Sauerkraut And Fermented Foods
The benefits of fermented foods are becoming increasingly apparent as people recover from bowel and digestive problems simply by starting each meal with a few forks full of Sauerkraut. Known for its association with Germany, the art of preserving vegetables through a lactic acid fermentation process (pickling) is a very old discovery. Preserving green cabbage this way was discovered by the Chinese in the year 221 BC. The Chinese needed to a way to provide good nutrition to the builders of the Great Wall of China during the winter months, so they preserved cabbage by soaking it in rice wine.
The tradition of pickling green cabbage was introduced into Europe in the 13th Century by the Mongolians, who brought the Chinese “Suan cai” (sour vegetable) with them. Its popularity began in Eastern Europe and then quickly spread throughout Western Europe.
In the 18th Century it was discovered that Sauerkraut was an effective cure for scurvy. Because of this, it became a favourite food for sea travellers, including Captain James Cook, who always took Sauerkraut with him on long sea voyages. It doesn’t come more highly recommended than that!
The probiotics in fermented vegetables aid weight loss by balancing your inner eco system. If you don’t need to lose weight but just want to feel better, then fermented foods will have this benefit too.
The lactic acid produced during fermentation helps you digest other foods eaten at the same time, especially proteins. In addition, just a few grams delivers beneficial micro-organisms to the digestive tract (stomach, small intestines and large intestines) help food break down and release its powerful nutritious content. It’s also one of the best sources of vitamin C.
Still not convinced? One of the most important problems I see coming through my clinic is the lack of HCL in the stomach of patients, as indicated by certain patterns of imbalance of their mineral profiles. The Mineral Status of most people shows they have a deficiency of Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) in the stomach, without which food cannot be broken down, thereby entering the delicate small intestine area in an incomplete stage of digestion. This leads ultimately to all the modern day problems of IBS and worse.
When fermented food is left to age for a period of days or weeks the vegetables are pre digested by bacteria and yeast, making their nutrients easier for us to absorb. The process also releases vital enzymes for health, sadly lacking in the average person’s diet. Every health expert on the planet might extol the value of raw food, but the process of fermentation can elevate even the most humble vegetable to super hero status. A week old carrot will grow limp and grey even when stored in the refrigerator, while a fermented carrot will stay crisp, crunchy and bright orange.
Fermented foods are the forgotten food group, neglected and scorned by the majority in Britain, but not in the rest of the EU and indeed the world. They have been part of a traditional diet elsewhere for centuries, where their health benefits have been known for longevity and youth. Miso in Japan is believed to be the key to longevity by the Japanese who consume it daily. Kimchi is a sort of spicy sauerkraut and the national dish of Korea. The Chinese began fermenting shredded cabbage in rice wine more than 2000 years ago.
Science is now confirming ancient wisdom about fermented foods and the beneficial bacteria they contain. We know that up to 80% of the body’s immune system is located in the guts. Studies suggest restoring our intestinal flora could help with everything from diabetes and heart disease to colon cancer and chronic anxiety.
This makes reaching for the pro biotic yoghurts and expensive supplements containing live cultures a thing of the past. They are expensive and not necessarily effective. Commercial made yoghurt is processed at extreme temperatures; added ingredients and milk quality turn a super nutritious food into something you want to avoid at all costs!
DIY at making fermented foods can be time consuming and sometimes unsuccessful. What does a busy person look for in the supermarket? I suggest you head to the ‘world food’ section of your local Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s and buy a jar of ready made sauerkraut and give it a try. By that I mean, have a few spoonfuls before starting each meal, as an aperitif so to speak. Another way to get fermented foods is to try one of the many Miso soups now readily available on supermarket shelves. If you ‘get the bug’ the benefits of making your won will become apparent. You won’t want to give it up unless you go into serious self sabotaging!
Some ideas for fermented foods:
Sourdough bread: the tangy flavour comes from bread being fermented with wild yeasts.
Miso: made with a starter culture called koji, miso is believed to be the key to longevity in Japan.
Tamari: the soy sauce upgrade! Delicious with any dish, as a dip, or sprinkled over salad leaves.
Pickles: today dill pickles are often made in vinegar, but you can still find traditionally fermented gerkins, made using sea salt, at farmers markets and speciality shops. Remember, the supermarkets will respond if enough requests are placed for products.
Sauerkraut: Once Sauerkraut is fully cured, it can keep for several months in an airtight container. Prior to refrigeration, people used the process of pickling to preserve green cabbage especially for the winter months. Through its high vitamin content (especially Vitamin C), Sauerkraut helped to prevent vitamin deficiency.
Apple cider vinegar. MOTHER! You know you have bought the real deal if you can see the ‘mother’, a cloudy mass of good bacteria floating in the bottle. Look for the word ‘unpasteurised’ on the label.
Yoghurt: try making your own from a live culture. Again, specialist shops and the internet should provide you with the right ingredients.
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