a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

We’ve long known, but as long forgotten, that raw and/or fermented foods are important factors in the holistic picture of diet and health. Fermentation was first used as a way to preserve perishables before refrigeration existed and the ancient philosophy of Macrobiotics includes fermented foods for their enhanced and abundant nutrients. I’ve included fermented/cultured foods like miso, tempe, apple cider vinegar and kefir in my diet for years. Why are these foods so important? Bacteria, baby!

Our culture has become exceedingly germ-phobic and obsessed with cleanliness. And in the midst of trying to eliminate disease-causing bacterias, we’ve created a overzealous fear of all things microbial. Industry enthusiastically fed this fear and soon the marketplace was swarming with anti-bacterial soaps and other cleaners. Are we less sick due to our efforts? Actually, no and then some.

There’s no sign that fewer people are succumbing to viruses and other illness, but there’s plenty of evidence that our immune systems are continually becoming weaker and that new and antibiotic-resistant bacterias are gaining ground in our environment and bodies. Microorganisms cover our bodies and the surfaces of our home in the form of friendly bacterias that protect us and help develop the immune system. “The cleaner we live…the more likely we’ll get asthma and allergies” states Dr. David Rosenstreich, director of Allergy and Immunology at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. In other words, Mr. Clean was wrong.

There are many facets to a whole and healthy life and discovering ways to work with the body’s diverse system, rather than against it, can be a worthwhile and fascinating journey. How to begin?

Step One: Don’t believe everything you’re told on television or radio – research, read and talk to others.

Step Two: Ditch the antibacterial soap and consider washing your hands, and other stuff at home less often. (Continue to wash hands when using public restrooms.)

Step Three: Play in the dirt.

Step Four: Eat fermented/raw/cultured foods. The process of fermentation makes food more digestible and nutritious, while live, unpasteurized fermented foods provide good bacteria in the gut. Fermentation creates new nutrients, removes toxins from foods and have been shown to function as antioxidants in the body. Think sauerkraut, cheese, miso, tempeh, kefir and yogurt. Home “brewing” isn’t as hard as you may think – Learn more from this book by Sandor Ellix Katz, Wild Fermentation, The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.

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5 Responses to “”

  1. Greg Says:

    Great article, Tracey! Remember the Kombucha Tea and Raw Apple Cider Vinegar.


  2. The Tao of Change » Blog Archive » Beery Green - Eco-Breweries Do it Better Says:

    […] for your body in every way and bad for the planet, good beer – in moderation – has health benefits (fermentation!) and serves a social niche – one that is centered around long rambling conversations and good […]

  3. Chris Says:

    Great article! Do you think the same applies for “filtered”/bottled water. I’ve always been a tap water guy but my wife is all about the Brita.

  4. tao Says:

    Hi Chris,
    It’s probable there were beneficial bacterias in drinking water in the good old days, but combining our drinking water system with our wastewater system fixed that. As you know, we now use many chemicals, chlorine in particular, to purify the water that comes from the tap. We lose many important trace minerals through the process, so I’m going to suppose that the chemicals negate good bacterias along with the bad.

    Although chlorine levels in our tap water are considered safe, between showering, cooking and drinking from the tap, it’s easy to be over-exposed to the stuff. I also use a filter on my tap to remove chlorine. Your wife is right to use Britta, though you may want to look into a system that attaches to the tap or transfer your filtered water to a glass container rather than storing in the plastic pitcher, which can leach super-bad chemicals into what you drink.

  5. Chris Says:

    Good points!

    We have been thinking about in line tap filter and most of plastic beverage containers have been switched from plastic (ie. nalgene, etc.) to aluminum or glass but she still uses the brita plastic container – will pass that tip on.

    Thanks Tao

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