I have a difficult time watching the same movie twice. It feels like a waste of time. But there are a few select cinematic presentations that capture my heart. The first one was Dirty Dancing. I probably watched it everyday after school in 4th grade with my friends. We practiced ‘the lift’ in the neighbor’s pool each summer. I recently watched it again two times in a row. I never get tired of that one.
There is a series on Netflix called, Chef’s Table. I have watched each episode from all the seasons countless times. I watch, I cry, I get inspired. I am moved by the precision of mastery. I exhale mesmerized by the painful beauty of the toil of perfection. These chefs engage all of their senses to create masterpieces that I only dream of tasting.
When I watched Francis Mallmann from Patagonia, Argentina I became enthralled in his romantic relationship to fire and what it does to food. He’s pares down his productions to pit fires and open flames to alchemize the simplest of foods into pure pleasure. The scene where he is on the plane and he says that he has to keep going, keep experiences new things to stay inspired. That’s me, too. His final quote leave me speechless every time. “In order to grow and to improve you have to be there a bit at the edge of uncertainty.” And then he reads aloud the last two lines from The Call of the Wild. “There’s a whisper on the night-wind. There’s a star agleam to guide us. And the Wild is calling, calling…let us go.”
Francis Mallmann cooking fresh fish on a boat.
Francis Mallmann’s pit roasted pumpkin with greens and goat cheese.
One of my favorites is Magnus Nilsson. I bought his beautiful hardbound book, Fäviken, named after his restaurant. He makes art on a plate delicately garnished with lichen. Lichen! I studied lichen in college. I took two classes on it and it fascinated me. As an herbalist, I am seduced by its medicinal qualities. To involve an organism that is so taken for granted, growing on tombstones and eating away at rock for hundreds of years – a symbiotic relationship of a fungus and a cyanobacteria – and celebrated in a gourmet meal. YES. In Sweden he has a root cellar behind his restaurant. The rustic shelves and dirt floors are lined with ferments resembling a mad scientist’s lab filled with jars of preserved floating experiments. I dream of a cellar like this. A special place to keep ferments happy. This episode inspired my recipe for my lacto-fermented whole carrots with tops which you can follow in the book Find Your True Fork, where I’m featured as the fermentation expert, which releases in July 2017.
Nordic chef, Magnus Nilsson.
Blade of beef with crispy reindeer lichen.
The root cellar behind Fäviken, the restaurant.
Magnus Milsson’s beautiful hardbound book, Fäviken. Click here to purchase.
Virgilio Martinez from Peru is so inspired by his homeland that he creates each of his meals as mini ecosystems based on the altitude from where the plants/animals/fungi are found. He works with his sister who catalogs and researches the ethnobotany of these plants.
Virgilio Martinez prepping a plate.
Green algae balls from the mountain lakes of Peru.
Virgilio Martinez uses all kinds of traditional corn
In season four, they follow a Buddhist nun, Jeong Kwan, who has risen to the ranks of Michelin star chefs by preparing vegan temple food for her fellow monks. She gardens, meditates, and cooks. She pulls kimchi out of crocks buried in the ground to add to the meal. She ferments her own soy sauce. She has famous chefs falling to their knees in adoration at what happens in their mouths and subsequently their brains when they eat her food.
Jeong Kwan serving (delicious) food.
Her chef-worthy plating skills rival top rated chefs worldwide.
She talks about how temple food keeps the body in a calm and focused state prime for reaching enlightenment through meditation. She doesn’t use garlic, scallions, onions, or leeks because they are too stimulating for the mind and makes it more difficult to meditate. She says that is one of the biggest differences between temple food and laypeople food.
Temple food. I’m utterly floored by this concept. I grew up Southern Baptist where we are taught that the body is a temple. And that’s when it struck me. When you are on a healing diet, you aren’t necessarily eating food that everyone else eats. You are eating temple food. Food that feeds and nourishes the temple that is your body. Food as medicine in its purist form. Food that makes you stronger, keeps you calm, wards off sickness, clears the body of wastes, and makes you peaceful. I feel the truth of this message in my core.
This is the essence of the work I do – I teach this to my clients by recommending a healing diet that is easy to digest and helps remove toxins.
I am inspired to plant a garden this year. I want to create the most healing, gut-rebuilding, temple food recipes I can muster. I know what it feels like to be clear and strong. I don’t feel that way right now. I feel good, but since moving back to the South, I feel as though I have succumbed to the bad habits of my region. I spent a year experimenting with gluten after 14 years without it and I know (again) that it is not for me.
It threw my body for a loop. I started drinking smoothies at the local juice shop down the street and because they are paying more attention to flavor than health, I was drinking sugar bombs that has made me slightly insulin resistant.
I have some things to sort out in my body this year. I have been getting mentally and emotionally ready. I try to eat how I know I need to eat and then I break at the need for convenience and socializing. I am trying to figure out why it feels harder than it did before. I eat really healthy, don’t get me wrong, but I am eating an imbalanced diet too high in honey, dates, chocolate, and meat.
I search for why it isn’t easy like it was before and I realize the current challenge has so much to do with the fact that I’m not in a state of panic about my health anymore. I was willing to do anything in the past to get away from the terror of getting sicker. The panic attacks were a real motivator for change. I am happier than I’ve ever been. I’m more relaxed and unshakable. The wrong foods used to really throw me off. I would get reactive, anxious, and stressed out about it. It no longer happens like that.
Now that my mental and emotional state are more balanced I am seeking a new motivation – one from a positive place. One that isn’t based on moving away from pain. Instead, I’m moving towards pleasure. This is a lesson in self worth. What does it take on a daily basis for me to feel happy and want to take in foods that aren’t so stimulating? What motivates me now to eat the foods that keep me calm and my body as healthy as it possibly can be? Why do I listen to the doubts and excuses that creep in?
