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

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.