From The Grain & Salt Society (spring 2003)
Cultured foods date back to the earliest civilizations. In modern as well as ancient times, wine, beer, cheese and yogurt are examples of cultured products. Modern methods of quick production have reduced the health benefits. Most fermentation is now aided by genetically engineered enzymes. Dairy that hasn’t been cultured into kefir or yogurt forms mucus and clogs the kidneys.
Traditionally cultured foods help re-establish your healthy flora. They improve digestion and reduce cravings. Cultured foods include cultured vegetables, apple cider vinegar, kefir, miso, tamari and shoyu.
“They are ideal for pregnant women, ensuring a healthy birth canal for her newborn child, who will rely on her to provide healthy bacteria. Children with autism-spectrum disorders benefit from the culture as well,” says Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet.
Adding other bacteria is important too. Acidophilus and lactobacillus bifidus bacteria are the two most predominant bacteria in a healthy gut. Gates adds, “When there are no healthy bifidus bacteria in the colon, as much as sixty percent of a woman’s estrogen is lost when it is eliminated from her body in the stool. Which would you prefer? Creating a healthy inner ecosystem in your intestines or taking artificial estrogens?”
Historically, food was preserved in a seasoned salt brine. Currently many picklers use vinegar mixtures and other preservatives.
A chemical change caused by enzymes produced from bacteria, micro-organisms or yeasts. Fermentation alters the appearance and/or flavour of foods and beverages such as beer, buttermilk, cheese, wine, vinegar and yogurt. Fermented foods help absorption of zinc and iron.
An ancient cultured food rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Easy and fun to make at home, it is superior to commercial yogurt. An absolute must after antibiotic use. Kefir makes a perfect breakfast smoothie.
Prebiotics are constituents of food that our gut flora feed and grow on. Prebiotics include fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and other soluble fibres found in grains, fruit and some cereal products. Prebiotics help digestion and the immune system.
Probiotics—lactobacillus bifidus and acidophilus are two examples—are live strains of friendly bacteria that help the digestive system work efficiently. They are found in yogurt with live cultures and specially formulated probiotic products, including capsules and powders. Pollutants, toxins, antibiotics and overly processed foods reduce the number of naturally occurring good bacteria in our gut. Studies have shown that optimal numbers of good bacteria increase the immune system’s ability to fight disease. Probiotics may also have a role in reducing the severity of allergies.