As a general rule, we all know deep down inside that there is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to diet and fitness. It’s a series of small, sustainable steps made consistently over time. The truth is, creating and maintaining health can be a bit of a cha cha – two steps forward, one step back. You must be committed to sticking with the dance…
But if there *was* one thing that you could add (not take away) from your diet that would almost surely result in specific and noticeable improvements, it would likely be fermented foods.
Almost ten years ago I started a love affair with culture. Not the posh, going out to the opera kind, but one that began in the kitchen and has followed me into strength training.
At the time, I was doing a deep dive into the homemaking arts. Nutrition. Sustainability. Food preservation. But what I found gave me so much more.
For years I had only focused on what needed to be removed from my diet.
Because fatigue. Because candida. Because a junkie-like addiction to sugar that no amount of willpower seemed to be able to defeat…
But deprivation never worked. Nothing did. Until I found what many researchers call, ‘ the lost food group’ – probiotic foods.
Fermentation works by converting sugars and starches into lactic acid. This transformation is done through the microbial action of the lactobacilli naturally present on the outside of most foods – particularly those on, or near, the ground. But what’s really important, is that when we culture food, it results in a explosion of beneficial bacteria that are good for *us*.
The bottom line is when we eat fermented foods, we get a big ole dose of probiotics.
While fermentation has been used by people around the world to preserve food, enhance its flavour, and boost nutritional value for-evah (like, ancient Egyptian times and earlier), it’s only now the science is catching up to tradition- and helping us understand just how important gut health is to our mental and physical well-being.
Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine- said all disease begins in the gut. Today, there is a growing body of evidence that many diseases and imbalances are directly linked to imbalances in the gut.
Eating fermented foods is like sending in a team of microbial superheroes.
Ones that boost our digestion, regulate our hormones and help us absorb vital nutrients. These microbial ‘good guys’ crowd out, or keep in check the microbial ‘bad guys’ – for example the ones that drive our sugar cravings. That’s why some people experience an effortless elimination of cravings when they introduce cultured foods into their diet.
Essentially – a happy belly=healthier life. Make sense?
Consistently eating cultured foods and nurturing a healthy gut has been shown to contribute to:
Optimal digestion (I can’t even count the number of clients who say stubborn constipation, flatulence and bloating cleared up with fermented foods)
Reduction or elimination of allergies
Better immune function (think less and shorter duration illness)
From a strength and training perspective, cultured foods can:
Reduce recovery time by assisting muscle repair
Contribute Vitamin C to the diet
Vitamin C assists in tissue repair and regeneration.
Increase iron absorption
Having sufficient iron is important because it helps carry oxygen to your muscles. If you’re iron deficient, you will find yourself fatigued and won’t have the endurance needed for intense sessions.
While cultured foods were key to helping me heal from a leaky gut and severe allergies a decade ago, today they help boost immunity and bolster muscle repair. My journey into the fascinating world of probiotic food and drinks has more relevance than ever today.
My kettlebell and weightlifting training sessions are bookended by meals with a tablespoon of kraut here and a glass of kombucha there.
While you can now buy high quality ferments it is SO easy to make your own that you are going to want to try it- at least once. How about whipping up some microbial magic in your kitchen this weekend? Let’s start with one of the simplest, most versatile ferments- a kraut type made of shredded vegetables- most commonly, cabbage.
Shredded Vegetable Ferments
Makes 1 Quart
This is the basic recipe for making sliced/shredded lacto-fermented vegetables:
• 1 quart jar
• enough thinly sliced or grated veggies to fill jar (pressed very snugly) with 1 inch of air space on top (try cabbage only or a mix of cabbage, carrots and ginger)