There is an abundance of nutritional options available that can help one achieve improved levels of health. Of all the possible therapies, some here today gone tomorrow, and all the varieties of supplements and isolated nutrients there is still one constant for good health – and that is the intake of fermented foods in the diet.
Based on the historical record, human populations have been purposely fermenting foods for as far back as nine thousand years. Fermentation in food processing relies on yeast bacteria to convert carbohydrate sugars to alcohols. Fermentation is used world wide for the making of a variety of foods including vinegar, wine, beer, leavened bread, sour foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, sour milk and yogurt, kefir, kombucha tea, aged cheeses, and even proteins such as meat and seafood.
People began to control and enact the process of fermentation not only to alter different foods for flavor but as a means for long term storage. It is commonly understood that fermented food derivatives such as beer, wine and vinegar can be stored for long periods of time without preservatives. But the reality is that just about any fermented food can be stored long term. Take for example sauerkraut which can be fermented in large quantities and properly stored for many months without refrigeration or preservatives.
Again let’s use sauerkraut as an example. Sauerkraut is typically made from cabbage as the main ingredient with salt as a catalyst and many times other fresh ingredients like carrots and apple are added. Cabbage, as with all foods, naturally comes in contact with yeast bacteria that are present in the air we breath. When the cabbage and yeast bacteria are allowed to ferment naturally in a controlled environment the results are an expanded nutrient profile. The once nutritious cabbage has now been amplified with a higher presence of beneficial digestive bacteria and lactic acid as well as increased amounts of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. In turn, this increase improves digestion and absorption of nutrients and contributes to overall health.
To fully understand how this helps improve overall health we have to take a closer look at the digestive system. The digestive system and the body in general are made up of bacteria both friendly and unfriendly. In fact, there are more bacteria in and on the body then there are living cells that make up the body. Essentially, we are more bacteria than we are human cells. Furthermore, the digestive system is the very heart, making up some 70 to 80%, of our immune system and therefore arguably plays the largest role in our overall health.
It is interesting to point out at this time that the digestive system which is so critical to overall health is generally thought of to be in the body, but one could argue that technically it is not in the body. If we really choose to split hairs, the digestive system is actually a passage through the body. We consume food, it passes through the stomach and digestive system but is not actually in the body until is absorbed and passes through the intestinal wall. Therefore, the digestive system can be thought of as a living organism within our bodies that needs to be properly cared for.
Consuming fermented foods helps care for this complex aspect of our being. By fermenting a food we significantly enhance the nutrient profile of that food and contribute to the health of the digestive system that lives within us. Let’s take a moment and point out that good overall health relies in large part on an alkaline body and conversely a highly acidic digestive system. Fermented foods help to provide both by providing high acidy in the gut that leads to proper digestion that contributes to alkalinity throughout the body.
Todays modern food supply is typically processed to death and left without any real nutrient value. If we step back in time and consume fresh whole foods and foods that have been enhance by fermentation as our ancestors did, we do ourselves and our digestive system that lives within us a huge favor.
When choosing fermented foods look for raw, unprocessed, uncooked and unpasteurized foods as this will ensure that all the valuable nutrients have not been mitigated by these processes. Give it a try and start reading labels and seeking out fermented foods to add to the diet and see what a difference they can make for you.
Written by DMK of Seven Grains.