Eat Those Bugs: Adding Fermented Foods to the Diet Can Enhance Health
by April Morford
Probiotics have become a staple in the supplement cabinet for a good reason—we need the microbes. As science is discovering more about our microbiome, or microbes that exist in the body, it is apparent that these microscopic organisms are not only crucial to digestive health but also for every other system in the body, including hormones. Yet recent studies suggest that the microbes consumed in the probiotic capsule form pass through the digestive system, but they may not actually take up residence in the body and grow like we want them to do.
Enter fermented foods: There are many beneficial and amazing by-products created by the microbes in the fermentation process. By consuming these foods, microbes will be in the system longer as they are digested, providing a better opportunity for growth. Some of these microbes specialize in maintaining the integrity of the digestive tract lining as well as producing mood-enhancing serotonin; providing beneficial enzymes and short-chain fatty acids; making important vitamins; and decreasing food cravings.
It’s easy and fun to make fermented kefir, kombucha and vegetables at home. When purchasing fermented foods at grocery stores, look for the term “live active cultures” on the label. This means that there are actually viable microbes in the food. Check the label for the quantity of microbes in the food. Some kefirs have only four types, while others have 10 different types of microbes. Store-bought yogurt and kefir only have seven to 10 different microbes; however, homemade kefir has 36 to 50 different strains of microbes. The more diversity, the better, because they all have their own special abilities. Also be aware of sugar content, as in the fermentation process, the bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar, lowering the sugar content. However, sugar will sometimes be added after fermentation to make the product sweeter and create more fizz. Choose whole milk from organic grass-fed cows.
How to Make Plain Whole-Milk Kefir
1 Tbsp dairy kefir grains
1 cup organic grass-fed whole milk
Combine kefir grains and organic grass-fed whole milk into a Mason jar. Cover with cloth or coffee filter, securing with a rubber band. Allow to sit in a warm area, away from direct sunlight for 18 to 24 hours. Use a fine-mesh strainer to separate kefir grains from kefir. Place the newly made kefir into another sealable glass jar and put in the refrigerator. Place strained kefir grains in clean Mason jar and add a fresh cup of organic grass-fed whole milk to make a new batch.
A little separation is fine, just shake to combine into creamy kefir. If it seems that the kefir is separating before the 18 to 24 hours, you may need to add more milk, remove some of the grains or move to a cooler area, but not the refrigerator. Kefir grains are living organisms that will grow in size and number; the more they grow, the more food they will need.
Kefir Chai Latte
1 chai tea bag
1 cup water
¼ cup plain whole milk kefir
1 tsp honey or maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp cloves
Boil water. Add tea bag to hot water in a mug and let steep 4 to 5 minutes. Add kefir, honey and spices into mug, mixing well, and enjoy.
Kefir Apple Almond Breakfast Bowl
1 organic apple, chopped
1 organic pear, chopped
¼ cup slivered almonds
Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
½ cup plain whole-milk kefir
Mix all ingredients together and enjoy.
*Substitute cranberries for pear, pistachios for almonds and add a tablespoon of pumpkin for a delicious fall treat.
Pumpkin Power Smoothie
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 cup plain whole-milk kefir
½ Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp hemp protein powder
1 Tbsp almond butter
½ Tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
Optional: 1 Tbsp sweetener (honey, maple syrup, molasses)
Combine all ingredients in blender and enjoy.
1 bottle GT’s Synergy Cosmic Cranberry kombucha
2 cans La Croix sparkling water (lime, orange or grapefruit)
¼ cup orange juice
Orange or lime slices
Fill pitcher with kombucha, sparkling water and orange juice. Add fruit slices and place in refrigerator for an hour to allow flavors to combine.
Sparkling Apple-Ginger Cider
1 bottle GT’s Synergy Gingerade kombucha
1 organic apple, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cups organic apple cider
2 cans orange sparkling water (La Croix, San Pellegrino)
Fill pitcher with kombucha, apple cider and orange sparkling water. Add apple slices and cinnamon sticks. Let sit for an hour before serving. Fill four glasses with ice and top with the sparkling apple-ginger cider mixture.
Dr. April Morford is a chiropractor in the Edmond area. She focuses on well-being and wholeness by bringing nutrition, exercise and energy therapy into her practice. For more information on upcoming fermentation workshops or the online fermentation program, visit DrAprilMorford.com.