For thousands of years, cultures around the world have eaten fermented foods and cultured vegetables. Today, in a time of overly sweetened and processed foods, we have lost our taste for these healthy and nutritious foods.
What are cultured vegetables and fermented foods? They are foods that are cultured with beneficial bacteria (think yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut and probiotic supplements.) This beneficial bacteria helps to preserve the food naturally.
What results is a powerhouse of nutrients, enzymes and beneficial bacteria.
When consumed, these cultured foods supply our digestive system with beneficial bacteria that produces a healthy microflora environment in our intestines. These healthy microflora can protect us from illness and keep us strong and healthy. Our body houses millions and millions of microbes (mostly bacteria, with some fungi, parasites and viruses.) It is important that we "manage" these microbes so that the unhealthy bacteria don't out number the beneficial bacteria.
Eating cultured foods provides a way for us to supply our body the beneficial bacteria that keeps our immune system strong and healthy. When the unhealthy bacteria become too numerous, we end up with candida and other illnesses.
According to Donna Gates, in her book "The Baby Boomers Diet", this healthy microflora helps -
As Baby Boomers age, we tend to have less of the beneficial microflora in our systems. This can contribute to many health problems including
Beneficial bacteria also makes a difference cosmetically. Bad bacteria contributes to fine lines, age spots and freckles. Beneficial bacteria instead promotes healthy, vibrant skin.
According to Dr. Leonard Smith, in the book Baby Boomers Diet, there are at least 500 – 600 species of bacteria in our gut, and they are all competing for space and food. They need to adapt to the available nutrition, defend against other microorganisms, and avoid toxic compounds that are potentially dangerous to them. The bad bacteria can turn food into a poison by oxidizing the essential fats we eat, and turning nitrates into cancer-producing nitrosamines.
When we consume cultured foods, it ensures that greater numbers of beneficial bacteria are in our system . They ensure that the good bacteria are in control, enhancing our immune systems.
Fermented foods have been used for many years. It has only been in recent years that we have had refrigeration. Before that time, people either ate fresh foods or used smoked, dried or fermented foods to preserve food.
Fermented foods such as kefir (a cultured drink similar to yogurt), sauerkraut, sourdough bread, tempeh (a fermented soybean product) and even sausage were consumed for many years.
Although we can find some of these foods in supermarkets today, most of these products are pasteurized and heated which has destroyed most of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes.
Well, why not just take a probiotic supplement instead of eating fermented foods? Because there are many more beneficial bacteria in properly fermented foods than in a supplement.
Fermenting vegetables was a necessity years ago to preserve food. Cultured vegetables are raw, cut and shredded vegetables that have been fermented at room temperature. This allows the naturally present beneficial bacteria and enzymes to multiply and create a vitamin and mineral rich food. Fermenting increases the food’s nutrients.
In order to begin the fermentation process, vegetables are cut up and put into a clean jar. Either salt or a “starter” is added to the jar of vegetables before tightly sealing the jar with a lid. The jar is then left at room temperature for 3 – 7 days while the good bacteria multiplies.
I use Donna Gates' Body Ecology Cultured Vegetable Starter and it works very well. It is easy and you can make a good sized quantity that can be stored in the refrigerator for a long time, once it is fermented. It comes with easy to follow directions.
The benefit of making your own cultured vegetables is that they have many many more probiotics in them than the kind that you would purchase in the grocery store.
Be sure to begin slowly in adding these wonderful foods to your diet. It you start with too much, it may cause a mild detox effect in your body.
Or, if you would prefer to drink a cultured drink, try a kefir starter to make a drink that is similar to a yogurt drink.