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We have been conditioned to think that bacteria are bad, dirt is bad, and everything must be sanitized, but this is only hurting our health in the long run. Our bodies are made up of bacteria. In fact, bacterial DNA outnumbers human DNA 10:1! Your health starts in your gut, so fueling it with the right bacteria is crucial for every element of health. And the best way to get these healthy bacteria is by eating fermented foods.
Fermentation is the process of bacteria breaking down sugars into acids, specifically lactic acid, which creates more strains of beneficial bacteria and enzymes.
Fermentation requires several basic ingredients: bacteria, sugar, salt and an environment without oxygen. When you have these ingredients, the fermentation process can begin! The recipe at the end focuses on organic vegetables, specifically cabbage, which contains its own strains of bacteria. You don’t necessarily have to add a probiotic to this dish, but it helps speed up the fermentation process. Kimchi is another type of fermented vegetable that doesn’t require the addition of probiotics to begin the fermentation process.
Sugar provides fuel or “food” for the probiotics. Natural sugars from apples feed probiotics and allow them to multiply and thrive. Cabbage contains its own natural sugars that will fuel probiotics, but without the addition of the apple, the fermentation process will be much slower. Salt helps create an environment that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria and kills off unhealthy bacteria. In addition to salt, the lack of oxygen is crucial to ensure the right type of bacteria is growing.
Now that you know the basics of fermentation, let’s look at why it’s so important for overall health and why you should take 15 minutes out of your day to ferment veggies! My challenge to you, should you chose to accept it, is to harness your inner scientist, get out your beakers and mason jars and start culturing your own bacterial family.
First, let’s take a look at how healthy bacteria, or healthy gut flora, can impact different areas of health.
A healthier you starts with a healthy gut. Some of our favorite fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh. Add these foods to your diet, which not only provides a wealth of healthy bacteria but also adds a flavorful texture to your meals!
Sarah Greenfield studied nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, got her RD through UCLA and worked as a dietitian with a focus on ICU, trauma, digestive disease and wound care.
She created a nationwide school nutrition program and a nutrition-focused marathon training program for NutriBullet. Having completed several marathons, she got an advanced certification in sports nutrition to further her knowledge on coaching athletes to better health.
She started her own company, Fearless Fig, as a way to connect with people on a deeper level. She works with clients one-on-one, integrating advanced testing to restore digestive health, fuel endurance athletes, and make healthy eating achievable. She has been featured on Men's Health, Self, NBC with Lester Holt, KTLA with Lori Corbin and Dr. Hyman's Blog for her recipes and meal prep tips.