It brings me to addiction. That feeling of the floor falling out from under me gets stronger and stronger the more relaxed and easy my life gets. I’ve worked diligently to get here. I have encountered immense struggles to raise myself up from the depths of suffering. I spent so much of my life in pain – both emotional and physical – that I get a little uneasy when there are no bumps in the road. I actually crave the feeling of tenseness and friction that addictive substances and stimulants have on my body.
I did my genetic testing recently and discovered that I have a gene snp for dopamine issues. The ‘need’ for chocolate, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, drugs, anything – that external stimulant to help trigger a dopamine response so my central nervous system can relax is akin to a real physiological issue. I have some healing to do on this level. And I’m a little scared about it.
What is life without these stimulants? Can I function? Will I sleep a lot while my brain heals? Should I check into a healing retreat center so they can serve me the healthiest foods and give me the moral support to make it over the many humps? What will happen to my business if I can’t focus?
Regardless of these doubts, I’m confident in my abilities to achieve this.
And through watching the Chef’s Table I realize what I’m missing. I’m missing my relationship with nature. With plants and animals. With quiet. With humans who care deeply about our planet and the symbiotic relationship with life. I think we are a bit more on the parasitic side right now. That’s what fermentation has taught me. That a symbiotic relationship benefits all involved. The health crisis that is happening in our world from obesity to cancer, diabetes to heart disease, is proof enough that we are not benefiting from the relationships we are forging (forcing) with nature.
There’s where my new health journey begins. Symbiosis. Planting. Growing. Appreciating. Preparing. Eating. The Temple Food. That is my next mission. Will you join me? Share your feedback and thoughts in the comments below.
If you have ever had trouble stopping eating, eating when you’re not hungry, or dealing with cravings that have taken over your mind then please watch the newest Guts & Glory Blogcast with Susan Peirce Thompson, a good friend and psychology professor who has figured out some pretty cool solutions!
She’s giving a free webinar in which she’s going to explain how people’s brains are blocking them from losing weight…and what they can do about it. Once you register for the webinar you will get access to the quiz!
While many fermented foods have incredible benefits, from increasing digestion, nutrient assimilation, and gut rebuilding, not all fermented foods improve your health.
Some are pure deliciousness, but can have harmful side effects.
Now, of course I’m a fan of ferments. Incorporating certain kinds of fermented foods is a big part of what I recommend as one small, yet important step for people looking to rebuild their gut.
That said, I want to make sure people are aware that just because something’s fermented, doesn’t mean it has beneficial probiotics.
Look, I’m definitely a fan of shamelessly enjoying chocolates and cheese. So please know that what I’m sharing is in no way meant to cause guilt. It’s just to point out that not all ferments provide probiotic advantages and that all ferments—yes, even the super healthy ones—should be consumed in the appropriate amounts.
Here is a rundown of some common ferments that don’t have probiotics and their pros and cons.
Alcohol is an obvious example of a ferment that isn’t exactly “good” for you. But before you beer fanatics throw up a middle finger, know that even some alcoholic beverages can have health advantages! We all know that too much alcohol can severely harm the liver, not to mention cause intense remorse and embarrassment if you get drunk….
Many people converted to drinking red wine when they heard about the many health benefits.
The American Gut Project has claimed that:
“Alcohol consumption also affects microbiome diversity. Those who had at least one drink per week had a more diverse microbiome than those who abstained”.
The science behind how alcohol is fermented
Fermentation is the conversion of sugars to ethanol and carbon dioxide, with the implementation of bacteria—in the case of alcohol, yeast. Yeasts are single cell fungi that are necessary in producing ethanol. In a normal fermentation cycle, yeasts use oxygen at the beginning and then continue to thrive once the oxygen no longer remains. It’s during this anaerobic (without oxygen) period that ethanol is produced.
As with most yeast ferments, if Candida is an issue, I don’t recommend it. The byproducts in a yeast ferment support the growth of yeast – feeding the bioterrain for yeasts to grow – not ideal. Alcohol is essential straight ‘sugar’ that feeds yeasts in the body. In fact, when I was studying herbal medicine in school, my mentor told me that most alcoholics are actually consumed by a yeast overgrowth and can make major strides in their alcohol consumption by addressing the Candida first.
So there you have it. Perhaps the foods and drinks that are generally considered “bad” can in some ways be “good.” This is why I hesitate to call foods “good” or “bad” and instead look at food on a person by person basis.
Another example of a questionable-probiotic ferment is cheese. (And of course, cheese goes well with that glass of red wine.) But as we know, dairy consumption can also cause issues. High in fat and difficult-to-digest proteins, too much cheese (or other dairy products) can result in chronic inflammation, digestive issues, and a wide array of other undesirable side effects including weight gain.
I call cheese a ‘questionable-probiotic ferment’ because there at least a thousand different kinds of cheese and depending on whether it is pasteurized, raw, or aged will determine how many kinds of probiotics are in it (or not).
However, even without probiotics, the protein in cheese (if you can digest it) naturally helps to curb hunger. These proteins help break down absorption of carbohydrates, therefore helping balance blood-sugar levels and boost your mood!
Other nutrients in cheese includ zinc and biotin, both helping aid tissue repair, protecting skin, and strengthening nails and hair.
The science behind how cheese is fermented
To ferment cheese, a starter culture is usually used. Milk must be kept at around 90 degrees for 30 minutes in order to ripen. At this time, the bacteria grows and fermentation begins, lowering pH levels and developing the mature cheese flavor. You certainly don’t want to (ok, I do) eat an entire block of cheese, but these dairy products do indeed possess miscellaneous nutrients, mainly proteins and calcium.
For you coffee addicts, guess what? Coffee is usually fermented. A common method of processing raw coffee involves washing and separating the skin from beans before fermenting the beans in cement tanks. Fermentation is what causes this outer layer to break down and disappear, essentially de-pulping the seed and leaving behind the coffee bean. After fermentation takes place, the beans are then rinsed with water and the remaining mucilage is then dried.
