Monday, June 3, 2013

Strengthen Your Digestion with Naturally Fermented Foods

In honor of Philadelphia Beer Week (which is happening this week), and as a continuation of last week’s discussion about the link between healthy breasts and good digestion, I would like to talk about natural fermentation today. Making naturally fermented, plant-based foods a regular part of your diet will help strengthen and activate your digestion, and will build healthy intestinal flora. The macrobiotic diet is abundant in naturally fermented plant-based foods. You might already be familiar with miso, shoyu (also known as soy sauce), tamari, and pickles. You might not be as familiar with tempeh and natto, but they are naturally fermented bean products (and excellent protein sources). Umeboshi plums and umeboshi vinegar (a savory vinegar) are other fermented treats from Japan that are highly prized for their alkalizing abilities. Of course good-quality, micro-brewed beer also is a great source of natural fermentation!

I recommend that my clients have miso soup almost daily to help strengthen and activate their digestion. I also recommend that my clients have a small portion of naturally-fermented pickles on a regular basis. However, don’t overdo it on the pickles and the miso-- both are salty, so go easy! Luckily, you only need to consume a small amount of these foods in order to reap their amazing digestive benefits. I would like to add that it is important to distinguish between naturally-fermented pickles made with vegetables and sea salt (lactic acid fermentation) and pickles made with vinegar and sugar. While dill pickles might be tasty on your sandwich, they do not have the same health benefits as lactic-acid fermented pickles. You can read more about natural fermentation on the Real Pickles website. Real Pickles makes excellent pickles-- I highly recommend their sauerkraut and their red cabbage pickles! All this being said, sauerkraut is probably the easiest pickle to incorporate into your diet. If you are feeling adventurous you can make it at home, or you can purchase it at your local health food store. My two favorite sauerkrauts are Real Pickles and Goldmine.

Recipe for Quick Umeboshi vinegar Pickles

*This recipe can be used to pickle vegetables or tofu.

1 part of umeboshi vinegar
3 1/2 to 7 parts of water  
*Some brands of umeboshi vinegar are more salty than others. This is the range I would recommend
 and can be adjusted to taste.

Preparation for pickled vegetables:
Cut vegetables and place in a pyrex bowl or glass jar. Pour the liquid overtop and
allow the vegetables to sit for a minimum of 3 hours or longer. Keep the pickles with the liquid, refrigerated in an air tight glass container.
*Note: Harder vegetables will keep longer, while softer vegetables need to be consumed more quickly.