We live in an age of antibiotics. Miracles that they are, if there is a drawback from taking an antibiotic it is that the antibiotic not only kills off the bad bacteria in the body, but can also kill off beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive system. The beneficial bacteria are crucial to proper digestive function and their presence helps prevent other harmful bacteria from taking hold. Candida, for example, is a condition that can result from lack of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, which allows harmful bacteria to overgrow.
This is where lactic acid fermented vegetables come in. Eating lactic acid fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi and other fermented vegetables (yogurt and kefir for non-vegans) is a great way to restore and maintain healthy levels of beneficial bacteria. Lactic acid fermentation is an ancient food preservation technique that uses beneficial bacteria to create a lactic acid environment that preserves food. Sauerkraut is the classic example of a lactic acid fermented food. A small serving of lactic acid fermented sauerkraut or other lactic acid pickled veggies, is loaded with the beneficial bacteria so crucial to digestive health.
Store Bought Vs. Real Fermented Vegetables
The logical solution here is to eat more sauerkraut from the store. The problem is that virtually all store bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized and or cooked. Any benefit of beneficial bacteria is gone. The best way to ensure that you are getting the real thing is to make your own. You can also use organic ingredients that you trust.
Benefits of Making Your Own Sauerkraut and Fermented Vegetables
There are many benefits to making your own sauerkraut and lactic acid fermented vegetables. You may be thinking that you don’t really like sauerkraut. It’s likely that you have never actually tasted real sauerkraut. The store bought stuff just doesn’t compare. Real sauerkraut is flavorful and has a great texture. You can experiment with different spices like juniper berries, caraway seed, dill, basil, garlic and if you like it hot even throw in a jalapeno pepper.
As far as health benefits go, a quick internet search will show you more benefits than you can imagine, but just take a gander at this collection of benefits from probiotics-lovethatbug.com:
“If you still need convincing on the benefits of real sauerkraut just take a look at what Lactobacillus plantarum - the biggest group of bacteria in fully fermented cabbage - has been proven to do.
- Provides Vitamin C - Captain Cook prevented his crew from catching scurvy by taking barrels of sauerkraut with them
- Reduced incidence of diarrhea in daycare centres4
- Especially effective in reducing inflammation in inflammatory bowel; e.g., enterocolitis in rats, small bowel bacterial overgrowth in children, pouchitis4
- Reduced pain and constipation of irritable bowel syndrome4
- Reduced bloating, flatulence, and pain in irritable bowel syndrome5
- Positive effect on immunity in HIV+ children6
- Drastically reduces the phytic acid, polyphenols and trypsin inhibitor activity in grains and soy which significantly increases the digestibility of starch and protein7
- Contains the antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase which can help fight off free radicals.
- Turns hard to digest lactose into easily to digest lactic acid.
- Helps generate omega-3 fatty acid and GTF chromium a trace mineral that help with digestion”
There are many probiotic supplements on the market today and there are some extremely good ones that are reputed to have billions of the beneficial bio organisms. However, according to Dr. Mercola, there is a possibility of getting even trillions of probiotics in one two to four ounce serving of properly prepared real sauerkraut.
Dr. Mercola goes on to say: “Fermented foods are also some of the best chelators and detox agents available, meaning they can help rid your body of a wide variety of toxins, including heavy metals.”
He adds: “The culturing process produces beneficial microbes that are extremely important for human health as they help balance the intestinal flora, and thereby boost overall immunity. It is reported that the gut literally serves as a second brain, and even produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin—which is a chemical that is reputed to make one happy — Some say that the correct gut bacteria even make more of this chemical than the brain….If a person maintains a healthy gut flora, it enhances not only his physical but mental health.”
Fermented foods are also a central part of the Ann Wigmore living foods program--because they are an aid to digestion, are high in the B & C vitamins, and are full of enzymes. They provide an acid environment in the bowel whereby favorable bacteria can thrive and overcome unfavorable bacteria. Re-establishing beneficial bacteria to the colon is a major part of many health programs.
Making Your Own
Making your own fermented vegetable is a fairly straight-forward process and can be done in mason jars, large bowls or if you want to get serious, in traditional, German vegetable fermentation crock pots, specifically made for making sauerkraut and other lactic acid fermented vegetables.
Next month, we will discuss how to make your own lactic acid fermented vegetables in much more detail, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can find lots of resources through a simple internet search and on YouTube. Also check out Wild Fermentation Book and Fermentation Workshop DVD by Sandor Katz, an expert in the process of fermentation.