The horse's pasture to the East...

Friday, May 27, 2016

FERMENTED FOODS 101 or How to Get a Happy Gut

Before we move on to week eight, let's talk about how to add some other healthy alternatives to your diet while you're in the process of eliminating highly processed sugars, grains and food. Before I go further, I am not an MD or certified nutritionist. I am a person who loves to eat good food.

Do you have a dog? A cat? How about a horse or donkey? Goat? One of the things you learn about when you live with other animals is the importance of the right diet for each of them as well as unlimited access to clean, clear water. And the end result, literally? You become a 'poopologist' , an expert in what healthy poop is like for each of the pets or animals you care for. 

Dogs and cats will poop at least three times a day. Horses create, on average, 75 pounds of manure every twenty four hours and heaven help them and you if they don't. A horse can sicken and die very quickly and painfully if they cease to move their bowels. 

We're the same. We need to poop at least once a day and preferably two or even three times a day to have be healthy. Keeping our gut happy and healthy with a diet high in fiber and at least eight cups of water or tea (or more in the heat depending on how much you exercise) is imperative . We have billions of bacteria living in our bowels alone. A healthy gut keeps us young, healthy and strong. You really do sleep better, have more energy during the day, think more clearly and have a stronger immune system when your inner flora is thriving. 

So, where do we go from here? Eat color. I love saying that. EAT COLOR. (Must be the artist in me.) You really do need vegetables and fruits in your diet every day. The more colorful your diet, the better. When you have a salad, mix your greens. Have spinach, a couple of kinds of lettuce including purple lettuce, and red vegetables and fruit, yellow and orange. 

In most grocery stores you can buy, year round, red and green peppers as well as yellow and orange peppers. You will almost certainly find zucchini and yellow squash, butternut squash, acorn squash and, well, the list is endless. If you can't find them fresh you need only look in the frozen foods section. Canned vegetables are OK but remember to read the labels. Stay away from cans that have preservatives, salt, sugar, food dyes or other additives. Again, I can't emphasis the importance of eating organic as often as possible. Canned vegetables and fruits will have less food value. Try to eat at least five servings of vegetables every day. And do your best to eat the same number of fruits too. DO NOT peal the fruit unless it's something like an orange. The peal is where a lot of the nutrients are located. 

If you want something, like bread or pasta, that contains grain stick with 100% whole grain. Better yet, if it's available, use 100% sprouted whole grain breads and pastas. It's higher in protein and more easily digested and accessible to your body as a food source. And if you're one of those folks who is sensitive to wheat, go with grain products made with whole grain brown rice, oatmeal or quinoa. 

Eat nuts (of course I'm assuming that you know what you might be allergic to) . I eat both peanuts (or peanut butter) as well as some other nut (pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews) every day. I cook them in to stir fry, sprinkle them in to my salads or on top of a soup or stew. Or I have a handful for an afternoon snack. 

Eggs are one of nature's miracle foods. I eat them, yolk and all, several times a week. They're an excellent source of proteins, vitamins and minerals and very easily digested. 

If you are a meat eater, buy locally grown and processed meat such as grass fed beef or chicken. If you like fish, it's considered to be an excellent source of protein too. I'm vegetarian so none of these things are in my diet.

One of my favorite everyday foods to eat are fermented drinks and vegetables, fruits or grains. The list is huge and comes from nearly every culture. I've got a few recipes here for you to try, easy to make, tasty and very good for you. 

KOMBUCHA : A fermented drink made with tea, usually black or green tea, and some kind of sugar source. It's very easy to start your own batch and keep it going for as long as you like. You can even share out your SCOBY (the bacterial colony that makes the kombucha) with friends. It's a rich source of B vitamins and probiotics (probiotics are bacteria that help to keep your gut healthy. Remember, YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.) When my Scoby gets large I sometimes give some of it to my dogs to eat. They love it and it does the same thing for them that it does for us, adding in happy bacteria colonies to their already impressive gut. (It would be so easy if we all could eat like a dog!)

Start with a large,clean glass bottle or container. If you can find one, 1/2 gallon is nice. You'll need a bottle of raw, organic, unfiltered kombucha, preferably not flavored. Kombucha has it's own rich, yeasty flavor rather like a mild beer. 

To put on top of the bottle as your kombucha brews you'll need plain unbleached paper coffee filters, just one will do, and a rubber band to hold it in place.

You'll also need a large stainless steal soup pot with a lid, and organic tea bags in either black or green tea. I make mine with English Breakfast Tea. Sometimes I use a combination of plain green tea and black tea for a lighter colored and flavored kombucha.

