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Fermented Foods: Your Digestion’s Best Friend

Always getting sick? Feeling fatigued? Bloated, gassy and gaining weight?

At Urban Wellness Clinic, we promote a whole body approach to achieving optimal health and wellness. Good nutrition is so much more than eating your veggies and exercising. Our pillars of health includes incorporating fermented foods into your diet. What’s the significance? Fermented foods are abundant in good bacteria that promote a healthy gut microbiome.

Check out this cool fact, research has shown that the number of bacteria in our gut outnumber the number of cells in our body 10 to 1. Crazy! The environment these bacteria live in, and the ratio of “good bacteria” to “bad bacteria” in our gut is this “Microbiome.” Expanding research shows that our microbiome has an effect on all aspects of health. Maintaining a healthy microbiome can promote healthy digestion, boost immunity, weight loss, neurological health, increase quality of sleep and increase energy levels. On the contrary, if we don’t nourish the good bacteria in our micro biome, it can promote bad bacterial overgrowth which can have detrimental effects on our health and promote development of chronic disease (think weight gain, cholesterol problems, diabetes). In fact, recent studies have shown that the composition of gut bacteria is vastly different in people with obesity and diabetes compared to those who are a healthy weight with no signs of chronic disease. Overgrowth of bad bacteria can cause smaller scale symptoms that will affect you every day, including; a weak immune system, fatigue, decreased concentration, headaches, weight gain and indigestion (just to name a few!). Have I convinced you that having a healthy microbiome is important yet? Good.  

So how do we restore and maintain the good gut flora?!? The most common and easiest way is taking a probiotic supplement. Quality probiotic supplements should include a wide spectrum of organisms (unless you are treating a specific condition), and should always be kept refrigerated. DO NOT, i repeat, DO NOT buy a probiotic supplement off of a grocery store shelf if it is not refrigerated. I always believe that you should try and get your nutrients from whole food sources, and not rely on supplements. The same goes for weight loss pills like Phentermine Fermented foods are the number one source of good bacteria. Just 2-3 ounces of fermented foods provides you with more good bacteria than a probiotic supplement.

What are fermented foods? You may already be incorporating fermented foods into your diet and not know it! In case you’re not, try to eat at least one of these per day:

  1. Fermented veggies like sauerkraut
  2. Tempeh (which is fermented soybeans)
  3. Miso (from barley, rice or soybean)
  4. Yogurt
  5. Kefir
  6. Kombucha tea
  7. Kimchi

How do I ferment my own foods? Fermenting your own foods is easy, simple and safe. Not only does fermenting your own food provide you with tons of good bacteria, but it also helps provide adequate amounts of vitamin K2, which is needed for optimal vitamin D absorption.

Here is a simple guide to making your own sauerkraut:

You’ll need:

1 large head of cabbage

1 TBSP sea salt or Himalayan salt.

1 Large Mason Jar

1 small mason jar

  1. Clean everything: Give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible.
  2. Slice the cabbage: cut the cabbage into thin ribbons
  3. Combine the cabbage and sea salt or Himalayan salt: massaging and squeezing the cabbage and salt in a big bowl with your hands. Gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp.  This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut with caraway seeds, mix them in now.
  4. Pack the cabbage into the large mason jar: Make sure the liquid is covering the cabbage. If there is not enough liquid, add some salt water until the cabbage is completely submerged. To do this, mix 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon sea salt. At this time you can stick the smaller mason jar, or another object on top of the cabbage to make sure it stays submerged.
  5. Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — 65°F to 75°F. Check it daily and press it down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid.

Start tasting it after 3 days — when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, screw on the cap, and refrigerate. You can also allow the sauerkraut to continue fermenting for 10 days or even longer. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for when the sauerkraut is “done” — go by how it tastes.

*Side note: While it’s fermenting, you may see bubbles coming through the cabbage, foam on the top, or white film. These are all signs of a healthy, happy fermentation process. The film can be skimmed off the top either during fermentation or before refrigerating.*

Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. Even better, you can use this method with any vegetable!

Happy Fermenting!

Dr Kaitlyn Clarke