We are sometimes in denial of the health concerns related to coffee, but in the back of our minds, I think even regular drinkers are aware that coffee isn’t always the most health-promoting beverage.
That said, while coffee can lead to cardiovascular issues and a myriad of anxiety-related problems, this non-probiotic ferment does have its benefits. Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants; it can protect against diabetes; it aids the liver and combats alcoholic cirrhosis, as well as prevents gallstones and kidney stones; it can prevent and revive any retinal damage; and coffee can potentially lessen your chances of certain cancers and Alzheimer’s. It also helps mental focus and productivity, which is the main reason most people drink it.
Other non-probiotic ferments
Various teas, chocolates, and vinegar. While all of these non-probiotic ferments have pros and cons, so do the “good”, probiotic rich foods.
Even healthy ferments can have negative side effects if consumed too often in too great of quantity. For example, kombucha—though it possesses a myriad of benefits and is high in vitamins and enzymes that help detoxify the body—can also contribute to Candida issues, dysbiosis, heartburn, and inflammation if drank too much too frequently. To read more on the pros and cons of kombucha, read this article.
The important thing to remember for these non-probiotic containing ferments is that they can still bolster the bioterrain, making the gut a happy place for probiotics to live, but they aren’t adding bacteria into the digestive system.
The main thing to keep in mind, even with fermented foods that do have probiotics, is that they work best when implemented into your diet, not when they become your diet. Having even one small servings of fermented food as a side item helps immensely. That’s when they work their magic best to help you digest your meals more fully! Whether it be a non-probiotic ferment, such as wine, or a probiotic-rich food like yogurt or sauerkraut, listen to your body first. Make sure you’re eating what your body is asking for and not overriding your physical needs with your mental knowledge of the health benefits of the foods. I teach more about how to listen to your gut in Gut Rebuilding where you clean it up and rebuild it from scratch.
To check out my favorite 11 probiotic-rich ferments, read here.
Maybe you’ve wanted to ferment, but think,
“This seems risky. There are so many things that could go wrong. Why should I make fermented food, rather than just buying it at the store?”
Kimchi, sauerkraut, miso…These are just a few of the easy-to-make, tasty fermented foods that contain probiotics. But one of the biggest debates is which system is the best?
When setting up your fermentation station, BEFORE FERMENTING organizing a clean fermenting environment is absolutely vital. In order to ensure safe, healthy practice, your fermentation station has to be top priority!
Read on to learn how easy it is to start fermenting safely at home.
WHAT THE CROCK?
Crocks are used to help prevent mold and lactic acid producing bacteria. That said, it doesn’t have to be a crock—it could also be a glass container like a mason jar. Whatever you end up using, make sure it has straight sides with limited possibility for oxygen.
When it comes to fermenting, oxygen is the well-known enemy. In an aerobic (oxygen) environment, yeasts can oxidize to form acetic acids—the same thing as vinegar. Sure, vinegar is a fermented product, but that’s not what we’re trying to make here. Also, if oxygen is present, candida-preventing yeasts—such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and all the gut-friendly probiotic bacteria—cannot prosper. If the oxygen is eliminated, these beneficial bacteria and yeasts can help clear your gut of harmful bacteria.
Don’t worry; owning a super fancy, expensive jar is not required. However, if you do use a mason jar or alternative option, setting up the jar properly according to your ferment is very important.
100% airtight jars can be harmful, as CO2 forms during the gaseous stage of fermentation. This can cause your vessel to explode! CO2 gasses must have a way to escape. If you feel comfortable setting up mason jars and making alterations, go for it! Otherwise, consider buying a high-end crock or jar with airlock sealing that can release the bi-product of fermentation.
The best jars have rubber gaskets, and my personal favorites have airlocks. This prevents mold spores from inoculating the ferment. I recommend spending more money on jars that will save you time and energy, while also ensuring quality of your ferments! If you’re an avid fermenter, it’s worth it.
OTHER KEY ITEMS YOU’LL NEED
Beyond the very necessary crock or storage item, there are several other tools necessary to create a safe, healthy, sanitary and proficient fermenting space.
- Knives: You’ll want a large, quality knife able to cut through thick foods such as cabbage. If you have a dull knife, sharpen it! If you don’t own a sturdy knife, invest in one. It could last you a lifetime and is totally worth the purchase! You also will want to have a small, quality paring knife for cutting smaller items.
- Cutting board: Plastic or wood is fine. If your wooden cutting board has black spots of mold on it, please throw it out and get a new one. We don’t want mold spores ending up in your ferment.
- Weights: Using anything from pickling pebbles to glazed ceramic weights helps keep your ferments compact inside your jar. I personally don’t recommend using rocks as weights because I’ve just had it fail too many times.
- Rolling Pin: You can use a rolling pin as a tamper for pushing your fermented goods into your crock. Or you can buy a dedicated tamper, made specifically for this purpose.
- A rubber band and cloth can be used to keep bugs away
- WHERE TO STORE SUPPLIES
When it comes to storage location, you want to make sure your ferments are in an area where they can evolve efficiently. You’ll want to keep you ferments in an area away from light, free from temperature fluctuation, and UV rays that can alter your food.
“How do I know if oxygen is in my crock? What are some signs of bad set-up?”
If it looks off, it probably is. Signs of a ferment gone wrong include:
- Brown cabbage
- Yeasty odor
VIDEO ON THE BEST CROCKS
I get asked a ton of questions about what kinds of crocks to use and how to avoid mold, so I made a video.
This mini tutorial explains my personal fermenting methods, shows off some of the most popular varieties of crocks, and lets you in on one of my favorite choices for making the best homemade probiotics with fermented veggies. Check it out!
