Fermented foods. You hear about them all the time, but what exactly are fermented foods, and how can they benefit us?
In Russia it’s kombucha.
In Japan it’s miso.
In Indonesia it’s tempeh.
In northern Europe it’s Sauerkraut.
In England it’s Mead (we like to get drunk).
In France it’s cheese and wine.
In Korea it’s kimchee.
As Sally Fallon says in her book Nourishing Traditions, countries that have a culture, grow cultures their food.
While the parallels with artistic culture and cultured foods may be interesting, it’s the extraordinary health benefits I’m enamoured with.
But let’s answer a few questions first. . .
What does ‘fermented’ mean in food?
Fermenting is a process of culturing food, using bacteria and yeasts, so they are more nutritious. It’s also a method of preserving.
Are fermented foods bad for you?
All the science is pointing towards them being very good for you. You’ll see below that I talk about how they can aid digestion and be good for your microbiome, which is now thought to be linked to brain function. If you’re new to fermented foods, you might want to ease yourself in and not eat to many different types in a short period of time, or you might upset your tummy a little.
What fermented foods are good for your gut?
There are so many. I can’t think of any that aren’t good for you, aside from the ones that contain alcohol. I believe that the negative effects of alcohol make any benefits not worth it.
So with that in mind, some of my favourites are: miso, yoghurt, kombucha, coconut water kefir, cheese, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Are fermented foods raw?
Yes! As long as they haven’t been heated above 116f in the fermentation process and haven’t been pasteurised for lasting on the supermarket shelf longer.
Where to buy fermented foods
I highly recommend making your own fermented foods at home, as they’re so much cheaper and you can fully control the quality of the ingredients that go into them.
If you do want to buy them, your best bet is a smaller health food shop. Make sure you get unpasteurised every time.
Related: Want to learn how to make more than just sauerkraut? Check out Raw Fermentation at Home here.
Here’s my manifesto of the best 7 reasons I can come up with, as to why I think fermented foods have more of a place in your life than they do now.
1. One serving of sauerkraut has more probiotics than a whole bottle of supplements
I only came across this recently, but I found it incredibly exciting.
Dr Mercola sent off a sample of sauerkraut to the lab to be tested. He said, “We had it analyzed. We found in a 4-6 ounce serving of the fermented vegetables there were literally ten trillion bacteria.”
By my calculations (this’ll make my maths teacher, Mr Thomas, proud) that means just a 1-1.5 ounce (28-64 grams) serving of sauerkraut – which is really just a couple of mouthfuls – has more beneficial bacteria than a whole bottle of probiotics.
Not just your normal probiotics either – a bottle of one of those high-strength brands.
And because Mr Thomas says we should always show our workings. . .
I calculated this based on the highest strength probiotics I could find. The Garden Of Life Raw Probiotics have 85 billion live bacteria per 3 capsules (1 serving).
There’s 30 servings in a bottle that has 90 capsules. So multiply 30 servings by 85 billion and you get 2.5 trillion.
Plus when you eat sauerkraut, you’re not eating a powdered supplement, you’re eating actual food. I do think powders and supplements have their place, for sure, but fresh is best.
I’ve always found it kind of strange that store-bought fermented foods are pasteurised to maintain shelf life
Here’s a sauerkraut video to get you started.
A word here on store bought sauerkraut. . .I’ve always found it kind of strange that store-bought fermented foods are pasteurised to maintain shelf life. Why would you go the trouble of growing that bacteria in the food to then kill it off with heat?
2. There’s a whole world of plant-based cheeses to have fun with out there
When I was looking for ways to clear up my skin years ago, one of the first things I cut out of my diet was dairy.
Maybe it’s because of that, or maybe I just love the creativity of raw, tree nut-based cheeses, that I’ve spent so much time making them. Tree-nut cheeses are my jam.
There’s a whole world of possibility out there in the tree nut cheese world, from simple macadamia cheeses, to hard, sliceable cashew cheese, to cheese that you can grate by adding pectin. I always have one of these cheeses on hand, since they can last months in the fridge. When I was looking for ways to clear up my skin years ago, one of the first things I cut out of my diet was dairy As long as I have them around, I know I can make a really simple meal, like a salad, and make it into something really special with a cheese. Here’s a video I shot on how to get started with a macadamia cheese.
I’ve also got a PDF download for you, which you can get by clicking here.
3. Antibiotics and other medications can wreck your internal flora
Back when I had acne, I went through several courses of antibiotics. Not only did they not really work, but I was never made aware that if you do go the antibiotics route, you need to build your internal bacteria back up to full strength.
