Fermented Foods Are Essential For Health
This is an article I wrote for a recent newsletter on the benefits and extreme importance of fermented foods. :-) They are not emphasized enough in living foods today, yet it was a vital part of Dr. Ann Wigmore's DAILY healing protocol and lifestyle. And for a REASON. You'll see why.....
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are foods that have been fermented. It is important to be sure that we all have a clear understanding of what "fermentation" means. Fermentation is the controlled process of food decomposition. During the process foods begin to naturally break down, thus creating new nutrients and beneficial digestive bacteria. This bacteria not only helps to break down and assimilate foods, but it produces natural preservatives.
I thought it would be fun to present some other definitions of fermentation, though, for a broader understanding.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, fermentation is a chemical reaction in which sugars are broken down into smaller molecules that can be used in living systems. Nice, but not my favorite.
We can thank the Ameritage Heritage Science Dictionary, another publication, for this yawner: The process by which complex organic compounds, such as glucose, are broken down by the action of enzymes into simpler compounds without the use of oxygen. Fermentation results in the production of energy in the form of two ATP molecules, and produces less energy than the aerobic process of cellular respiration. The other end products of fermentation differ depending on the organism. In many bacteria, fungi, protists, and animals cells (notably muscle cells in the body), fermentation produces lactic acid and lactate, carbon dioxide, and water. In yeast and most plant cells, fermentation produces ethyl alcohol, carbon dioxide, and water. I'm sorry, am I snoring? I’m quite sure this thorough but unappealing definition is accurate, but honestly, this is TMI (Too Much Information) in my opinion. Why? Because it’s waaaaay over the average person’s head.
Here’s a fun one for you. Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary described it as the following:
“a chemical change with effervescence”
Adorable, but that could describe what happens after too much Taco Bell, too, meaning that it doesn't say much. Fortunately, they included the following definition as well, which I loved:
An enzymatically controlled anaerobic breakdown of an energy-rich compound (as a carbohydrate to carbon dioxide and alcohol or to an organic acid); broadly : an enzymatically controlled transformation of an organic compound.
Bravo. Enzymes! Transformation! NOW we’re talking. POWERFUL STUFF! Yes, fermented foods are live foods that have transformative, regenerative, qualities. Is it ANY wonder they are imperative for optimum health? Without them, we degenerate.
Fermentation is an ancient food preservation tool. Our grandparents or great-grandparents likely fermented foods, especially before refrigeration, as a means of storing vegetables for the winter. It was one of the mainstays in their diets----likely due to the preservative qualities and not the health benefits. However, even animals and indigenous folks intuitively ferment foods, burying raw foods in the ground for a week, then digging them up and eating them. And in other cultures around the world, homemade fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi never went out of style in their less commercialized cultures, and it is reflected in their improved health statistics.
The term "fermented" can sound unappealing—especially when you consider that we are basically talking about “strategically” decomposed food, more or less (BIG emphasis on "strategically"!). But in all actuality, many commonly ingested foods are a result of the fermentation process, and are quite popular: Beer, Pickles, Cheese, Wine, Soy Sauce, Vinegar, Yogurt, etc. All of these products are sharp or tangy. All of these mainstream products are fermented, but they are all either pasteurized (heated, which kills all the good bacteria and enzymes), are unhealthy in and of themselves and/or they contain unhealthy additives. . . .
The Massive Benefits Of Fermented Foods
When you eat raw cultured vegetables loaded with enzymes you give your body an opportunity to use it's own enzymes to rejuvenate itself instead of wasting a large portion of them digesting food. Within a healthy lifestyle, raw fermented foods in their natural state are highly valued for their probiotics (good bacteria), enzymes and nutrients, not to mention their predigested state that renders them very easy for our stressed digestive tracts to process and assimilate. That is why Dr. Ann Wigmore, largely recognized as the mother of the western living foods movement, made them a daily staple for all who came to her in search of health.
Common raw and vegan fermented foods used in the living foods lifestyle are as follows:
Rejuvelac (a fermented Wheatberry drink)
Young Coconut Kefir
These fermented foods increase total health, promoting the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria, supporting the immune system, and aiding digestion. The nutritional benefits of fermented foods are exponential, meaning that they contain all the benefits of organic, raw foods in their natural state but develop more and more beneficial properties as the food ferments.
Just some of the benefits of fermented foods are as follows:
- They contribute to a healthy immune system and help fortify patients suffering from AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer
- They promote a tranquilizing effect on the nervous system and benefit many who suffer from sleep disorders, depression, Autism and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
- They help relieve all intestinal disorders, promote bowel movement, reduce flatulence, create a healthier digestive system -- and is an absolute must after the use of antibiotics to restore balance to the digestive tract
- They help regulate weight and appetite by reducing cravings for sugar, soft drinks, bread and pasta -- all foods I strongly advise against
- They help the body prevent bacteria and fungal overgrowths by populating the gut with healthy flora.
How To Add Fermented Foods To Your Diet
The best way to add fermented foods to your diet and to ensure their integrity is to find some that are appetizing to you and to make them yourself. Store-bought ferments are often pasteurized, thus cooking them and destroying the enzymes and good bacteria. Plus, they are expensive, often over $10 a pint for Kraut and $3 a pint for Kombucha, etc! If that's your only option, though, don't let it deter you: Dr. Ann Wigmore said that only 1 tbsp of Kraut per meal was enough to receive the benefits. THAT is what I'm trying to tell you, people: this stuff is POWERFUL!