Watch this mini lesson to learn more about the following:
- Something you have in your recycling bin that you can use right now
- Airlock vs. traditional style crocks and jars
- Size—does it matter?
- Where to score giant crocks, and the dangerous kind to avoid
- Which weights to use
- And my personal favorite system!
The process of fermenting may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s actually quite simple once you’ve gotten the swing of things. Also, it’s worth noting that homemade ferments generally have more than eight times the amount of probiotics as an entire bottle of store bought supplements!
The real question is why would you NOT make your own!
Comment below and let me know
What ferment have you been wanting to make at home?
Pros and Cons of this Magical Drink
Kombucha—fermented tea created from Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts (SCOBY)—is commonly hyped up as being a magic elixir. Regular consumers claim this tea potion aids weight loss and digestion, serves as an anti-aging regimen, helps prevent cancer, improves liver function and supports overall immunity.
However, like with many things, pros come with cons.
Although this incredible tonic is now popularly marketed on a large scale for its countless health benefits, kombucha can also have negative side effects if consumed too frequently.
Why kombucha is so great:
Bacteria and yeasts in kombucha work to eradicate most sugars from the tea, transforming the liquid into a fizzy, semi-tart, delicious drink.
Kombucha is high in Vitamin B—protecting the pancreas and liver.
It’s also rich in enzymes that help detoxify the body, high in glucosamine that helps joints and prevent arthritis, and packed with probiotics—helping to aid digestion and ensure gut health.
Hannah Krum of Kombucha Kamp shares in her new book, The Big Book of Kombucha:
“Kombucha is often referred to as a gateway food, because this one health-promoting choice can lead to a whole host of others, bringing balance to body, diet and lifestyle. With regular consumption, kombucha can be part of deep, positive changes in all aspects of life….We are living in a bacterial world, and I am a bacterial girl!”
So what’s the problem?
The main issues are frequency and quantity that people consume kombucha. A lot of health experts will advise drinking kombucha every day, but I strongly disagree.
While I love kombucha and appreciate its benefits, I believe everything should be done in moderation!
If you are taking medications, are an alcoholic, diabetic, alcohol sensitive, caffeine sensitive, sugar sensitive, or have Candida…kombucha may not be the drink for you. Symptoms of SIBO can be revealed or exacerbated through drinking kombucha. In some cases it can trigger acid reflux or heartburn and possibly irritate ulcers.
How to get all of the benefits with none of the buzzkills:
While kombucha is not a magical drink with wizardry powers, if drank in moderation this yummy concoction can provide health benefits like increasing your bacterial diversity, which helps prevent chronic disease.
(One of my Fermentationists, Gayle, calls kombucha the “designated driver’s drink” while out at the bar.)
The key to reaping the benefits of kombucha without the negative repercussions is to be aware of how often you’re drinking it and how it’s making you feel.
In general, I recommend drinking kombucha no more than two times a week.
Here are some of my clients’ personal experiences with kombucha:
Kevin Gianni of Annmarie Skin Care, “the only dark side of kombucha is when you run out…. lol… we have it on tap at the office here”
Elissa, “I used to drink lots of kombucha and loved the different flavors at the store. I also liked the idea that it was healthy, until I got a “baby” from a neighbor (that was super fun, like sharing sourdough starter) and realized how much sugar and caffeine it got fed! Yikes!”
Morray, “I have done kombucha on/off for a couple of years. I could definitely tell when it was not agreeing with my system (bloating and digestion just off), removed it for a time and have been drinking it again for a few months with no issues. I think the amount is key and I do better WITHOUT the second ferment. I have never really liked carbonation…”
Catherine, “I started making kombucha five years ago and loved it, drank it almost daily in amounts of 4 to 12 oz with no ill effects, I rarely used a second ferment. Then over time I developed SIBO and noticed increasingly that I didn’t feel as well after drinking it. This actually helped clue me in that I had SIBO. I was drinking it less and less so I stopped producing it at home. After a year or so without it I took a sip from my husband’s Celestial Seasoning kombucha as we were shopping in Sprouts Market one day and holy cow, one sip was enough to blow my gut up to basketball proportions. I think that brand has inulin added to it. I didn’t touch kombucha again until I got an all clear signal from my retest for SIBO. Now I respect the power of the ferment more and I limit my kombucha use to keeping a bottle of GT in the fridge on occasion and sipping from it as I’m passing through the kitchen. I do the same thing with Kevita Lemon Ginger Tonic. My sister also finds she feels best taking kombucha an ounce or so at a time. Hope this helps.”
Myra “The first time I ever tried it was in this program [FCP]. I thought it tasted like “hard” iced tea. I like that sort of thing!” 😉
Shawn, “Like Myra, the first time I tasted it was in this program. I only had one drink of it since I do not tolerate caffeine or sugar well. My daughter loves it however, so I am continuing to make it for her. She says it is so much better than any of the many different kombuchas she has purchased from stores, and that she never wants to buy any again! This summer she wants me to teach her how to make it so she can make it herself and experiment with different flavors.”
Marlies, “I drank a lot of it for about 2 years, about a year ago. I did not realize then that drinking it in large amounts ( as to was sold in large bottles) was not a good idea. My teeth started to ache and I suspected it was causing my candida problem to flair up. Now I have it on occasion.
Jennifer Delaney I can drink it on occasion, but if I start drinking too often I start getting headaches. I am prone to food related migraines and know certain things must be done in moderation for me.”
Jane, “We as a family like Kombucha . We go through a lot of it. I have a hard time keeping up to the making of it. I do not find the alcohol in it affects us in any way. I don’t know what the alcohol content is but I’m sure it has a low alcohol content. We have been drinking it for about two years now. I really like Kombucha and gingerale mixed together. My favourite way of drinking it. I was diagnosed borderline diabetic but was able to reverse that diagnosis. I think that the Kombucha may have a part in that. Im not sure. I know lifestyle changes affect that also. Eliminating processed foods, sugar etc. My daughter had a histamine reaction to it. She does drink it but less of it now.”
