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.