The Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

We have fermented foods for thousands of years and it has been part of many people’s diet and culture.

There are a number of different bacteria that develop when fermenting foods. Lactobacilli bacteria are present on most living things. Bifidobacterium are more likely to be present in animal products, e.g., dairy, etc.

The lactic acid produced when these bacteria consume carbohydrates/sugar provides an acidic environment to preserve the food and helps to inhibit the growth of less beneficial bacteria.

Submerging the bacteria under liquid provides an anaerobic environment for the bacteria to proliferate.

Benefits of fermenting:

  1. Preserves the food, extending its shelf life.
  2. Begins to breakdown the food which makes it more digestible.
  3. Enriches and preserves the foods amino acids (proteins) and vitamins (B12,K2)
  4. Glucosinolate in cabbage is increased – natural compound that may help to fight cancer.
  5. Fermented foods often contain substrates and other nutrients such as prebiotics.
  6. Protect from pathogens.
  7. Support absorption of nutrients (magnesium, iron, calcium).
  8. Produces short chain fatty acids, butyrate, which provide energy for cells in the gut lining.
  9. Supports immune system (reduces inflammation, autoimmunity and allergies)
  10.  Creates probiotics (beneficial bacteria)

Why Ferment your own food?

Supplementation of probiotics is very popular and an easy option for many people. Further, another benefit of probiotic supplementation is that therapists can recommend specific strains of probiotics in supplements in order to assist with a particular condition. However, eating fermented foods is remains nutritionally valuable for the following reasons:

  1. Diversity – low diversity is linked to diseased states.
  2. Pre-biotic – contains fibres that may help gut bacteria to thrive.
  3. Synergistic effect of the food.
  4. Cost – home ferments can be cheap to produce.

Different types of fermentation

  1. Wild fermentation – no started culture required – sauerkraut, cultured/brined veg, kimchi and sourdough
  2. Starter fermentation – started culture required – whey, dried starter culture, SCOBY, dried kefir grains – kefir, kombucha, yoghurt.
  3. Dry salting – used to draw out moisture – fish, meats, cheese
  4. Brining – water, salt, spices used to make brine to submerge vegetables – cauliflower, cucumber, cabbage, fennel, carrot.

Poor Gut bacteria may be linked to the following diseases:

  1. Autoimmunity
  2. IBS
  3. Food intolerances
  4. Obesity
  5. T2 diabetes
  6. Eczema/asthma
  7. Dementia
  8. Colon cancer
  9. Parkinson’s disease
  10. Cardiovascular disease

How to introduce fermented foods:

  1. Introduce fermented foods slowly because they may cause digestive discomfort.
  2. Diversity – eat a different range of fermented foods
  3. Include a range of prebiotic food in the diet to help feed the good bugs – asparagus, onion, garlic, avocado, chicory, whole grains, less ripe bananas.
  4. Avoid sugary foods that feed less beneficial bacteria leading to flatulence and bloating and digestive discomfort.

However, CAUTION and seek the advice of a therapist if:

  1. You have Histamine intolerance
  2. You have Yeast intolerance
  3. You are Lactose intolerant
  4. You are taking Immunosuppressant drugs
  5. You are undergoing Chemotherapy

Tips for successful fermenting:

  1. Wash hands well
  2. Choose organic veg
  3. Clean with hot soapy water all utensils, jars, etc.
  4. Rinse well – distilled vinegar can be used to remove detergent
  5. Use plastic utensils not metal to avoid food reactions
  6. Use distilled water
  7. Avoid wooden boards and spoons that can harbour bacteria
  8. Make sure that veg stays submerged
  9. Keep out of direct sunlight

**If you see any unwanted mould growth – throw away.

Recipes : Please see recipe section under ‘snacks’ on this website

Detox January?

Detox January? Why bother to detox and what does it mean?
After the Christmas festivities many of us end up feeling tired, lethargic, heavy, bloated and generally under the weather. Our skin and hair may also look dull and lifeless. Too much over indulgence in sugar (chocolates, sweets, etc), bad fats (pastries, puddings, etc) and alcohol, along with the ever present toxins in the environment will take a particular toll on your body at this time of the year. This may be a time therefore when its worth considering a detox.

Detoxing is the way that our bodies get rid of potentially harmful chemicals (toxins). It is a process that goes on all the time throughout the year and our bodies are designed to cope with toxins. However, the problem arises when you take in more toxins than your body can handle or your detoxification system is not working as well as it might do. Basically, your system can become overloaded and you may develop all sorts of symptoms including bloating, lack of energy, and poor skin.

A detox is a short term dietary and lifestyle intervention designed to improve detoxification of toxins from the body. There are many different types of detox programmes and these will often include eliminating certain foods that may be aggravating the digestive track (gluten or dairy) or putting additional strain on the liver as well as increasing food and drink that may improve the detox pathways of the liver.
A detox is therefore not about counting calories or fat units. Instead, its about being aware of the kinds of foods we are putting into our bodies. It’s not about eating less, it’s about eating more ‘good nutrient dense’ food and feeding our bodies the nutrients it needs to function optimally. A good detox programme should therefore include all the nutrients the body needs to achieve optimal function.

Therefore the purpose of a ‘detox diet’ is to give your body a break from the usual toxic load by reducing the amount of toxins that you take in and encouraging your body to eliminate old toxins. More specifically it usually involves the following:

  1. Eating the right food to encourage the body’s natural detoxification processes
  2. Cutting out addictive substances such as nicotine, caffeine and alcohol
  3. Going organic wherever possible
  4. Cutting down on foods and drinks that may add to your toxic load – processed sugars, processed foods, saturated fats, salty foods and additives
  5. Reducing emotional and physical stress in your life.
  6. Getting enough sleep
  7. Adopting healthy habits such as exercise and relaxation therapies. Exercise is an important part of any detox programme. Physical activity improves digestive function and boosts the metabolic rate, helping to stimulate elimination channels through breath, sweat, and circulation.
  8. Drinking water or herbal teas – drinking plenty of fluid is essential while detoxing as it helps to eliminate water-soluble toxins from your body. It also helps to prevent constipation, reduce bloating and encourages a clear skin.
  9. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.

