In the winter season, I see a lot of people in my office either with a cold or flu trying to get rid of their illness or asking for the proper guidance for vitamins/herbs/foods that will prevent colds and flu. Today’s discussion will focus on the prevention aspects, as there are some easy but very important things you can do involving food to improve your immune system.
I’m sure most of you know about probiotics, and the importance of good bacteria in our health. For those of you who don’t know, there are little bugs (bacteria) that live happily in our digestive tracts. They make vitamins, they improve the movement of the bowel, but more importantly have a role in how are body responds to the many invading viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi…and the list goes on…on a daily basis. When we have a good strong population of our own bacteria, we absorb nutrients more readily, make our own vitamins, avoid colds and flu, and our digestion moves along the way it should. Irritable bowel, food allergies, Crohn’s and colitis all improve in the face of good bacteria.
Rather than just taking bacteria in the form of a pill or probiotic, there are many ways that our bodies can make its own bacteria. Fermented foods are foods that naturally promote the growth of good anaerobic bacteria in our digestive tracts when we eat them, and create a medium for these bacteria to continue to grow. A friend and avid and successful daily fermenter Bettina Goodwin of the Soul Connection inspired me to write about fermented foods. I’m a newer fermenter; let me know if I’ve left anything out Bettina!
What are foods that are considered fermented?
- Soy and soybean products like natto
- Kombucha and Pu-erh teas
- Yogurt, cheeses, whey
- Some meats like sausages
- Alcohols (like meads)
Many fermented foods involve dairy products, such as the lactobacillus that we find in yogurt or whey that confer good bacteria. However, many of you (including myself) cannot digest dairy products. So how can we get the benefits of fermentation on food without the aggrevation of foods that upset our digestion already? We can make our own fermented foods right at home.
Nutritionist Tom Malterre, one of the co-authors of one of my favourite go-to cookbooks for healthy eating and healthy living called The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, identifies an incredibly easy way to make your own fermented foods from vegetables in your own vegetable basket and your own fridge. It can be done easily with a little bit of sea salt, a few mason jars and patience! You can truly be sure of the quality of the food you are eating as well as having a little fun for yourself. Check out Tom’s great do-it-yourself video and blog post on his simple recipe guidelines for Lacto-Fermented Veggies without Whey.
My little experiment is in my cupboard right now and I’m excited to see how it turns out in a week to two weeks’ time. Not only cost effective, but your own fermented vegetables will enhance your immunity, improve your overall nutrition, and they are super tasty.
If this is too daunting for you, then start with perhaps drinking Kombucha tea or Pu-erh tea. Amazing antioxidant benefits, tasty, and enhance the growth of your bacteria until you are brave enough to do your own experiment!