Families seeking to eat a balanced, nutritional diet these days have more choices than ever. Health food fads abound, which is a great thing because with each new fad comes a wave of information and—if you’re careful about the information you heed—education. Probiotics and fermented foods are one of the current fads du jour and offer many known benefits.
As people increasingly turn away from processed food kept fresh with chemical preservatives, “new” ways of preserving foods are being explored. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention: Fermentation has been used for thousands of years as a method of preserving foods for relatively long periods when hunting or farming could not provide the bounty required for families.
So what is fermentation?
Put simply, fermentation is a way of storing food using salt and water. By submerging food into a brine of salty water, at room temperature, free of exposure to oxygen, the complex process of lacto-fermentation begins. During this process, pH is lowered, unwanted bacterial die off and a variety of strains of healthy, probiotic bacteria thrive and multiply.
The end result of this process has important benefits beyond preserving food. In addition to the billions of “good” bacteria we get from this flavourful food, the process also creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Although the science behind fermentation is quite complex, involving microorganisms that wax and wane in a strictly ordered sequence, the process of fermenting foods is fairly straightforward.
Most fermented foods are nothing more than vegetables placed in a brine of salty water then stored at room temperature for a specific period of time. And it’s not just sauerkraut. In fact, just about any food can be fermented.
The earliest record of fermentation dates back as far as 6000 B.C. and nearly every civilization since has used fermentation as a part of its culinary heritage. The “sour” of sauerkraut is a unique taste sensation that is shared by many fermented foods including kimchi, yogurt, chutney, cheese, kombucha, kefir, ginger beer and horseradish.
Recent studies in Spain have found that wine, too, may contain strains of bacteria (such as Lactobacillus, Oenococcus and Pediococcus among eight others) that are known to be beneficial to our health. Before you go uncorking a bottle Cotes du Rhone instead of your water kefir, keep in mind that the numbers of probiotic bacteria are greatly reduced during the sulfating stage of winemaking, which helps to preserve and stabilize wine, not to mention a number of other known negative side effects of drinking.
What are the health benefits?
First and foremost, fermented foods are an excellent and natural source of probiotics. For most people, due to our reliance on heavily processed foods, our overall gut health has suffered. Probiotics (IE beneficial bacteria) are the healthiest and most natural way to replace missing healthy gut or intestinal flora. Our body maintains a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria during food digestion. Probiotics help support that balance and improve digestion. Many people find that increasing their fermented food intake helps with digestive issues such as indigestion, slow digestion, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Many consider fermented foods to be an “acquired taste” but, even so, it’s a taste that should be acquired. The health benefits make it more than worth it to introduce more than a few of these options into the family diet. It has been said that, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” That could just as well be, “Probiotics each day keeps the doctor away.”
At Rice Family Chiropractic we practice a holistic approach to healthcare. While we are responsible for your spinal health, we encourage our patients to think of their health as a vast web of interconnected elements, each affecting the other. As such, the food you put into your body, the thoughts you think and the physical exercise you take, all greatly impact our overall wellness. If you have questions about this or any other aspects of your spinal health, please feel free to reach out to Drs. James and Erin Rice at Rice Family Chiropractic.
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Rice Family Chiropractic
Wellness from our family, to yours.
Dr. Erin and James Rice
#310-6525 204 Street
Langley, BC V2Y 3B3