Laura, “My son, by drinking kombucha regularly, has gone from borderline constipated to 3 poops a day! He spends so much less time in the bathroom, it’s awesome.”
I’m a firm believer in fermentation—proper and appropriate fermentation, that is.
When made right, raw, unpasteurized ferments can restore balance in your gut, right belly issues, give your immune system a fighting chance, bring you to your ideal weight, and more.
Plus, these live foods beat probiotic supplements hands down for their probiotic numbers.
While purchasing quality ferments in the store is convenient, making ferments at home is much less expensive, plus you can control the flavors and ingredients (many store-bought ferments have sugar), and it’s a fantastic way to put you in control of your health.
The main concern when making fermented foods is the rare, but possible, threat of contamination with botulism-causing bacteria. Further risks include the development of mold and other unwanted bacteria.
Although the benefits of fermented foods far outweigh the risks, it is still necessary to be educated on what can happen if precaution is not taken. If done incorrectly, fermenting can lead to serious health problems. And let’s be honest, if you think you’re giving your mama a nutritionally packed, healthy jar of sauerkraut that is actually poisoned, you’ve got yourself a living nightmare.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR FERMENTS SAFE
First and foremost, sanitation and cleanliness are vital in preparing fermented foods, to ensure food safety and quality. Like with any food preparation, washing your hands, rinsing the produce, and cleaning your utensils is important prior to working with foods.
Additionally, to reduce the threat of contamination, you should routinely disinfect equipment and prevent crowding or overstocking your fermented products. Setting up a clean and efficient workspace lessens the possibility of contamination and toxicity. This means hot soapy water.
Don’t worry about over-sanitation in this circumstance. This is one instance where you do want to keep things as sterile as possible.
Sidenote: There are different precautions for each type of ferment, so make sure you learn about what the specific ferment you’re making needs. In this article we are discussing vegetable and lacto-fermentation, but we cover every types of ferment in the Fermentationist Certification Program.
OXYGEN IS THE ENEMY
It’s important to weigh down your products under the brine to keep the bacteria in an anaerobic environment. Keeping your vegetables submerged decreases the possibility of air getting in and altering your ferment. As you may already know, oxygen is the enemy when it comes to lacto-fermenting foods. Therefore, one of the most important steps in fermenting is to ensure an oxygen-free environment in the crock. Jars with airlocks are recommended to keep mold out and keep the smell down.
Similarly, if you have too low of a water or brine level, the veggies on top will oxidize and bacteria can accumulate beneath the surface. This also stimulates mold growth.
On the other hand, by packing your jar too full, there’s not enough space for the fermentation process to occur without causing overflow. A rule of thumb is to pack your jars 3/4 full, so that your foods have enough room to expand and develop. Less than 75 percent can let in too much oxygen, but much more than 75 percent will prohibit proper fermentation. Too full can also fill the airlock with brine.
CREATE AN OPTIMUM ENVIRONMENT FOR FERMENTS
Salt it! Keeping salt in your ferments deters bugs. The salt ratio should be three tablespoons to each quart of water. (Don’t use iodized salts though, as they can impede fermentation.)
Temperature is another critical factor. The good bacteria that provide health benefits and protect your gut will die if your ferment gets too hot, and fermentation cannot occur in a setting too cold. Controlling temperatures helps get your body those advantageous bacteria your body craves, allowing an appropriately timed and natural process. Keep your ferments away from UV rays, as well as from spaces where temperature fluctuation is likely to occur. Leuconostoc mesenteroides bacteria do best in temperatures of 65 to 72 degrees during the first stage of fermentation, so keeping the temperature set in that range is ideal for appropriate results within three to four weeks.
By keeping your foods high in acidic levels, your ferments are less likely to spoil. Low acid levels are more welcoming to foreign bacteria that cause decay. Use pH strips to test the acid levels and make sure you’re on the right track! For example, sauerkraut should have a pH of 4.6 or lower.
UM, SHOULD THAT MOLD BE THERE?
If you see mold, it’s probably best to throw it out and start again. This may seem wasteful, but mold is a sign that you’ve done something incorrectly the first time, and it’s no secret that there are severe risks in consuming molds. Some think that you can simply scrape the mold away, but unfortunately, the spores remain. You see, mold has roots, deeper than the obvious stuff you scrape away or cut off. Long before mold visually appears, spoilage has already begun. If cabbage turns pink, you probably have a yeast or mold issue that is caused from oxygenation. It could also mean you did not distribute the accurate amount of salt. If a creamy, smelly layer shows up on the top of your ferments, throw them out.
I don’t say any of this to scare you away from fermenting foods on your own, because homemade ferments have more probiotic power than anything you can buy in the store. (Plus it’s fun!) Just make sure you do research and give the right amount of care and caution to your fermented goods.
Taking the steps listed in this article will help you form nutritionally-dense, healthy foods that will please, not poison!
Want more step by step instruction? Join the Fermentationist Certification Program!
Why You Need to Eat Miso Daily
You’ve drank it with sushi.
Maybe you’ve even made the most outrageously tasty salad dressing with it.
And if you’re really wild, you’ve even made this culinary delight yourself.
I’m talkin’ bout miso magic. In all it’s lip-smackin’, nutrient-dense glory.
What is miso?
Miso is a traditional Japanese ferment made from soybeans and barley or rice malt, commonly consumed in stir fry or miso soup—is one of few ferments that is purely fungus. Its main benefits include the creation of novel enzymes and the ability to release essential nutrients. Additionally, it appears to possess prebiotic effects.
Miso is made with a yeast, Aspergillus oryzae, rice, and beans. After these things are combined, the ingredients convert starches to sugar and converts proteins into amino acids.
