Sauerkraut. Kombucha. Kimchi. Sourdough bread. Olives. Soy Sauce. Wine. Yogurt. Some of these foods you may eat on a regular basis, others you make a point to stay clear of. What all of these foods have in common is that they are a fungus party in a bite and full of friendly bacteria. Friendly bacteria, say you? Oh yes.
Lately I’ve been addicted to raw sauerkraut and consuming it in large quantities. One year ago I turned my nose up at fermented foods and glared at you if you suggested I take a bite. Ironically it was then that I needed healthy bacteria the most. It was then that I felt my worst and began the journey of uncovering the roots to all my digestive problems. Most of us are in desperate need of more probiotics in our diet. I just stumbled upon a Fabulous Fermentation Week movement on some of my favorite health blogs, and I squealed with happiness! It’s so exciting to see other bloggers spread the word about healthy bacteria (yes I totally just said that). So it’s about to get all factual up in here – get ready to learn, feel free to take notes.
The facts //
1. Your gut serves as your second brain and produces more serotonin (known to have a beneficial influence on your mood) than your brain does.
2. An adult is supposed to have two to five pounds of live bacteria in their body (gut) – that’s more than 100 trillion tiny, single-celled organisms.
3. Junk foods, antibiotics, non-organic meat and dairy (pumped with antibiotics themselves), stress and unfiltered water are all healthy bacteria killers.
4. A low count of good bacteria in the gut can cause candida (a genus of yeasts causing infection), leaky gut syndrome (damaged bowel lining), a very weak immune system, and even poor development in babies.
5. Antibiotics weaken healthy bacteria growth for up to 6 months!
6. Healthy bacteria should outnumber the cells in your body by at least 10 to one.
7. Lactic acid is the most common bacteria found in the fermentation of vegetables. They help the body produce natural antibiotics, anti-carcinogenic compounds and other compounds that actually inactivate toxins.
8. Most disease originates in your digestive system, including physical and mental disease. Once you heal and seal your gut lining, your digestive system will begin to work properly again and disease symptoms will typically resolve.
9. Probiotics promote regular bowel movements, maintain bone health, improve digestion, banish skin conditions, produce antioxidants, and reduce cholesterol.
10. Lactic acid balances out blood sugar, making us less prone to developing diabetes or storing too much fat (I know this got someone’s attention!).
BOTTOM LINE: Maintaining an ideal balance of good and bad bacteria forms the foundation for good health—physical, mental and emotional.
This is not a joke, people!
All of the aforementioned fermented foods actually FEED the healthy bacteria in your gut, known as probiotic foods! Most are incredibly healthy and delicious (I stay away from the sourdough, yogurt, soy sauce and wine bit – but I dig kimchi, sauerkraut and olives). The very best fermented foods are the veggie kind, and they are typically easy to make at home. Aside from taking probiotics before bed every night, I make it a point to eat fermented vegetables everyday. I’ve noticed a significant difference in my digestion and even in my skin! I’ve seen my digestion go from very, very bad (the holidays were a wreck) to good. Not very good just yet, but we’re moving forward, and that’s all that counts.
When shopping for fermented vegetables, it’s important to buy RAW vegetables that do not contain added dyes, sugars, or preservatives. Pasteurized foods are non-beneficial because the heating process kills the bacteria. But honestly, if you’re up for a fun kitchen-DIY one weekend, just make it yourself. That way you ensure that your fermented veggies are gluten-free and preservative-free.
I’m starting to experiment with making my own kimchi and sauerkraut. I could have never imagined it being so easy! It’s a little tedious with the cleanliness part, but it’s really nothing impossible. Best of all, it’s so rewarding and beneficial to your health. And we all know how I feel about that.
If you’re nerdy like me, check out this TED Talk with Bonnie Bassler. Pretty amazing, I’ll say!
Here are some fermented recipes that I’m totally digging right now:
Raw Vegan Cashew Labneh
German + French Sauerkraut
Fermented Beets with Orange & Thyme
So what do you think? Would you board the bacteria train? Or are you already making it a habit to eat fermented vegetables?