So by now you must have seen my Instagram posts showing the different fermented foods I have been culturing. Well I thought I would write an article explaining the benefits of eating fermented foods and show you how easy it is to do.
So what is fermentation?
Fermentation is a natural process through which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria convert carbs such as starch and sugar into alcohol or acids.
The alcohol or acids act as a natural preservative and give fermented foods a distinct zest and tartness. Fermentation also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, more commonly known as probiotics.
The process of fermentation has been practised for thousands of years all over the world. Evidence shows this dates as far back as 10,000 BC. To jump forward to more recent times in 1856 a French chemist called Louis Pasteur studied the process of fermentation hence the name of pasteurised milk. Back then the process was being used the increase the holding and storing of food. This was due to the fact electric refrigerators had not been invented.
It wasn't until 1910 that fermented foods were first considered to be beneficial to the health.
A Russian bacteriologist named Elie Metchnikoff noted that Bulgarians were living to an average age of 87 years old and identified it was due to a greater consumption of fermented milks.
He named the bacteria found in these milks as Bulgarian Bacillus which later became known as Lactobacillus Bulgaricus which then led on to the discovery of Lactobacillus Acidophillus.
These strains now form the basis of all modern yoghurts you buy in the supermarkets.
Well thats your history lesson for today. So now we know what they are what are the benefits of eating them
The key health benefits are as follows
1. Improved Digestive Health. (The probiotics produced during fermentation can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in your gut and may alleviate digestive problems such as IBS, Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis)
2. Boosts Your Immune System. (The bacteria that live in your gut have been proven to have a significant impact on your immune system. Therefore a higher balance of good bacteria will reduce the risk of infections and when sick will help you recover quicker.)
3. Makes Food Easier to Digest. (It is well known that certain foods when consumed unfermented can cause issues within the gut. These include diary foods and legumes such as soy. All beans have a protective coating around them which when digested can cause inflammation and gas within the stomach. The process of fermentation breaks down this barrier allowing full absorption of the beneficial nutrients.)
There are also studies which suggest that beneficial gut bacteria may play a broader role in overall health and wellbeing. These include supporting the following
Depression, UTI’s, Gingivitis, Weight Loss, Heart Health, and Diabetes
For those of you that were unaware. The use of antibiotics to kill an infection does this by destroying all the bad and good bacteria in the gut. Now this may solve your initial infection however it is known that it can take the gut over 3 months to build up the good bacteria back to a level where it offers protection again. In that time your susceptible to infections due to having used antibiotics. It seems better not to use them at all and concentrate on supporting your good bacteria.
So now you know what they can do for you which ones do you choose?
Well currently I am fermenting the following foods. Sauerkraut, Natto and Coconut Milk Yoghurt.
So why did I choose these in particular. I chose sauerkraut because its the easiest to do and is a great introduction into fermented foods. This is a german word which translates into ‘sour cabbage’.
Next I invested in a yoghurt maker off that well known internet site Ebay. The cost was £6 delivered from China. In my quest to eliminate diary from my diet I then made some coconut milk yoghurt which tastes amazing.
I then thought I would delve into the king of all fermented foods which is Natto. This is basically a fermented soy bean. This food is well researched and is heavily linked to longevity in the blue zones. What are the blue zones you may ask? These are regions of the world where people live much longer than average. The highest number of centenarians live in Japan. In particular the Okinawa region. Studies have been shown that they eat Natto on a daily basis.
Natto is known to contain 1103 mcg of vitamin K2 per 100 grams. The next closest food that we in the West generally eat is cheese at around 65 mcg of vitamin K2 per 100 grams. So as you can see Natto is far superior. Studies show that people who consumed 45 mcg of vitamin K2 lived 7 years longer than people who consumed 12 mcg per day.
Now Natto is an acquired taste so to get round this I just blend it in my daily smoothie.
So heres how I did it and the recipes I used and tips Ive learnt.