Miso, which translates to “fermented beans” in Japanese, has proven its nutritional worth for thousands of years in Asian culture, and has recently started to gain heightened recognition in the United States and beyond.
This particular fermented food has a long history, dating back thousands of years ago in Asia. Originally started in China, this ferment found its way to Japan as early as the 10th century B.C, at which time it gained immense popularity and became a standard piece of Asian cuisine.
At one point in miso’s complex history, people were able to develop a process that kept spores from Aspergillus molds pure and easily transferable. In implementing this process, word spread about the tasty and nutrient-packed wonder. Today, miso is a worldwide phenomenon!
Miso’s Nutritional Wonders
While soybeans have nutritional value on their own, many nutritional experts believe that when fermented into miso, the product is even healthier than stand-alone soy. Miso helps with the creation of enzymes, which boosts the supply of essential nutrients.
Despite its high-sodium reputation, miso does not negatively impact our cardiovascular system in the way that many other salty foods oftentimes do. In fact, quite the opposite is true! Recent studies show that Japanese adults who consume miso daily are actually at lower risk for cardiovascular-related issues.
Miso also helps the gastrointestinal system in numerous ways. Studies from the early 90s show that people who eat miso soup daily are less prone to stomach diseases, such as gastritis or varied ulcers. Genistein, an isoflavone found in miso, was found to be a strong inhibitor in ridding the body of Helicobacter pylori—a main cause of these intestinal diseases.
Miso is not only beneficial to the cardiovascular system and in preventing cancer, but it also aids the digestive system and is high in vitamin K, which boosts overall bone health. The Aspergillus and other microorganisms in miso help metabolize proteins, carbs and fats—converting them into easily digestible molecules. The Bacillus bacteria found in miso helps to produce high levels of vitamin K, which are incredibly helpful in building strong bones and maintaining mineral density within the skeletal system.
Other benefits of miso are found in its numerous antioxidants. In addition to conventional and well-known antioxidants such as zinc or manganese, miso also contains phytonutrients such as ferulic, coumaric, and kojic acids. With proteins, dietary fibers, and copper, the body gains a myriad of nutrients with each sip.
Miso’s Anti-Cancer Research
Miso is thought to possess anti-cancer benefits. While anti-cancer claims are generally controversial (as with any food), studies have proved that the isoflavone genistein found in soy miso is associated with a decrease risk of cancer.
In 1980, the Japanese National Cancer Center did an epidemiological study that claimed those who ate miso soup daily were not only less likely to suffer from cancer, but also stomach issues and heart disease. Since then, countless studies have revealed similar research, linking anti-cancer benefits directly to intake of miso soup. While it remains controversial, there’s definitely no harm in soy miso; and its countless other benefits make it undoubtedly worthy of consumption.
Interestingly, the number of these benefits only increase through the fermentation process! Studies show that the amount of antioxidants in miso increases the longer time period miso is fermented, and that probiotics are only found in miso that has fermented for a minimum of six months! So, if you leave your miso out for six months or more, you’re likely to get a brown or red-tinted miso that is has elevated quality over premature white miso.
Facts About Miso:
- The miso saltiness mellows out over time. And by using more koji and less salt, your miso will be sweeter!
- Miso ferments are best when kept in a place where temperatures don’t fluctuate. Try keeping your miso in a root cellar or house with stable temperature.
- Miso can be stored for long periods of time, delivering nutrients and novel compounds from soy.
- There are many varieties of miso magic. The main forms include red, barley, and soybean.
Miso is packed with nutrients that aid digestion and is an inexpensive source of protein, probiotics, and minerals!
If you are looking for more information about healing IBS, allergies, autoimmune issues, and more with fermented foods, consider my Gut Rebuilding Program. On the website you’ll find free resources and videos (after you enter your name and email).
How Lactic Acid In Fermented Foods Keeps The Body Happy
I don’t go a single day without eating lacto-fermented vegetables. They keep my immune system boosted (I get a cold less than once a year), give energy to think more clearly so I can kick butt in my business, keep my skin lovely, and keep my weight where it should be by reducing my appetite, sugar, and carb cravings.
The fermented foods I eat actually SAVE me time because I have more energy and focus all day long.
These foods are also the best resource I know of to heal the body after toxins, stress, and processed foods have wiped out the balance of beneficial bacteria inside our digestive tract.
Which, unfortunately, is almost everyone! So that’s why I’m sharing this quick overview of lacto-fermentation.
What is the best way to get probiotics?
The probiotics found in raw, fermented foods stock the body with healthy flora that serves as a protective lining in the gut and shields us against harmful pathogens — basically making it a real challenge for harmful bacteria to reproduce and cause illness. Our bodies’ immune systems necessitate “good bacteria”, or probiotics, which provide beneficial germs while crowding out the bad. It’s a pretty genius cycle that’s kept human health in check for millennia. In fact we can’t live (for very long) without this bacteria!
Store-bought probiotics vary greatly in quality — and often lose their potency as soon as they are packaged. Many tests have shown that probiotic supplements lose their strength by half by the time they reach your house. Unpasteurized fermented foods contain as much as 8x the number of probiotics as one bottle of probiotic supplements. Yup, even that bottle that costs $40 or $50 is nowhere near as potent!
So what is fermentation, scientifically speaking?
Though just a small part of the complex system of our nutritional needs, fermentation plays an essential role in keeping our bodies healthy and happy.
As you may remember from science class, fermentation is a process of producing energy in the absence of oxygen. During fermentation a chemical reaction in bacteria, yeasts and miscellaneous microorganisms break down and eradicate all sugars from a substance.
Bacteria in sauerkraut, for example, ferment when they eat up the sugars in an anaerobic environment. This is how the bacteria produce energy. The byproducts of this process are carbon dioxide (bacterial farts) and lactic acid (bacteria pee!) Ok, I know, I just made that really gross, but you’ll never forget it!
Here’s the coolest part.
