Image Source: Jin Li via Creative Commons
After putting me into a spin the night before, I decided to complete the 4-part series of the Netflix documentary - Cooked by Michael Pollan - watching the final installment titled “Earth”. Little did I know, this episode covering the long-forgotten benefits of fermentation, would change my understanding of bacteria, germs, and the importance of cultured foods to build a healthy lifestyle.
As you may recall from my previous post on the benefits of bread in your diet, Pollan has turned his written knowledge from the book of the same title, and created a visual masterpiece that challenges many of the latest “trends” in health and nutrition. The last installment really struck a chord with me, as it discussed our developed “paranoia” around germs, bacteria, and food safety standards. Standards that in many cases, are actually more damaging to our health, as they disrupt the natural bacterial biome which protects our body from “bad bacteria” - viruses, disease, and other illnesses.
Fermented foods are our connection back to nature, and the only way to build a healthy body with the strength to resist illness and unlock hidden nutrients in food - naturally.
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process where natural bacteria have been allowed to feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process acts to naturally preserve the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Recent studies have shown what our ancestors have known for centuries. Natural fermentation of foods preserves nutrients in food, and helps to break difficult food sources (legumes, dairy, some vegetables) down into a digestible form. Cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for years - from sourdough bread in ancient Egypt, Sauerkraut in Germany, to Kimchi in Korea.
Unfortunately, with our new-found fear of bacteria and germs (think Spray n’ Wipe), combined with the onset of a processed, fast-food obsession, the time-honored tradition of fermenting foods has been largely lost in the 21st Century.
Why Eat Fermented Foods?
If you didn’t already realise, fermented foods offer a wealth of nutritional content that no other food source does. Along with the “good” bacteria that are included, fermented foods are a powerhouse of goodies that will strengthen your body’s resistance to illness, and unlock nutrient from food more efficiently. Here's the low-down.
They Contain Probiotics
Consuming fermented foods like Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kefir and Kombucha, will help balance the bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics have also been shown to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and improve immunity.
They Help You Absorb Food
With a proper balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes provided through fermented foods, your body will absorb more nutrients in the foods you eat. Assuming you’re already eating a healthy range of wholesome foods, you won’t need as many supplements and vitamins. You’ll absorb more of the live nutrients in your foods.
They're Cheaper Than You Think
Fermented foods purchased from organic whole-food markets can get expensive, but you can make your own at home to save money. Drinks like Kefir and Kombucha can be made at home according to the many recipes you can find on the web, and their addition in your diet allows you to cut down on the number of expensive supplements you need.
Fermented Food Lasts Longer
Common household items like salsa only lasts a few days in the fridge, but fermented homemade salsa can last for months! The same goes for sauerkraut, pickles, beets and other garden foods. Fermentation allows you to store these foods for longer periods of time without losing the nutrients.
Grow The Variety of Foods You Eat
Cooked the documentary has taught me a lot over the 4, 50 minute episodes. The last installment on the health benefits of fermented foods was, for me, a profound “aha” moment that will stay with me for a long time, and act to shape the way I create my meals into the future.
Starting with the addition of simple foods in my diet that can be either store-bought or homemade - sourdough bread, Kimchi, and Sauerkraut - I’ll be using my new-found knowledge to look deeper into fermentation and it’s benefits to health and wellness.
Maybe this new knowledge has inspired you as well? Do you have experience with fermented foods that you can share? Share your favourite recipes in the comments below!
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About the Author
Hi, I'm Jason, founder of Kickstart a Cause, teaching you to unlock your true potential and create a life you were born to live. When I'm not inspiring greatness in others, I can be found travelling the world exploring the beauty of nature.
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