October rambles: fermented food & feeding the bugs in our gut.

Insert starting line of my August and July rambles, with a shout out to September who was forgotten. I don’t like this ageing thing. Time is passing too quickly, and sometimes I wonder if I have really achieved much . A quick look back at August and my reading/wanting/looking/playing situation is very much the same. We’ve decided on Cambodia. I am still fighting an underwater/overwatered battle with my plants. A new tv show has come and gone – can The Handmaid’s Tale season 2 be here already?? My lemongrass candle is empty and is replaced by a concoction of peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender, which is really good. I like fresh scents (…to a point). I’m still wishing Kmart was in Hamilton, & missing the Gym Grandma.

As for my cooking & eating – still very much the same. I understand how people just get into habits and make the same choices over and over again. I am eating so much zucchini, and so much sweet potato, and eggs. Gosh I have eaten more eggs this year that I have eaten in my lifetime. Not joking. However, what is becoming more frequent in my kitchen & something I did want to discuss was fermented foods.

Why is there so much hoo ha about fermented foods on social media?

Fermentation is a metabolic process where microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast or fungi convert carbohydrates into alcohol or acids. For example, beer. The yeast converts the glucose in wort to ethanol (aka alcohol) and carbon dioxide gas (aka bubbles).

Fermented foods include: yoghurt, cheese, bread, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, keffir, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, beer, wine..

Fermentation has many benefits to the food we eat. Preservation. Improved digestibility – for those individuals who suffer from lactose intolerance, cheese and yoghurt are generally better tolerated. This is because the fermentation process breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose. Fermentation can change the flavour of food, and the carbon dioxide gas produced plays a large part in making the food and drinks we love – bread and beer. Lastly, fermented food add microbes ‘good bacteria’ to our gut – which is pretty much what all the hype is about.

As time progresses (very fast it seems) we are learning more about the gut (gastrointestinal tract), it’s microbiome and how it is linked to so many health conditions. I’m quite fascinated about the gut (always have been) and it’s exciting to learn more about the role of our gut microbiome. New research is finding that the make up of our gut microbiome can impact on how we store fat, control blood glucose levels and impact on our response to hunger and fullness hormones. I also find the role of hormones on our hunger and fullness signals fascinating.  Our gut microbiome is a system of bacteria & viruses that live in our gut and are affected by different things in life. The use of antibiotics is one most of us would be aware of – as antibiotics do not discriminate & kill both the good and bad bacteria in the gut. Other impacts include illness and stress on the body, and the foods we choose to eat. 

You may have heard of the term probiotics and prebiotics. 

Probiotics are the live microorganisms used in the fermentation process – yeast & bacteria, and thus, consuming fermented foods provides your gut with the good bacteria, and helps create the balance for a healthy gut. Probiotics include:

Yoghurt – look for a yoghurt that mentions live culture son the ingredients list i.e. B Lactis. I actually really enjoy greek yoghurt with some chopped dates and a drizzle of honey. A friend introduced me to this at uni and I loved it.

Miso soup – I mentioned this in my last post. Miso is made from fermented soy beans & grains. I’ve been using the paste in this caramelised miso egglant & tofu stir fry and these salmon soba noodle bowls.

Kefir – Kefir is thicker than milk, but not as thick as yoghurt. Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to milk. I bought a bottle on special a few weeks ago in supermarket and I like it. I find it slightly tart and refreshing.

Kombucha – Kombucha is fermented sweetened tea, so contains ‘good’ bacteria and the usual health benefits of tea (polyphenols). I feel like this drink is promoted as life changing – a cure for bad hair cuts and helping remove the memory of a really bad one night stand. Choice did a review on whether Kombucha is “an immortal health elixir”, which you can read if you wish. But really,  there is no food that is going to provide good health & wipe your memory (and your friends and foes). I tried Kombucha for shits & gigs, I liked the lemon & ginger, definitely did not like the raspberry lemonade.  You are looking at AT  LEAST $4  for a 330ml bottle (from a supermarket) & from $9 onwards for a L. It’s a nice refreshing alternative to soft drink or alcohol, but if it was my wallet, I would try and just drink water at home..

Sauerkraut – when I think of sauerkraut, I think of my grade 4 teacher eating it straight from a can in the class room. I didn’t really have it till I was in Munich far too long ago and was pleasantly surprised. Sauerkraut is made by raw cabbage (which contains lactic acid bacteria) and salt. I actually quite like it. Once we cooked it in a pan with some butter, and made Reuben sandwiches. So good.

Kimchi – I was given a jar of this just last week. Kimchi is another fermented vegetable situation, originating from Korea. Kimchi is traditionally made with cabbage, spiced up with garlic, ginger and shrimp paste. Apparently, you eat just a little bit at time, like a garnish. I’ve been eating it from the jar with a fork.

However, we must also feed our ‘good’ bacteria. 

Prebiotics are the food of probiotics.

Prebiotics are the fibre in our plants food – fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. However, not all fibre is a prebiotic. Prebiotic fibre travels through the gut undigested and once it arrives to the colon (large intestine) it promotes the growth and activity of our good bacteria (probiotics).

Prebiotic food include: Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onion, asparagus, fennel bulb (yum!), savoy cabbage, chickpeas, lentils, cashews, barley & oats.

At the end of the day, eating prebiotics (and more plant foods in general) is just an important as including probiotics for gut health.

I’ve found trying fermented foods has been fun. I think Kefir is my favourite. Do you have any favourites?

Happy October 1st!

Emma xo




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