Because you know that beautiful healthy skin starts with a good diet, you eat your 5++ of vegetables a day, keep your blood sugar levels balanced by avoiding high GI foods, you make sure you consume your anti-inflammatory omega 3s from fish, krill or fish oil supplements and follow a mainly alkaline diet. So… that’s all angles covered, right? Well, I would like to introduce you to another kind of food process that has excited me more than anything this past year: fermentation.
The five flavours of food
According to Chinese Medicine, there are 5 main food flavours: pungent (spicy), sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Apart from lemons and pickles, I used to wonder about how to source sour foods. I knew that for most of us, the sour taste just wasn’t part of our daily fare. Not anymore; sour and tangy tastes are now part of my most daily regime..
I first heard about fermented foods from a totally passionate lady called Donna Schwenk who believed she had cured her health issues mainly by introducing fermented foods and beverages to her diet. Her website www.culturedfoodlife.com is a real inspiration and thanks to her easy to follow videos, I started making my own kefir and fermented vegetables. So, what got me so excited about these foods?
Fermentation as a healing tool in many cultures
When I first looked into this, I realised that most cultures have had their own form of fermented food and drinks for literally thousands of years – Eastern Europeans with their kefir and sauerkraut, Japan with miso and tempeh (soy derivative), Sudan with sorghum (a grain), Korea with its kimchi (spicy cabbage), Iceland with shark and so many continents with yogurt of course. In fact, it could be argued that many of the longest lived cultures each did have a fermented food – if not more than one – that they ate traditionally.
Incredible benefits of raw fermented vegetables and milk (kefir)
But the most exciting thing is how they bring tremendous health and digestion benefits and in doing so, can really help your body brim with vitality, your immune system fight infections, and.. skin be optimally healthy and even help with concerns such as acne
Raw fermented – also called cultured – vegetables taste tangy. It may be a new taste for you but you will soon feel that no meal is complete without them. They help:
Re-establish your inner ecosystem. This to me is what makes all cultured foods such superfoods. We now know that the gut is the largest part of the immune system. The friendly bacteria will act like little soldiers in your gut fighting infection, inhibiting pathogens including E.coli, salmonella or overgrowth of candida and actually synthesising (creating) antioxidants (glutathione and superoxide dismutase) that scavenge free radicals which are a cancer precursor.
Improve digestion. Cultured vegetables are already pre-digested. This means that even before they enter your mouth, the friendly bacteria have already converted the natural sugars and starches in the vegetables into lactic acid, a job your own saliva and digestive enzymes would do anyway. The enzymes in the cultured vegetables also help the digestion of other foods eaten at the same time.
Control cravings. By being loaded with vitamins (C & B notably) and therefore “nutrient dense”, you will simply feel fuller much quicker. Try it and believe it.
My favourites bubble away in my kitchen and I usually like to add a couple of spoonfuls in our daily salads: sauerkraut made with white cabbage or red cabbage and also beetroot. I always add extras too such as herbs (dill is a favourite), seaweeds and garlic. Remember, whichever nutrition is there at the beginning will be enhanced just by fermenting them – more vitamins B & C and more minerals.
The Magic of Kefir
Kefir is a cultured and microbial-rich food that helps restore the body’s inner ecology. It contains strains of beneficial yeast and beneficial bacteria that give it antibiotic properties. A natural antibiotic – and it is made from milk! The finished product is not unlike that of a drinking style yogurt, but kefir has a more tart, refreshing taste and is more medicinal.
Kefir does not feed yeast, and it usually doesn’t even bother people who are lactose intolerant. That’s because the friendly bacteria and the beneficial yeast growing in the kefir consume most of the lactose and provide very efficient enzymes (lactase) for consuming whatever lactose is still left after the culturing process. Yes it is slightly mucus forming but in a way that makes kefir work for us: the mucus has a “clean” quality to it that coats the lining of the digestive tract, creating a sort of nest where beneficial bacteria can settle and colonize.
After you restore the balance of your inner ecology using cultured foods, the beneficial bacteria feed on the sugar for themselves first, leaving little to carry into the rest of your body.
All cultured foods, including kefir, keep the small and large intestines clean and free of parasites. Once in the large intestine, the beneficial bacteria create lactic acid that balances the pH level there. In this acidic environment, parasites and other unfriendly organisms cannot survive.
With its 0.2% alcohol content (produced by the yeast), kefir is acidic when you make it; yet it becomes alkaline-forming in the body once you eat it. This means that the overall quality of the blood remains slightly more alkaline and you remain healthy.
