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Value of fermented foods

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Humans have been fermenting foods to aid in digestion for as far back as we can trace. Primarily they were fermented to improve holding and storing properties of foods. The milk from camels were fermented naturally to produce some of the first yogurts. Stored in goat bags and dropped over the back of camels in the hot deserts of North Africa with temperatures reaching 40C (110F) it was the ideal environment for lactic acid-producing bacteria to go to work. Pickles date back to ancient Egypt and vinegar was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a digestive aid, and to promote a healthy liver and gallbladder.

Every culture in the world has some form of fermented foods they eat with meals to aid in digestion. It isn’t necessary to eat very much, just enough to provide the proper enzymes to help break down food and make the nutrients available for absorption in the small intestine. Common in Indian, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine are sweet, sour and salty pickles; while in North and Central Europe you will find sauerkraut and, again, pickles; the Mediterranean countries serve a small glass of red wine, cider or beer with meals to provide digestive enzymes.

When foods are fermented the bacteria, yeasts or molds used in the process, predigest the food, meaning they break down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to create microflora, friendly, life giving bacteria beneficial to the gastrointestinal system. These colonize in your intestines and work to keep the unfriendly intestinal organisms under control, such as yeast, parasites, virus, and unfriendly bacteria. Fermented foods come in many guises, some you might eat on a regular basis, such as aged cheese, beer, and wine, while others can have medicinal qualities that support the immune system and aid in healing the digestive system.

Acidophilus: Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a beneficial micro-flora commonly found in yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables. It can also be taken in capsule form.

Cultured Vegetables: cultured vegetables are made with a base of shredded cabbage and a few other grated vegetables packed tightly into an airtight ceramic container and fermented for up to a week or more. The process creates an acidic environment for friendly bacteria to reproduce. Korean Kimchi and raw sauerkraut are good examples of this.

Miso: made from either rice, soybeans, barley or chickpeas, miso is a fermented paste aged in wooden kegs for 2 months to 2 years. High in beneficial enzymes, with traces of B-12 and antioxidants, it is said to be helpful in removing radiation from the body. (Maha also enjoys tempeh from time-to-time.)

Pickles: Pickles contain large amounts of lactobacilli bacteria, which are important to the digestion of grains and vegetables. One property common to all pickles is high fiber, which is important to proper intestinal functioning.

Vinegar: specifically apple cider vinegar is rich in beneficial enzymes and used medicinally is said to strengthen the immune system, control weight, promote good digestion, and balance blood pH levels.

-- Delia Quigley
Director of StillPoint Schoolhouse, where she teaches a holistic lifestyle designed to achieve optimal health and well being, based on her 28 years of study, experience and practice. She is the creator of the Body Rejuvenation Cleanse, Cooking the Basics videos and classes, and Broken Bodies Yoga. Delia’s credentials include holistic nutritional counselor, natural foods chef, yoga instructor, energy therapist and public speaker.

Quigley is the author of seven books on health and nutrition, including: The Body Rejuvenation Cleanse, The Complete Idiots Guide to Detoxing Your Body, The Everything SuperFoods Book, and Empowering Your Life With Meditation, available on To view her website go to:
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • KARBIE18
    Yum! I love pickles, yogurt and sauerkraut!
    3092 days ago
    Excellent info! emoticon
    3092 days ago
    Yummmm. After reading about all that yumminess, I'm feeling peckish.... I might need to go and have a bowl of my lovely home-made yoghurt!
    3092 days ago
    Let's hear it for sauerkraut, apple cider & yogurt!

    emoticon MAHA for the info!
    3092 days ago
    Maha - Thanks for additional information on a subject for which I am info-poor - but no longer, thanks to you!

    Methinks me love me wine and me yogurt!!!!!

    Have an awesome day! Will try you over the weekend, my friend.

    3092 days ago
    yep--a balanced diet provides what we need.
    3092 days ago
    Hey -- hi yoga buddy!

    Notice that Quigley distinguishes between types of fermented foods, saying they "come in many guises, some you might eat on a regular basis, such as aged cheese, beer, and wine" that aid in digestion and then she goes on to list others that "can have medicinal qualities that support the immune system and aid in healing the digestive system."

    So pickles aid digestion and yogurt has additional immune-supporting qualities!
    3092 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/1/2009 11:17:16 AM
    hmmm! so, maybe i'll try some pickles and yogurt rather than going for a digestive aid. lol maybe not pickles and yogurt together heh.
    interesting :) yaaay microbiology (i do have an A, btw)!

    lol in class we were talking about pickles: it is ok to stick your hand in the jar b/c the harmful bacteria from you get dehydrated and die in the juice : )
    3092 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/1/2009 10:06:40 AM
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