Lacto Fermented Foods
As the seasons get colder many people find themselves falling prey to colds and sniffles. Maintaining a good intake of immune system boosting nutrients can certainly be a help in combating these annoying minor illnesses. Nowadays we are able to buy foods all year round that were once seasonal, but are these out of season foods ideal? In many cases foods that have been transported long distances and stored for long periods of time have been shown to be severely nutrient depleted by the time they are eaten.
Lacto-fermented foods play an important part in many traditional diets with many different cultures having there own versions. Sauerkraut in Eastern Europe, kimchi in East Asia, fermented fish in Scandinavia and kombucha from Russia, to name but a few. Lacto fermentation is a process that allows foods to be stored for extended periods of time and actually increases their nutrient value. Lactobacilli present on the surface of plants produce lactic acid during the fermentation process which not only preserves the food but promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines. As well as lactic acid the fermentation process produces helpful enzymes, antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic compounds.
It is said that 80% of our immune system resides in the gut in the form of friendly bacteria. These bacteria build up during infancy and play important roles such in digestion, stimulating cell growth, repressing the growth of harmful micro-organisms, training the immune system to respond only to pathogens, and defending against some diseases. If you are ill and take a course of antibiotics the chances are you are giving your good bacteria a hiding as well as the nasty bacteria you are hoping to rid yourself of. Lacto fermented foods can play a role in restoring the balance of these helpful micro-organisms in the gut.
Getting started with lacto-fermented foods
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, it is easy to make and is available in many supermarkets. It is usually consumed in small amounts as a condiment alongside meats. Some traditional diets that involve high meat consumption without adverse health effects include sauerkraut in this way.
Kombucha is a drink made from fermented tea and a culture derived from the kombucha mushroom. It is best to consume only a small glass per day for the first couple of weeks, after which you should be able to consume as much as you want. Decaffeinated versions are available from some suppliers. A quick internet search should provide you with a supplier able to deliver in your area.