the 1950s, marketing has turned bacteria
into a universal evil to be killed off at all
cost. However, due to recent research
into the microbiome, we are beginning to
understand the positive impact of our gut
bacteria on all sorts of diseases.
Healthy digestion is clearly linked to
a healthy gut, particularly the range and
breadth of our gut bacteria. We are also
beginning to link the increase in allergies
to a decline in our gut bacteria, and early
exposure to various pathogens.
Fermented foods have been part of
our diet for millennia and we may just find
out, in time, that they are a necessary
element that we have reduced too far.
Fermentation should not be just another
passing fad. The acceleration of the
pace of our lives, what can be viewed
as a slow decline of our cultures and
communities, as well as the rise in mental
health problems in society has led some
of us to reflect on past times. A particular
movement that has emerged from this
is Slow Food. And what, we ask you, is
slower than fermentation?
The fact is that we should reduce
our dependence on sugary and
salty foods, processed fats and low
glycemic index carbohydrates, learn
to love straightforward fruits and green
vegetables, raw or lightly-cooked and
unadulterated, and aim to eat free-range
meats; dairy and eggs. Why not spice
all of that up with a big dollop of kimchi
or sauerkraut, or accompany it with a
fermented drink like one of those from
Real Kombucha, which is naturally low in
sugar and alcohol.
Real Kombucha's Dry Dragon is
brewed from Dragonwell, a pan-roasted
green tea from Zhejiang Province in China,
while Smoke House is brewed from a
black tea from Yunnan Province and has
an apple and caramel undertone and has
a warm golden colour. Best-selling Royal
Flush is brewed from fragrant Darjeeling
teas with notes of rose, vanilla and quince
and should be served very cold.
Writing for American website dLife,
Elizabeth Keyser looked at the effect of
fermented foods on blood sugar control,
"Foods that have been fermented deliver
umami, and they also have unique
health benefits, especially for people
with diabetes. Fermentation is one of
the oldest methods of preserving food.
It's what transforms milk into yogurt;
cabbage into sauerkraut and Korean
kimchi; soybeans into miso; and fruit into
vinegar. The best part is that research
shows that these foods are good for your
blood sugar levels. The acids in fermented
foods-lactic and acetic acid-interfere
with carbohydrates' turning into blood
sugar, thereby reducing spikes."
One of the best and easiest things you
can do for your health is to eat one cup
of full-fat yogurt a day. (Whole milk yogurt
has 11 grams of carbs versus more than
17 in low-fat.) Along with being a great
source of protein and calcium, yogurt
comes with myriad health benefits, thanks
to the friendly bacteria produced during
fermentation. Buy plain yogurt that says it
has "live, active cultures" or is "probiotic."
Check the fine print for Lactobacillus
casei, L. acidophilus, and bifidus.
Sauerkraut is a Northern European
dish made from shredded cabbage
fermented with salt at a low temperature
in a covered jar. The salt draws out liquids,
creating brine that keeps the cabbage
in an oxygen-free environment. There,
beneficial bacteria transform it into a tart
and healthy side dish that makes a tasty
companion to rich meats, like sausages.
Kimchi, the Korean dish, is made
from whole cabbage leaves fermented
with salt, garlic, hot pepper, and fish
sauce (a fermented condiment made
from anchovies). Spicy, garlicky, and
sometimes fizzy, kimchi goes well with
Olives, which are too bitter to eat right
from the tree, are made edible and savory
by soaking in lye and fermenting in salt
brine. A bowl of olives is an easy addition
to a platter of appetizers. Or buy a jar of
tapenade-this chopped olive spread is
great with raw vegetables.
Asian cultures use fermentation to
transform soybeans into foods like soy
sauce and miso. Japanese in origin, miso
is a paste made by fermenting soybeans
(or sometimes barley or rice) in a twostep process
that converts the beans'
carbohydrates into lactic acids. Rich,
roasty-flavored miso can be used in salad
dressings or marinades, but one of the
tastiest ways to enjoy it is in miso soup.
Vinegar is fermented alcohol. It can be
made from pure alcohol (white vinegar),
wine (red wine vinegar), rice (rice wine
vinegar), malted barley (malt vinegar), or
fruit (apple cider vinegar, for example).
Vinegar is created when bacteria causes
alcohol to convert into acetic acid. The
health benefits of vinegar were heralded
even before the ancient Romans, who
drank it mixed with water and honey. Use
vinegar in dressings and marinades, or
drink it diluted as a tonic.
See our regular
for more on the
health benefits of
cooking with kefir, a
fermented food made
from milk. P.