So ‘antibiotic’ seems to mean ‘anti-life’
I looked up the etymology of ‘biotic’ and this is what I found. . .
“pertaining to life,” 1847, in the medical sense, from Latin bioticus, from Greek biotikos “pertaining to life,” from bios “life”
So antibiotic seems to mean anti-life.
Now I understand why I like the idea of probiotics so much!
A friend sent me this recently. . .
I’m not in the habit of going to mainstream media for my health advice, but they were reporting on this study.
Heavy use of antibiotics can raise the risk of diabetes. That was news to me.
And in looking that article up, I found this item that reports the use of antibiotics in children can cause obesity and diabetes.
So the first obvious thing to do is avoid antibiotics. As the study showed using more than one course can expose you to these risks.
But if you’ve ever taken antibiotics, even many years ago, it’s possible that you’re internal flora never repaired itself and may still be causing you issues.
Regular consumption of fermented foods can rebuild that internal flora and heal your gut.
4. Fermented Foods will boost your immune system
Your gastrointestinal tract is an amazing thing.
At the same time as absorbing nutrients, it protects against ‘harmful entities’ that may be in the food.
As well as that, the gut contains 70-80% of the gut’s immune cells. Source.
You’re only one meal away from being a healthy eater
Think of your gut as a garden that you need tend well. In order for the good plants to grow, it’s not the gardening that’s strengthening your immune system, it’s the gardening that creates the environment for the whole garden (your gut) to thrive.
Gut bacteria thrive on what you feed them. That starts from the very next thing you eat.
I’ve always said that you’re only one meal away from being a healthy eater. That’s never been more so than when talking about the gut, and specifically, fermented foods that are teeming with the good bacteria your inner garden is craving.
5. Get your digestion working like Jabba The Hut on a cheat day
Fermented foods are pre-digested, which means they have been broken down in structure, to allow easy digestion and absorption, not to mention the probiotics they contain.
I’ve taken to eating 2ozs of sauerkraut with or after most meals, because I find it so beneficial to my digestion. Both from the actual food itself, to the environment it creates.
A warning though, introducing too many fermented foods too quickly, will have the opposite effect. I mean, you’ll have some, ahem, ‘digestive unrest’, shall we say.
Start out with 1 to 2 ounces of sauerkraut, or the same amount of kimchee, or a couple of tablespoons of kefir and build up from there.
6. Give your skin the glow
For a man, I put a lot of attention on my skin.
I got into raw foods for their ability to clear up my skin. For a man, I put a lot of attention on my skin.
I really notice how different things effect my skin, because I’ve spent so many years worrying about it in the past.
The first time I ate a lot of flax crackers (there’s been many times since), I immediately noticed how smooth my skin was 24 to 48 hours later.
I can remember being in the shower and washing my face. My skin at the time was acne free, but gone were the small bumps I could normally still feel.
I get the same when I eat lots of raw, fermented foods. My skin is clearer and my are eyes brighter.
These are all the things that raw food can do for you anyway, but with fermented foods, it’s so much more obvious. It’s very real and it must come from all those healthy, living probiotics.
7. Take care of your second brain
An article published in New Scientist referred to the enteric nervous system in your gut as the 2nd brain, because it shares some of the features of the brain in your head.
They also said that the gut sends messages to the brain; what’s really exciting for me, is that sounds like an explanation for, “I know it’s the right thing to do, I just feel it in my gut”.
This is purely my theory, but I think the healthier your gut, the better that you can connect to your intuition.
Often we overthink things, getting too ‘in our own heads’.
Speaking to other entrepreneurs over the many years I’ve been in business, I’ve often heard the advice to, “go with your gut instinct”.
It seems the first decision you make ends up being the right one.
Anything that comes after that is overthinking it
Here’s the way I experience it. . .
I become aware of the right decision, or a new idea, as a thought. The words to describe it come in later. Anything that comes after that is overthinking it. This is when doubt or second guessing make an appearance.
Since realising this, I’ve made my gut health a priority and it’s served me very well.
- Q. Is apple cider vinegar fermented?A. Yes. But only the good ones have remained unpasteurised. Look for that on the label. You’re looking for unpasteurised and preferably ones that contain the ‘mother’, which is part of the original culturing process.
- Q. Is cheese fermented?A. Yes it is. If you want exclusively raw nut cheeses, check out our Tree Nut Cheese online course.
- Q. Is yoghurt a fermented food?A. Sure is. And it’s one of my favourites. If you want a non-dairy yoghurt, you make make your own like this.