Humans can ferment, too! And I don’t mean when you lift up your armpit after a long sweaty workout. Your muscle cells have the same contraptions that the bacteria have. When no oxygen is present, your muscle cells make energy using the process of fermentation. Guess what the byproducts are? Carbon dioxide and lactic acid! You know that sore feeling in your muscles after a workout? Yep, that’s lactic acid running amok.
6 Things You Didn’t Know About Lactic Acid
- Lactic acid is a natural antibiotic that kills off bad bacteria and helps end dysbiosis — an imbalance of probiotics.
- When you eat lactic acid, it does not make you sore.
- Lactic acid does not contain dairy. It is named after Lactic Acid Bacteria, which happen to thrive off of lactose (a sugar found in milk) and the carbohydrates in vegetables. http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/largegut/ferment.html
- Lactic acid is what makes raw unpasteurized sauerkraut sour, not vinegar. The sour flavor from vinegar is a different kind of acid — acetic acid. In fact, probiotic-rich kraut contains no vinegar whatsoever.
- The sour flavor in yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and sourdough bread is also from lactic acid.
- Lactic acid is the byproduct of fermentation. Many bacteria can do this when there is no oxygen present.
Where have fermented foods been all my life?
In ancient times, people were constantly exposed to beneficial bacteria because they didn’t live in a sterile environment. They actually consumed plenty of naturally occurring probiotics by eating fresh foods produced from good, nutrient dense soil.
While most everyone is familiar with the fermentation process used to create alcohol, fermentation is still a foreign craft to many Westerners. Fermenting foods for their health benefits has gone on for thousands of years, and plays an essential role in holistic healing and nutritional practice around the world. However, widespread pasteurization and the shift toward eating processed foods has created a giant void in our diet, health, and culture as a whole.
Danger In Your Grocery Store
In today’s world, the majority of food is processed, which not only means it has little-to-no nutritional value, but it’s actually dangerous. Much of the readily available produce we buy today has quite a large amount of pesticides.
Unless it is organic, meats contain antibiotics, giving you a daily low-dose, which kills off the good bacteria your body needs. By adding probiotic rich foods into your diet, you’ll see improved digestion, increased energy, and an all-around stronger immune system.
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The real epidemic is growing in the intestines.
If you are looking for more information about healing IBS, allergies, autoimmune issues, and more with fermented foods, consider my Gut Rebuilding Program. On the website you’ll find free resources and videos (after you enter your name and email).
11 Most Potent Fermented Foods In Your Healer’s Toolkit
Wondering which fermented foods to use for Candida, weight loss, allergies, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions?
Whether you’re looking to increase your energy or heal a specific condition such as high blood pressure or IBS, certain fermented foods can get you results quickly and naturally.
You’ll want to use certain fermented foods depending on the desired result you want. And not all fermented foods are used medicinally, such as beer or chocolate.
(Even though you could make an argument for chocolate being medically necessary…It definitely is for me sometimes!)
Below is an overview of functional fermented foods— foods that are used for their nutritional and healing properties.
First mentioned in a Chinese poem nearly 3,000 years ago, kimchi is one of the world’s first lacto-fermented foods. This traditional Korean dish—made of cabbage and spices—improves the cardiovascular and digestive systems. Its antioxidants help lessen the risk of serious health conditions, such as cancer and diabetes.
Of all fermented products, yogurt is the most popular and most commonly consumed. Yogurt directly impacts diet quality, metabolism, and blood pressure. There is a new study that shows a major correlation between reduction in diabetes and intake of sugar-free yogurt. NOTE: When buying yogurt, check that the milk source is either grass-fed goat or sheep, and that it’s certified organic. Or, of course, you can make your own!
This fermented milk product is high in calcium, magnesium, and vitamins, with a similar taste and texture to that of drinkable yogurt. This sour-flavored fluid is made from milk and kefir grains, boosting immunity, alleviating bowel-related issues, improving digestion, and building bone density. It’s even been linked to killing Candida—a yeast-like parasitic fungus. Although it’s less popular than yogurt, it is actually higher in probiotics. (Coconut Kefir is a great dairy-free option that utilizes fermented juice of young coconuts to replace milk.)
Kombucha is a fermented beverage, composed of black tea and sugar that originated in China about 2,000 years ago. (The sugar can come from various sources, i.e. cane or pasteurized honey.) When the SCOBY is added, the fermentation process begins. Once fermented, the sugary tea transforms into a carbonated, fizzy drink, high in enzymes, probiotics, advantageous acids, small amounts of alcohol, and vinegar. Studies show that kombucha improves digestion, increases energy, supports immunity, aids weight loss, and serves as a full-body detox. To read more about the pros and cons of Kombucha, click here.
There’s two different kinds of pickles. When you preserve cucumbers in vinegar, you get pickles. But when you soak cucumbers in a salt-water brine, you get probiotic pickles!!! One pickle can contain up to 20 percent of your daily Vitamin K value—a vitamin essential to bone and heart health. NOTE: Because pickles are commonly processed and come in many forms (i.e. relish, dill pickle, sweet pickle, etc.), it’s important to look for organic or locally produced pickles to ensure quality. You also want to make sure that they say ‘cultured,’ ‘unpasteurized,’ or ‘lactofermented.’ Pickles are one of the most common ferments, and super easy to make yourself!
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage made with salt and often herbs, which enhance the flavor and nutritional content. High in fibers, vitamins, iron, copper, calcium, and magnesium, consuming sauerkraut strengthens bones, supports your natural, healthy inflammation response, reduces cholesterol, regulates digestion, fills the gut with much-needed Lactobacillus plantarum (a great probiotic), and assists circulation. It’s also dairy-free and can be made ‘wild’ which means no starter culture is required! Learn how to make your own probiotic factory on your kitchen counter!