And this is where you can use sugar, preferably organic sugar such as turbinado sugar. Honey, molasses or maple syrup will do also.

Fill your bottle with filtered water about 4/5ths full and then dump that water in to the stainless steel pot. Bring the water to a boil, turn it off and add the sugar (about 1 to 1/2 cup per half gallon. The bacteria will need the sugar to cause the fermentation process) and stir to melt the sugar, add tea bags and put a lid on to keep it clean while the tea brews. Go do your chores for an hour or two while it cools. You'll want it to come down below 100 degrees F, which should be just warm to your finger. (Wash your hands before sticking your finger in or use a candy thermometer.) Add your bottle of organic, raw, unfiltered kombucha or your scoby. Pour all of this, minus the tea bags, in to the clean glass bottle. Put the paper filter on top, holding it in place with your rubber band. Put it up in a cabinet and leave it alone for a couple of weeks the first time. 

When you make your next batch you will have your own scoby. Pour the finished kombucha in to a bottle and keep it in the fridge. You can also keep it at room temperature . I like it cold. Leave behind a cup or so of the first batch of kombucha as well as the scoby and make your next batch the same way in the stainless steal pot, pouring it in to the glass bottle and putting another paper filter on top. 

I keep two bottles brewing in the cabinet, two bottles in the fridge. Both John and I drink it daily. The second batch taste test it at around 8 to 10 days. It gets closer to vinegar in taste the longer you brew it. Some folks like it like that. I like it at around 8 to 10 days. It's a bit less bitey. 

Your scoby is going to look like a floating island that is a soft grey beige color. If it turns black, throw it out and start again. The kombucha in the fridge is still good and has an active bacterial colony in it. The only reason it goes bad is if you've left the paper off and bacteria from your environment has added itself to it. I've never had any go bad myself. I've kept my batch going for three years now. You can share it with friends by pealing layers off and putting it in a clean bottle with a bit of kombucha. Share it with the recipe. Makes a nice gift.

YOGURT : I love NANCY'S ORGANIC YOGURT. (No, not my company. Wish it was!) but you can also make it. Start with either some of Nancy's plain organic yogurt or a yogurt culture you buy on line. Stay away from the commercial yogurts that have sugar and gelatin in them. Your yogurt is going to be tasty with fruit, in a smoothie, with a wee bit of honey or nuts, as a floating island on top of soup or stew (in the place of sour cream) or in a dressing for your salad, either greens or fruit.

You'll need a large stainless steel pot, whole milk (cow or goat), a glass container large enough to hold the milk/culture and a warm place to put it. Some old style stoves have a warm place on top where the flame is, that lights the gas. Or set your oven at it's lowest setting, preferably around 110 degrees F or a bit more with the door open. Or a heating pad, a cabinet on a warm day, a warm bath of water to set the yogurt container in (keep it inside the oven so it stays warm) or even a cooler with a container of warm water for the yogurt container to sit in. Or you can use a yogurt maker. There are several different kinds on the market. Go with the best you can afford.

Heat your milk up to about 100 degrees F. It will just begin to bubble, NOT BOIL. Cool it down to about 80 degrees F, about finger warmth, like a baby bottle. Add your yogurt, about a 1/4 cup, and stir. Put it in the clean bottle with a lid or a paper filter and rubber band on top, place it in your warm place. The next day you will have yogurt. Love the way that works!

KEFIR : Same as the yogurt but you can put it inside a cabinet. Keeping it warm isn't as crucial. It will be kefir the next day. Use kefir bacteria you buy or a bottle of plain, organic kefir as your colony.

Apple Cider Vinegar (You'll want the raw, unfiltered, organic vinegar)
Pickles ( look for the word fermented on the label)
Wine (dark red is best)
Beer (We're lucky here. There's a brewery downtown that makes some of the best beers in the Midwest.)
Fermented Vegetables

Each of these fermented foods or drinks brings a different kind of bacteria colony, all of which are good for you. The more of these foods you can add to your daily or weekly diet the stronger your immune system will be. This Spring was my first cold in years and, between you and me, I think that was emotion related. I've been letting myself get more angry than needed about our challenging neighbors. When that happens my body slaps me, makes me slow down and think instead of react. It was gone 24 hours later. I usually get well very quickly.

You're going to find a whole new set of food sources that bring interest to your diet and happy bacteria to ride the wave with you. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, living with more animals than I should probably have, weeds in the gardens, wild flowers in the fields and tornados on the horizon, laughing at the way things go.

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