Some detox programmes also involve eliminating for a short period certain other food types such as:

  1. Wheat products : some people may find wheat hard to digest and that it may cause bloating and other symptoms.
  2. Dairy products (cheese, milk, cream, butter, yoghurt) again some people find it difficult to digest dairy because of the lactose it contains which may produce symptoms such as bloating, and congestion in some people
  3. Finally, avoiding meat and fish on the detox diet may be beneficial since they both create added work/strain on your digestive system. So some detox programmes advocate going vegan during this time.

Incidentally, if you do decide to eliminate wheat or dairy then its best to re-introduce these foods one at a time rather than re-introducing them all at once. That way, you will be able to work out those which cause you unpleasant symptoms.

So what do you eat on a detox diet? Many detox diets include lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, pulses, sprouted beans, nuts, seeds, non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, etc), fresh herbs and spices as well as some of the lifestyle changes described above. However, everyone is different and some people may feel that they only need to incorporate some parts of the detox diet/programme to suit their needs and lifestyle.

The detox diet is normally for a fixed period of say 14 – 28 days. However, trying to maintain some of the healthier eating and lifestyle patterns into the long term may be beneficial such as reducing your sugar and alcohol intake.

Seaweed: Just A Weed Or A Green Superfood?


The Japanese incorporate seaweed into their daily diet but in the west we choose in the main to reject it. Are the Japanese right to embrace this food and are we ignoring it at our peril?

Seaweed has been a staple in Asian diets since ancient times. Seaweeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet, packed with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Adding seaweed to your diet will not only enhance your intake of all of the necessary micro-nutrients but may also provide health benefits.

A really comprehensive nutrient spectrum is difficult to obtain from land grown and manufactured foods where the effect of soil deficiencies and nutrient imbalances are well documented.

Very different from the land, the ocean is a rich and consistent growing medium where abundant seaweeds feed a multitude of species. Brown seaweed is a complete, primordial food which, having no roots, absorbs and converts nutrients directly from this great ‘soup’ which covers 70% of the planet.

The seaweed, which is also a rich source of protein, is able to transform these into a unique wholefood with not only all the trace elements like selenium and zinc, but also the entire B group and other rare vitamins including B12, D, and K. In addition to chlorophyll, there are other rare elements like astaxanthin and violaxanthin.

In China, Japan and Korea seaweed has for centuries formed part of the daily diet. Kombu is the most consumed seaweed in those countries.

Despite the west embracing sushi, our consumption of seaweed is minimal. However, research suggests that it’s time to embrace seaweed as an important food.

The medicinal powers and benefits of seaweed have been used for centuries because of their potential to prolong life and enhance health and beauty. Over the last decade, continuing worldwide research has shown brown seaweed to be the most beneficial of all seaweeds.  These seaweeds (Laminara Japonica or Kombu) are rich in iodine, fucoidan, alginates, fucoxanthin, laminarin and other minerals. It also contains all the different trace minerals which are often lacking in people’s diet in the west.

10 health reasons to eat seaweed

    1. A range of indigestible polysaccharides may help to protect the gut wall against cancer causing bacteria and bind for elimination through the bowel, pollutants and toxic metals like lead and mercury.
    2. Wakame has good levels of calcium and magnesium. Wakame’s pigment, fucoxanthin, may also improve insulin resistance.
    3. Nori, is the richest in protein and one sheet has as much fibre as a cup of raw spinach. Nori contains both vitamin C and B12 and the compound Taurine, which helps control cholesterol.
    4. Kombu is high in iodine which is needed to produce the two key thyroid hormones that control metabolism. It is also rich in fucoidan, a phytochemical that may act as an anticoagulant and help to prevent blood clots.
    5. Arame provides excellent levels of potassium, a mineral known among athletes to prevent muscle cramps. It is also known to contain anti- viral properties.
    6. Seaweed also contains Fucans, which assist in reducing the inflammatory response and may also inhibit the development of tumours.
    7. Evidence that seaweed could reduce the risk of breast cancer is primarily based on the studies of brown seaweeds. It has been shown that the consumption of these has favourably altered estrogen metabolism in women. Kelp has also shown to inhibit the binding of estradiol to estrogen receptors and progesterone to progesterone receptors. The specific unique composition of fucoidans, and alginic acid has been shown to inhibit cancer cell proliferation.
    8. Various types of seaweed have been found to be a good source of melatonin and therefore promote sleep.
    9. Therapeutic levels of folic acid and magnesium in seaweed may provide protection for the heart and cardiovascular system.
    10. Seaweed also contains a high level of lignans which are a major class of phytoestrogens. These can act like estrogen when the body’s store of this hormone is low. Therefore, seaweed may assist in reducing menopausal symptoms.

Weed or superfood?

So, to answer the initial question posed, seaweed is most definitely a superfood and not just a weed to be scorned upon.

The nutritional and health benefits of seaweed means that in the West we should try  to    incorporate this green ‘superfood’ into our diet on a regular  basis.

Seaweeds are ready available in most health food stores and are also very reasonably priced. They do not require cooking. Simply soak the seaweed in cold water for twenty minutes and then they are ready to be incorporated into any recipe. They are great in salads, soups or can be sprinkled over many dishes and used as a condiment.