From sauerkraut to kimchi to pickles and a range of different cultured vegetables, these little power foods not only add extra punch to your meals but also do wonders for your health, particularly, your gut health.
The human gut is made up of a diverse range of bacteria, with over 100 trillion single-celled organisms (that’s 10 times the amount of bacteria than all human cells in the entire body). This community of microorganisms is known as our ‘gut flora’, which affects mood, mental focus, immune system function, fat storage and vitamin synthesis. You may be wondering how our gut can affect such distinct bodily functions such as mood and immunity and the answer is simple – the gastrointestinal tract (GI) tract comprises of more than 75% of our immune system and 95% of our serotonin receptors are located here. Now you can probably grasp why our gut health is so important!
Unfortunately, a number of modern lifestyle factors have the ability to destroy healthy gut flora and damage the intestinal barrier without us even knowing. Some examples include the use of antibiotics and oral contraceptive pills, diets high in processed foods and refined carbohydrates, chronic stress and reoccurring infections. Luckily there are plenty of ways to help improve and even reverse these detrimental effects including a change in diet and the consumption of necessary fermented foods.
Fermented vegetables are one of the easiest and most convenient sources of good bacteria. Fermented foods in general contain billions of beneficial microbes, which drive out pathogens and therefore protect gut integrity. In addition, the bacteria pre-digest the food for us, which means we have greater access to nutrients. There is actually 20 times more bioavailable vitamin C in sauerkraut than in fresh cabbage!
So you’re probably wondering what fermenting is?
The concept of fermenting foods has been around for thousands of years and begins with lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is a method of food preservation that enhances the nutrient content of food and the action of the bacteria formed makes the minerals in cultured foods more readily available to the body. Firstly vegetables are submerged in a brine that is salty enough to kill off harmful bacteria. The Lactobacillus (good bacteria) survive this stage and begin converting lactose and other sugars present in the food into lactic acid. This creates an acidic environment that safely preserves the vegetables – and gives lacto-fermented foods their classic tangy flavour.
One of my favourite fermented vegetable recipes is Kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made from a number of different vegetables and a variety of seasonings.
Elyse’s Super Easy Kimchi Recipe:
- 1 head of green cabbage
- 2 carrots
- ½ large sweet potato
- 2 small onions
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger root
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
- 1 tablespoon of turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon of black cumin
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- A pinch of black pepper
- Put aside a couple of larger outer leaves of the cabbage. You will need this later to keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid.
- Slice the cabbage, carrots and sweet potato in fine pieces or shred in a food processor.
- Cut the onion, garlic and ginger into fine pieces and put all Ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.
- Let it sit for about 30 min, until the cabbage becomes watery and limp.
- Place in a large enough mason jar and press down firmly until cabbage is compacted, air has been pushed out and mixture is well covered with juices. Top with the cabbage leaf and weight (eg. a smaller mason jar filled with water) to stop pieces of cabbage floating to surface.
- Stand the jar in a cool place for 3-5 days. (Your fermentation time may vary depending on the temperature and how fermented you like your kimchi. Keep out of direct sunlight).
- Store in fridge. Drain well before using.
If you’re experiencing any digestive discomfort including bloating, irregular bowl movements and IBS symptoms, our TNN practitioner Elyse specialises in this area and can guide you in the right direction and provide you with the necessary advice and support to restore your digestive health. Book an appointment here to get on track with your health and reach the best version of you!