Making friends with bacteria

I have wanted to try making my own fermented food for a while, but never dared to try what seemed like a daunting experiment.

Which is why I was delighted when Aletta, who did the same training in Health Coaching I am currently doing, organized a class in Basel with other IIN students this Friday.

Why exactly would we want to ferment our food is probably the first question crossing my dear readers’ minds?

The latest research shows that about 80% of our immune system is actually located in our gut, making it the best place to start improving general health, immunity and even psychological health.

According to Sara Britton of My New Roots,

When we eat fermented foods, we eat the beneficial bacteria – the probiotics – that the food contains. This is important because we need a diverse population of bacteria in our digestive system for optimal health. To name just a few of their functions, probiotics are responsible for promoting regular bowel movements (helping to relieve diarrhea and constipation), improving digestion, enhancing immune function, producing antioxidants, normalizing skin conditions, reducing cholesterol, maintaining bone health, and managing blood sugar levels.

In addition to all this, a lesser known benefit of probiotic food is its role as a detoxifier, helping the body get rid of toxins and heavy metals.

What’s fascinating about fermented foods is that most cultures have traditionally prepared foods in this way for conservation reasons. Traditional cultured or fermented foods include: Plain yogurt, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, sour cream, chutneys, pickles, olives, cheese.

Unfortunately, when these foods are bought in most stores, they have usually been pasteurized or had a lot of sugar or salt added to them, leaving little probiotic benefit. So in order to really get the benefit of probiotic foods, the ideal solution is to make them yourself.

Here are some photos of our Probiotic Power afternoon where I thoroughly enjoyed making new friends – both with the other students and the friendly bacteria. Now I just need to make sure I don’t kill off the samples I brought home to continue fermenting!

How about you, do you have any experience with probiotic or cultured food or does this all sound very strange to you? 

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Preparing kefir – the granules are added to raw (unpasteurized) milk and left to ferment.

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Kombucha – fermented tea which has a lovely sparkling taste – the strange looking thing on top is the scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).

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Making kimchi – the key to both kimchi and sauerkraut is to really massage the all the ingredients together so that the cabbage releases it’s fermenting power.

Kimchi - Korean style mixed vegetables (left)- and sauerkraut (right) - fermented cabbage.

Kimchi – Korean style mixed vegetables (left)- and sauerkraut (right) – fermented cabbage.

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9 Comments

  • Audrey on Mar 15, 2013 Reply

    This was a very interesting post. I knew about kefir and yogurt, which are a no go for me since I am sensitive to dairy, but I did not know about cabbage. I will use this information to “probiotic” my life :) Also, for dairy sensitive people, a good idea is coconut yogurt or kefir. I could not find any in Switzerland, but they have some in France, or you can do those yourself.

  • Faris on Mar 11, 2013 Reply

    I didn’t know Kimchi had probiotic qualities. In Korea they refer to it as “the Korean superfood” because they consider to be uber-healthy. Beginning to understand a bit better why – even though I’m still not a big fan!

  • Elena on Mar 11, 2013 Reply

    I had once a lot of fun nurturing my own sourdough, unfortunately it didn’t last long and grew some “bad hair”… Yet the bread tasted nice (before the hairs).

    • Hiba on Mar 11, 2013 Reply

      That does sound like fun, I would like to try that as well one day!

  • Hiba on Mar 10, 2013 Reply

    Bere and Vanessa, thank you both for your comments! I will have to do a follow-up post for sure, once I feel I have understood things a little better myself :)

  • Berenice on Mar 10, 2013 Reply

    My knowledge was limited re. Probiotics- but when you say : yogourt, cheese, pickles and olives are fermented items Then i realise That i intégrate probiotic in my alimentation :) yogurt is the One item That i eat more régulary (3 to 4 Times a week) though. An article about how régulary (or proportionnally) you should intégrate probiotic Would be cool ! And watch out images of this article are upside down on the iPhone !

  • vanessa on Mar 09, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for this very interesting post! I had totally forgotten that miso, kimtchi and … yogurt/kefir were fermented food, too. In my mind it meant mainly sauerkraut and despite trying hard to add it regularly to my meals, I really don’t like it… So now, I am so glat to have a whole variety of friendly bacteria to eat….
    Will you post some recipes soon:) ?

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