To start with you need 4 Mason jars and a plastic bucket. They can be purchased for £1 each from Home Bargains. Then you need 2 red cabbages and some salt. I used pink Himalayan salt.
Ensure both your Mason jars and bucket are clean. Then finely chop up the cabbage. Place the first one in the bucket. Sprinkle on a heaped tablespoon of salt and rub it into the cabbage for a few minutes. Then cut up your second cabbage and do the same. Once you have massaged the cabbage for a few minutes leave it to stand for 15 minutes. Once that time as elapsed you will notice the cabbage starting to break down. This is the salt reacting with the acids in the cabbage. Then transfer cabbage into the Mason jars. Two cabbages will fill all of them. Push down the cabbage as far as it will go.
Place the lids on the jars and store in a cool place. Not to hot not too cold. Every 24-48 hours check the jars and release the pressure. This is normal and a good sign the fermentation process has begun.
Leave for a couple of weeks until they is no longer any pressure in the jar. Try some and if it tastes good transfer the mason jars into a fridge.
I consume about 2 tablespoons a day for my daily hit of probiotics.
2. Coconut Milk Yoghurt.
To start with you will need a yoghurt maker. You can see mine in the pictures. A search on Ebay will find one. Mine came with a stainless steel container which is just the right size. Next you will need some starter culture. I again purchased 10 sachets of Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus for £5 on Ebay. Each sachet will make 800ml of Yoghurt.
Next you need two tins of coconut milk. I purchased mine from Lidl for 57p a tin.
Other handy things to have are a probe thermometer and vanilla essence and desiccated coconut and some honey.
Put the two tins of milk in a pan. It is normal for this to be solid. Next heat up the milk to 82’C but don't let it boil. This is done to destroy certain bacteria. Once cooled to 35’C stir in one sachet of starter culture, vanilla essence, two tablespoons of dessicated coconut and a tablespoon of honey. Now the temperature is specific because if you introduce the culture too early the heat will kill the live bacteria. The honey is added to feed the live cultures. Once this is done give it a good stir and then add it to the stainless steel yoghurt maker tub. Switch on the yoghurt maker and put the lid on. Allow it to ferment for 8 to 9 hours. I left mine overnight. The next day switch it off and allow to cool. Then put it in the fridge where it will thicken.
Its tastes so good. Again I consume about 2 tablespoons a day for my daily hit of probiotics.
To start with you will need some soy beans. I bought a kilo of organic soy beans online for £5.
Next you will need some starter culture known as Bacillus Subtilis. I purchased 3 grams of this from Ebay. This comes in ten sachets of 0.3g. Each 0.3g is enough to do 3kg of beans. You will also need some honey to feed the cultures.
Next I weighed 150 grams of soy beans and placed them in a pan of water and left to soak for 24 hours. The next day drain the water and then cook the beans until they are soft. This took me over 5 hours of simmering to get them to soften. As a result of that Im going to invest in a pressure cooker as this does the same job in 15 minutes. A tip would be to soak the full kilo of soy beans overnight then cook the full amount in a pressure cooker. Then allow to cool and divide into 150 gram bags and then freeze these. The next time you then make Natto all you will need to do is defrost the cooked beans add the culture and ferment for 24 hours.
Once the beans are soft and allowed to cool a little sprinkle the Bacillus Subtilis onto the beans and stir it in. I split one 0.3g sachet into ten smaller sachets and wrapped in silver foil and used one of these for my 150g of beans. Then add a table spoon of honey to feed the cultures.
You then transfer the beans into the yoghurt maker and allow to ferment for 24 hours. Once complete your beans should have a slight white coating on them and be seriously sticky.
You then need to try them. I don't like the smell and the taste hence why I consume 2 tablespoons in my daily smoothie.
So there you have it. These three fermented foods when consumed daily will give your gut a good dose of friendly bacteria and assist with all the benefits listed above.