Raw foodists and other health food enthusiasts focus a lot of attention on intestinal and digestive health. More and more cultured foods and drinks are popping up lately to fill consumer demand for pro-biotic intestinal support. The body's ability to properly digest food and eliminate toxins is essential to the health of all of the organs and, therefore, overall vitality.
Traditionally the process of culturing or fermenting vegetables was used as a necessary method for preserving seasonal foods over long periods of time. But the ingenious technique has been adapted to modern uses due to people's love of the flavors as well as the many healthful qualities of such foods.
How fermenting foods worksWhen raw vegetables and other foods are shredded, ground or cut small, packed into an airtight container and left at room temperature for about a week, a culturing process takes place. The natural bacteria and other micro-organisms that live on the outside of vegetables (such as the leaves of cabbage) begin to rapidly proliferate and the pH lowers, creating an acidic environment. This breaks down the food's sugars and starches, which in turn creates lactic and acetic acids. These acids are natural preservatives that keep the whole container from spoiling. Stored in the refrigerator, these foods will keep for 6 to 8 months while providing a high profile of beneficial micro-organisms and other healthful nutrients. These micro-organisms populate the digestive track from the stomach to the colon and assist in breaking down foods and keeping the whole system squeaky clean.
How eating fermented foods helps with digestion:Foods fermented in this manner are considered partially pre-digested since the sugars and starches have already been broken down. These fermented foods will, in turn, help begin the process of breaking down (or digesting) other foods that they are eaten in combination with. This is considered one of the greatest benefits of eating such foods, your body has to do less work in digesting the whole meal!
Common Cultured Foods Found in Stores:
Sauerkraut is a German invention for preserving cabbage through the long dark winters. Kim chee is a Korean contribution to preserving vegetables, usually with red chile peppers and garlic to add lots of spice. Soy sauce (including nama shoyu and tamari) and miso paste are Japanese inventions made from fermented soy beans and grains. And nowadays kombucha mushroom and other probiotic sodas are dominating the health food drink market in the U.S. as the desire for digestive enzymatic support increases. Rejuvelac, a fermented wheatberry drink common to wheatgrass juicers, is making an appearance in commercial products as well.