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Why fermented foods and beverages are good for you

By Wendell Fowler

While explaining the health benefits of probiotic microbes at a lunch and learn, a lady walked out, repulsed by the certainty that our temple actually benefits greatly from eating or drinking bugs. Without this synergy, we’d die, because humans share a symbiotic interdependence with bacteria – many crucial to our very survival.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute estimates your temple’s colonized by trillions (two-and-a-half pounds) of live microorganisms, collectively known as the microbiome. Some are associated with disease; others are extremely important for your immune system, heart, weight and overall health. Your microbiome serves the temple from birth throughout life by controlling thousands of daily bodily processes.

The process of fermenting dairy and vegetables has been used for millennia for medicine and to preserve food. The earliest record of vegetable fermentation dates back to 6000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent — and nearly every civilization from the Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Belarusian, Latvian, Estonian, Indian, Asian and African has included at least one fermented food in its culinary heritage.

PubMed.com says eating fermented foods is a convenient way to obtain a daily dose of the good probiotics bacteria that improve digestion, cognitive function, immunity, helps treat irritable disease, provides minerals that build bone density, help fight allergies and kill harmful yeast and microbes that cause issues like candida.

For most blindly-trusting Americans, it’s a silly container of artificial, fruity “yogurt,” (wink, wink); for Koreans it’s kimchi, while Colombians drink a fermented corn beverage called chicha. Hawaiians eat fermented poi and Japanese add fermented soybeans on top of rice. Today, “sauerkraut” is still the German national dish. And kombucha, a fermented sweet black tea, has been adopted by world cultures for centuries. Kombucha is my favorite. Currently sweeping the country, the fermented beverage has been around for millennia. In the 1960s, Swiss research confirmed kombucha was beneficial for the gut in a similar way to yogurt.

“Live and active cultures” hyped on yogurt doesn’t guarantee probiotics are actually in it by the time you eat it – it only verifies they were there when it was “manufactured.” Sigh! Plus, artificial sweeteners aspartame and sucralose have been shown to be antimicrobial, with the ability to kill beneficial bacteria in the gut. Crazy, huh? (Nature.com and NIH: National Institutes of Health.)

You’re programmed, sweet, beautiful friends: brainwashed. Drop the yogurt and say “hello” to kombucha. “Refrigerated only” probiotics with prebiotics are good, too. May you be strong, healthy and enjoy well-being.

For a lunch and learn with Chef Wendell, email: chefwendellfowler@gmail.com.

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