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Fermented foods for LIFE

Week One of Demystifying Diets: Achieving Balance Through the Art of Eating 

Each week in August our Chiropractors and our guest Nutritionist Melanie have deciphered the research and science to help you understand different diets and ways of eating. We hope this helps you when deciding what food might be right for you. 

‘Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food’

This quote is often ascribed to Hippocrates and emphasizes the ability of food to enhance your health or deal with ailments. 

When we attempt to apply it in the modern world it gets confusing as there are probably more ways of eating than days in a year. And if we do not get our food choices right for our body, food can cause a deterioration of your health and worsen your ailments! 

What is the best way of eating?

Historically things were easier as the same group of people had lived in the same area for a long time and were all of a similar ethnicity and their activities of everyday life were also similar. Most of the time people of similar ethnicity with similar lifestyles do well on the same types of food or ways of eating. For example Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions who do well on a diet high in fat and protein.

Now we have a multicultural society with a huge variety of activities of everyday life as well as influences from international cuisine. We have big companies marketing to make money and social media portraying what should be the ideal image. Research shows one year that a particular diet is the best, then a few years later it is ridiculed. 

If you want to eat the best foods for your body, the solution is unfortunately you cannot believe everything you hear or read, you need to take individual responsibility to research and understand the choices you are making before jumping straight into it. But it’s not all doom and gloom, once you find the right eating habits for you, it has the potential to add years to your life, energy to your week and make everyday life a whole lot more enjoyable. (Oh and did I mention you are much more likely to reach your ideal weight)

Fermented foods for life

Pickles and sauerkraut might not be the first examples that jump to mind when you think of health foods. But a growing body of research shows that a diet that includes a regular intake of fermented foods can bring benefits.

Fermented foods are preserved using an age-old process that not only boosts the food’s shelf life and nutritional value but can give your body a dose of healthful probiotics – live micro-organisms crucial to good digestion.

The benefits of fermented food does not stop at digestion. Research is revealing that having a healthy and diverse intestinal microbiome (the 100 trillion bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your gut), helps boost your immunity. This is done by fighting unwanted bugs as well as reducing potential damaging inflammation in the body. This inflammation can lead to joint pain, diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases and more. 

While research into the health benefits of fermented foods is relatively new, the process of fermentation has long been used to help foods last longer and keep them from spoiling. Most societies throughout the world and throughout time have included fermented foods as part of their diet. In colder climates, fermenting foods allowed people to have vegetables throughout the long winter months when they otherwise wouldn’t be available. For example, sauerkraut will last a lot longer than a cabbage. 

Fermentation also enhances the taste of foods, giving them added complexity. Plus, the fermentation process works other forms of magic on foods, changing them and adding nutrients. For example, by eating fermented vegetables, vegetarians can get vitamin B12, which otherwise isn’t present in plant foods. 

Many people find that fermented foods are easier to digest as the food particles have already been partly digested in the process before we consume them. For example, for those who do not tolerate gluten very well, often are OK with sourdough (a fermented style of bread).

 

Simple ways to add Fermented Foods into your diet: 

The great thing about fermented foods is that you do not need to eat a lot of them, the best approach is to have a small amount everyday. Pick one of the foods below and give it a go. It will probably take a few trials to get it right and once you get it, it is usually very easy to replicate. If making it yourself is not your thing, you will see below there are also some really good brands of fermented foods you can now buy too. 

 

 

  • Pickle your own fermented vegetables

 

This is a great place to start if you are new to fermentation. You need very little ingredients, just vegetables and salt. Changing Habits have lots of great recipes and youtube clips to get you started.

MAKE: Fermented (Cultured) Vegetable Recipes

 

  • You can have sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) or kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) on your table as condiments and add a teaspoon to your meal.

 

BUY: If you want to try fermented foods without having to make them yourself, Be Nourished makes a great raw Sauerkraut and Kimchi that is stocked at New World, Moore Wilson and Commonsense Organics. 

MAKE: See Roz’s video on making Sauerkraut or see recipe 

 

 

  • Have a glass of kombucha or kefir before a meal

 

BUY: There are lots of places making Kombucha, make sure you check the ingredients are natural. Most commercial brands are pasteurised and do not have as many good bugs as homemade. Kefir is the same.

MAKE: I make my own Kombucha (see recipe), it is very easy once you get in the flow and we have a glass most nights. All you need is a SCOBY which anyone who is making Kombucha can give you to get started, ask Roz if you need one. We flavour with different things like berry, lime, ginger, feijoa and more. Kefir is also easy to make (using milk or water), check out How to Make Kefir 101

 

 

  • Add a teaspoon of Miso paste to your stir frys, salad dressing, soups or casseroles

 

BUY: Moore Wilson or Asian supermarkets

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Add unsweetened yoghurt to dressings, breakfasts, baking

 

BUY: Organic is better, Cyclops and Biofarm are two brands I like. 

MAKE: I do not tolerate much dairy (especially milk powder which is in a lot of yoghurts) so I started making my own. I let it culture (ferment) for 24 hours which helps it have lots of good bugs and be easier to digest. I use a Luvele yoghurt maker which makes it easy and I get my milk from Eketahuna Meats (Raw Milk has become very difficult to get as of late 2019). 

 

 

  • Get a starter from a friend who makes Sourdough and try making your own loaf

 

BUY: Wellington Sourdough is a great local option, you can get it from Moore Wilson’s in the city and various other outlets. 

MAKE: Try this basic recipe (you can also adapt to make gluten-free). Again you need a starter, any friend who makes sourdough will be able to help you out with this. 

 

Adding small amounts of fermented food to your diet can make a massive difference to your digestion and therefore to your overall health. Research is beginning to show the incredible health benefits and is gaining increasing popularity. 

Give it a go, be patient while you adjust to the tangy flavours and I hope you enjoy better gut health and overall well being like I have!

 

References 
Melini, F., Melini, V., Luziatelli, F., Ficca, A. G., & Ruzzi, M. (2019). Health-Promoting Components in Fermented Foods: An Up-to-Date Systematic Review. Nutrients11(5), 1189. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051189
Publishing, H. (2020). Fermented foods can add depth to your diet – Harvard Health. Retrieved 30 July 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fermented-foods-can-add-depth-to-your-diet

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