What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor at the baseball game?
“Make me one with everything….”
While a Buddhist monk is more likely to feel the interconnectedness of all things, including a hot dog--more likely, a veggie dog--corny jokes aside, one condiment that the Buddhist monk, or anybody else a few spiritual rungs down the ladder, would be wise to order: sauerkraut...but only if the kraut is fermented.
Chances are high that no Major League ballpark offers fermented sauerkraut; most natural grocers and health food stores do. When it’s fermented, sauerkraut is considered a superfood.
Fermented kraut is an example of just one food that goes through a natural process by which organic matter breaks down into simpler components--this is called fermentation. Fermentation happens without oxidation, meaning that unlike a bitten-into apple which turns brown because of rapid oxidation, fermented foods age, breaking down anaerobically (without oxygen).
The superfood value of fermented foods is their probiotic-fueling profiles, probiotics being those beneficial bacteria bugs that have been getting a lot of press in the media, fueled by an explosion in the ability of researchers to map the different strains of bacteria and study each strains’ characteristics, either benefits or detriments, such as a strains’ ability to burn fat, for example.
Presently, researchers have genetically mapped approximately 500 out of the thousands of strains of bacteria in the gut. But at a basic level, what science is sure of is that when enough of the beneficial strains are present in the gut, the probiotics keep themselves happy and busy by fighting off pathogens and harmful bacteria and feasting on the foods you eat, helping you digest and absorb nutrients. This lifelong war in your gut, which hopefully results mostly in good bacteria eradicating harmful bacteria (think: more soldiers fighting on your side) is dependent on some of the following factors, including:
- diet: eating too much sugar can feed, breed and multiply harmful yeast
- genetics: you've inherited your mother’s gut bacteria shortly after birth by transit through the birth canal
- environmental factors: exposure to chemicals can kill off friendly bacteria
Unless you live in a bubble, you need foods with probiotics
Drive a car? Live in a city? Eat organic food and clean with products containing nothing but all-natural ingredients LESS than 100% of the time? If ‘yes’ for all three, living a normal 21st century life requires all the help you can get in warding off disease. Fermented foods, rich with probiotics, is one tool for staying healthy.
Japanese and other Asian cultures consume lots of traditional fermented foods, although the younger generation is eating less, opting instead for Western-style fast food. Japanese who stick to their traditional diets often eat a small amount of fermented foods during a meal, but most meals include at least a little bit of fermented fare.
Here’s a partial list of some popular fermented foods, including those that you can easily buy from a store and include in your favorite Miracle Noodle recipe. [Click here for the free Miracle Noodle Recipe Book, an 82-page download.]:
- Korean cabbage, aka kimchi
- fermented soy such as that found in miso soup and tempeh
- pickled beets
- pickled cucumbers and other pickled vegetables
- fermented/unpasteurized beer (yes, a little fermented beer can help colonize the gut with good bacteria, instead of just giving you a beer gut)
If you can stomach dairy, opt for fermented--and unpasteurized
Kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese and whey are all popular supermarket items that are fermented and hence, contain probiotics. Be careful with yogurt: buy the full-fat variety--for optimal health, make your own unpasteurized yogurt--as it is more likely to contain active cultures (friendly micro bugs that are just waiting to party in your gut and feed on harmful bacteria; acidophilus is thought to be a potent probiotic).
And though it may not sound like much fun, buy plain yogurt, avoiding yogurt that’s pre-mixed with fruit, as it will contain several grams more sugar; add a handful of berries or half a chopped banana instead to make the yogurt naturally sweet. Another healthy option to make yogurt sweet: add raw stevia.
If you’re buying non-fat or low-fat yogurt, especially pre-mixed with fruit, you’re no longer eating a potential superfood. Even full-fat yogurt, though, including trendy Greek yogurts, are no longer considered a superfood if they have been pasteurized, as that kills the natural probiotics that are produced from fermentation.
(Another note on probiotics and dairy: if possible, buy truly raw cheese that’s been cooked at a temperature no higher than around 105 degrees, though most raw cheese is able to be called ‘raw’ when cooked at up to 160 degrees, which is still better than consuming liquid, squeeze bottle processed faux cheese.)
A healthy profile of probiotics in the gut fights bad bacteria and prohibits the over-colonization of unfriendly organisms. An unhealthy digestive bacteria portfolio can interfere with weight loss.
The recent technology that allows scientists to map the so-called human biome--the collection of hundreds of trillions of microscopic organisms (bacteria) that far outnumber our 100 trillion human cells (perhaps by a factor of 10)--validates nutritionists' hypotheses that our health is closely tied to the profile of bacteria in our gut, which is also estimated to collectively contain 100 times more genes than the human genome!
Hop on the biome bandwagon and start supporting your health by throwing a party for the good bacteria in your gut. Start eating fermented foods on a regular basis. If you love Asian food, it’s very simple to add fermented foods to a stir fry with Miracle Noodle.
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