Other nutritional benefits
Kefir from milk is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids. By the time you drink kefir, its friendly bacteria have already partially digested the protein, making it much easier for you to digest. Kefir also provides an abundance of calcium and magnesium.
Tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in milk kefir, combines with the calcium and magnesium to help calm the nervous system. Some people call kefir “nature’s tranquiliser” or “nature’s Prozac”. Its calming effect is great for people who are highly strung or nervous, for hyperactive children, or for people with sleep disorders, such as the elderly.
Kefir has ample phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in our bodies. Phosphorus is important in utilising carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for growth, cell maintenance and energy.
Vitamins B and K
People with candidiasis are usually deficient in the B vitamins and in vitamin K because the body’s use of these vitamins depends on adequate levels of friendly bacteria in the intestinal tract. When kefir is included in the diet, your body should soon be able to manufacture sufficient amounts of these needed bacterial. Vitamin K promotes blood clotting, encourages the flow of urine, relieves menstrual cramps, increases vitality and longevity, and enhances liver functioning.
Kefir provides biotin, another B vitamin, which is missing in people with candidiasis. Biotin is a coenzyme that assists in the manufacture of fatty acids and in the oxidation of fatty acids and carbohydrates. Without biotin, the body’s production of essential fatty acids is impaired. Biotin also aids in the body’s assimilation of protein and other B vitamins: folic acid, pantothenic acid and B12. A deficiency of biotin can cause muscular pain, poor appetite, dry skin, lack of energy or depression and a distressed nervous system.
Kefir is an excellent source of vitamin B12. It is the only vitamin that contains essential mineral elements. It cannot be made synthetically but must be grown, like penicillin, in bacteria or moulds. B12 is necessary for the normal metabolism of nerve tissue and for red blood cell formation. B12 builds immunity and has been used to increase energy and counteract allergens. It is also required for normal growth and is important for fertility and during pregnancy. Plus it works along with folic acid, another member of the B complex, in facilitating the synthesis of choline, a fat and cholesterol dissolver that plays an important role in the transmission of nerve impulses. Choline also helps regulate kidney, liver and gallbladder function and aids in the prevention of gallstones.
B12 helps the assimilation of vitamin A into body tissues by aiding carotene absorption, or conversion. It also aids in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material. B12 needs to be combined with calcium during absorption to benefit the body properly; nature has provided for that in kefir.
Kefir is rich in thiamine (vitamin B1), also known as the “morale vitamin” because of its beneficial effects on the nervous system and on mental attitude. Thiamine is linked with enhanced learning capacity, growth in children and improvement in the muscle tone of the stomach, intestines, and heart. It is essential for stabilising the appetite and improving digestion, particularly of carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol.
Kefir from cow’s milk is a wonderful source of folic acid (recommended for pregnant women to prevent spinal deformities in their unborn children).
Drinking kefir is good for your skin. Some of my clients originally from Eastern Europe have even recalled how they used to wash their face with kefir as it was known to keep your skin balanced and youthful – regardless of your skin type. Fermented milks contain lactic acid which is one of the naturally occurring alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) so popular in cosmetics.
After taking antibiotics, kefir is very useful for re-establishing friendly bacteria in the intestines. Kefir is “nature’s antibiotic”. Kefir’s friendly bacteria automatically show up in the vagina, or you can implant them more directly as a douche.
While colonic therapy helps cleanse pathogenic yeast from the large intestine, such yeast colonise in the small intestine as well. Once these are free of pathogens and colonised with beneficial microorganisms, the liver is able to function much better as well.
In Europe and Russia babies begin drinking kefir diluted with water at four months of age!
Until I organise my own workshops / videos you can learn how to make your own cultured foods from Donna Schwenk’s inspiring videos at www.culturedfoodlife.com
www.bodyecologydiet.com. Donna Gates’ holistic diet on how rebalance your inner ecology. I love her East / West approach.
Read all about practical fermenting – from tangy vegetables to tasty dosas and all sorts in between!- with the Art of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.
From www.red23.co.uk I order the “veggie culture starter” (6 packs) to do my own cultured vegetables.
www.nourishkefir.co.uk delivers 250ml and 500ml bottles to your home or you can buy them from Wholefoods. Find out how founder Deborah controlled the symptoms of her own IBS and crohn’s disease with kefir.
As I make my own kefir, I have got (and multiplied!) live kefir grains from www.happykombucha.co.uk. Watch this space for news of workshops or videos on how to ferment not just milk but also coconut milk for delicious kefirs.
www.lauriestummylovingfoods.co.uk. Check for stockists of its white sauerkraut. Laurie investigated fermented vegetables to improve his digestion.
To your health!