rather than directly from households or a local family run business. This is leading to fewer and fewer people possessing traditional knowledge of fermented foods and the ability to make these from scratch. Reliance on fewer providers of fermented foods is also leading to a decline in the biodiversity of micro-organisms, or ‘microbial-biodiversity’.