Raw Ferments - The Missing Link - The Forgotten Superfood
An entire class of foods has been crowded out of the modern food chain and out of our diet, and much to the detriment of our health. Fortunately, we can restore that missing link, which is raw fermented foods.
Ferments are as old as civilization. Prior to modern methods of preservation, fermenting food was the main method of preserving it. But what we forgot when we developed modern methods such as pasteurization and chemical-based preservatives were the indispensable nutritive values to be found in raw fermented foods. It is no accident that the more processes and chemical additives we apply to our foods, the less healthy we become.
Raw is Good, and Raw and Fermented is Even Better
We’re familiar with classes of foods such as meat, grain, fruit and vegetable. What about RAW as a class of food? Whether a food is raw or cooked has as great an effect as what type of food it is.
In this era of processed foods, we find that pasteurization, canning and chemical preservatives have taken the place of older, more natural ways of preserving. And it works, after a fashion. The food is preserved. Looking more closely though, the tradeoff doesn’t seem quite so good. Pasteurization, for example, kills the natural enzymes and probiotics (the gut-healthy bacteria) that are in all raw foods. That’s why we pasteurize, for without live bacteria and active enzymes, food does not so easily spoil. Dead food does not spoil as fast as live food.
But what about the health values of those active enzymes? What were the enzymes good for? Well, the body uses enzymes in most all of its functions – digestion, metabolism and so on. So when we eat food that is depleted of enzymes, it does us far less good. True, the body itself produces enzymes, but at a cost. The body has to draw nutritive resources, sometimes from organs and tissues, to produce enzymes that are missing from foods. And, our ability to produce enzymes slowly declines as we age; we just don’t produce enzymes as well as when we were younger.
Where do enzymes fit in with fermentation. We find that far from killing active enzymes, fermentation actually enhances them and builds even more enzymes that were not already in the raw food. Raw, fermented sauerkraut, the kind Grandma made, is alive with active, health-supporting enzymes. And those enzymes have actually begun the process of digestion on the cabbage, rendering it more body ready. So not only is raw sauerkraut partially pre-digested for us, it also contains abundant active enzymes to help our body finish the job of digestion and absorption.
What about the probiotics in raw foods? A healthy gut contains up to several pounds (trillions) of living bacteria. And these bacteria play very active roles in helping us digest food and absorb its nutrients. Without these ‘friendly’ bacteria, our immune system does not work well, and we do not digest well. In our modern era, we are exposed to many things that deplete our gut’s population of helpful flora. Chlorine kills bacteria. That’s why it is put in our water (to make it ‘safe’ to drink). But it kills bacteria indiscriminately, the good along with the bad. Antibiotics are downright devastating to our gut populations of friendly flora. Antibiotics have their place in dealing with serious infections (unfriendly bacteria), but antibiotics, like chlorine, are indiscriminate. These high potency drugs kill good and bad alike when it comes to bacteria.
Again, raw fermented foods come to our rescue. All raw vegetables and fruits have hundreds of species of helpful bacteria on them as they are picked. If you’ve noticed a whitish substance on your veggies or fruits, that’s what that is. And there are living bacteria throughout the fresh veggie or fruit as well. So what happens to these friendly guys when they are put into Grandma’s kraut crock? The answer is they proliferate. So every bite of fresh raw fermented sauerkraut is teaming with probiotics as well as the active enzymes. These good guys take up residence in the gut and proliferate further, helping to crowd out less friendly ones (think digestive stagnation and infections).
Maybe all Grandma knew was that it worked, but we know now the great health values of fermented foods. What's better than raw food? Raw, fermented food, The Forgotten Superfood.