Idli is a steamed, naturally leavened cake, made from ground rice, urad dal (white lentil) and beans. This gluten-free food is light and digestible, with high levels of calcium, potassium, and iron. Because idli requires steaming, it doesn’t have probiotics; however, its high iron content is crucial to oxygenating the blood.
Unpasteurized vinegar is considered an extraordinary stimulant. While the majority of vinegar in American grocery stores is a cheap, mass-produced product with absolutely no health benefit, traditional vinegars made with quality alcohols and live cultures possess various health benefits. Vinegar is among the world’s first preservatives, and apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been used as a home remedy for thousands of years. Raw vinegars—made from unpasteurized juice of fruits—contain all the nutrients and enzymes of the fruit used. (For example, ACV contains all the nutrients of apples: pectin, acetic and malic acids, B vitamins, etc.) All in all, vinegar is a tonic that aids digestion, lowers blood pressure, and relieves stress and fatigue. Additionally, consuming vinegar makes it more difficult to absorb sugars and starches. To read more about the variations of vinegar and their specific health benefits, click here.
Miso is a broth formed from fermenting soybeans, barley, or rice, and mold. This popular Asian dish has anti-aging properties, strengthens bones, allows healthy skin, helps lower the risk of cancer, and aids the nervous system. It is alkalizing and delicious – especially when homemade.
Traditionally an Indonesian cake-like dish is made from fermenting soybeans with live molds. Because it possesses the same protein qualities as meat, it’s a great option for vegetarians! It’s high in vitamins, reduces cholesterol, and quickens muscle recovery. Fresh tempeh is more delicious than the stuff you get out of the freezer, alas this is one of the more time-consumptive and difficult ferments to make at home.
This popular Japanese side dish is similar to tempeh, also made from fermented soybeans. The power of natto lies is in its high levels of vitamin K2, a vitamin that delivers calcium appropriately to the body. It’s common that those who take calcium supplements experience absorption problems. When K2 is not delivered to the bones, calcium is deposited into the cardiovascular system and can cause osteoporosis, but with the help of K2, the calcium is distributed properly to help strengthen bones. Natto also contains nattokinase an enzyme used to support cardiovascular health and blood clotting.
Raw cheese and Nut Cheese
Raw milk has not undergone the pasteurization process that kills many of the beneficial bacteria. Goat, sheep, and A2 cows’ cheeses are particularly high in probiotics, healing digestive tissues and studies show it is linked to relieving depressive symptoms and lifting neurological problems. Only raw and unpasteurized cheeses possess probiotics.
Nut cheeses can be made from a variety of nuts: almonds, cashews, macadamia, walnuts, etc. A great substitute for cheese made from animal milk, nut cheese is ideal for those with vegan diets, as well as those who are lactose intolerant. Though the nutritional value isn’t quite the same as raw cheese, nuts provide high levels of protein and healthy fats. By adding probiotics and fermenting them you get a delicious vehicle for probiotic delivery to the gut.
Sourdough starter is a leaven for making bread, comprised of fermented wild yeasts and bacteria. Sourdough has lower sugar levels than most breads, and it helps reduce damaged starches. Because the bacteria and yeasts in sourdough pre-digest the starches, eating it supports gut health and strengthens the bacterial ecosystem, making one is less prone to infection.
Kvass has been brewed in Eastern Europe for several thousands of years, traditionally created by fermenting rye or barley. Nowadays it is usually made with fruits and various root vegetables. Loaded with Lactobacilli probiotics, kvass is known for its ability to cleanse blood and the liver.
This traditional Ethiopian, yeast-risen flatbread can be made from different grains, but generally is made of teff. Packed with proteins, calcium and iron, injera serves to build strength and aid in recovery after illness.
Please keep in mind that many foods not listed here can also be fermented for nutritional value, if done appropriately. Some of these include pumpkin, hot sauces, salsas, daikon, dilly beans, olives and mushrooms. You can learn more about other highly nutrient dense fermented foods in the Fermentationist Certification Program.
For more information on how to use these foods for specific conditions, including recommended amounts, preparation methods, and current scientific research showing the benefits of these healing foods, consider joining us in the Fermentationist Certification Program.
Take the Mystery Out of Latin Names of Probiotics and Other Microorganisms
Don’t let the ancient Latin throw you! Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know about the latin names of microorganisms found in fermented foods.
When you are teaching a class or writing a blog post about microorganisms like bacteria and yeasts (or talking about it at the dinner table like we do all the time at my house!) you may want to double check that you are writing the names properly so you are professional in everything you do.
It may have been awhile since your high school science classes, so below is a refresher so you can have a working knowledge of these organisms at your disposal.
How To Write The Names of Bacteria and Fungus
All these microorganisms follows a certain set of rules called NOMENCLATURE.
When writing bacterial names by hand on a chalkboard or whiteboard, you will want to underline them. When typing the names, you will use italics.
The first name is the GENUS. It is always capitalized. For example, Lactobacillus is the genus. This is the generic name of the kind of bacteria. You may refer to bacteria by their generic name. The plural form of ‘genus’ is ‘genera’.
To get more specific, you will want to include the SPECIES. This is the second word in the name. It is always lowercase. You never refer to bacteria by their species without including the genus. In Lactobacillus casei, the second word, “casei” is the species.
Once you’ve mentioned Lactobacillus you may refer to it as L. casei and L. acidophilus. If you are discussing two different genera that start with the same letter, you will want to write out the entire name of the genus.
Using the genus and species is ideal when discussing bacteria and yeasts. Sometimes a microorganism will have three names. This means there is a subspecies, though for healing and teaching purposes, it is rarely relevant to get this specific.
Voila! You just got smarter!
Love the science? In the Fermentationist Certification Program we delve into the microorganisms that inhabit your favorite fermented foods and your favorite intestines.
Which Latin name for a microorganism do you wish you knew how to pronounce? Tell me in the comments below.