Metabolic disease is a modern, umbrella term for a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Those effected are at a significantly greater risk of heart disease, stroke and other blood vessel illnesses. According to the NHS, one in four Brits are known to have metabolic disease (in one form or another) and while we all know that leading a healthier lifestyle reduces the risk, you will be pleased to know that ferments also help along the way!
Life is rarely a straight line. Alana Holloway knows this only too well. Her understanding of the enormous influence our gut microbiome has on our health comes from direct experience of what can happen to health when things aren’t right in the gut department.
Dipping your toe in the water of fermented food and drink can be a little daunting; our whole lives we've been conditioned to believe that all bacteria is bad, we're not used to dealing with 'live' foods and with so many RDA's out there, we've forgotten how to let our bodies lead the way. We get asked a lot of questions about the how's, why's and when's, but these are most definitely the ones we get asked the most, so we'd thought we'd share them for all to see!
How much am I supposed to eat/drink?
I really recommend listening to your body when considering how much to eat and drink per day. If you are very new to fermented foods, then start with a small amount such as a forkful or a sip, and build from there. You will soon discover your individual tolerance as you might experience some temporary gas and bloating if you exceed it! This is completely natural and is just a sign that your internal microbial balance is shifting and once it settles, you can begin increasing your intake.
How and when am I supposed to eat/drink the ferments?
However you like! At LAB, we believe that you should enjoy eating your probiotics; it should not be a chore! This means adding them to your favourite meals, using them in your cooking (although they should only be added at the very end so that you don’t cook away all the living bacteria!) or just eating them straight from the jar. We’ve got some great recipes here. The same goes for the sodas; drink them at whatever time feels best for you. They’re great post-workout energisers, morning/afternoon pick-me-up’s and thirst quenchers.
My ferment has a very strong smell; is it OK to eat?
Each ferment has its own personality; some smell stronger than others; some fizz more than others and some are tangier than others. All these are great signs that the ferment is LIVE and perfectly OK to eat.
How much sugar does the Kefir contain?
Our 250ml, 1 serve bottle of kefir starts life with 15g added sugar, of which approximately 80% is consumed by the bacteria during fermentation. By the time it arrives with you, that same 250ml contains approximately 3g sugar, which is under 1tsp.
There is some sediment floating at the top of my Kefir; is it safe to drink?
Absolutely! Kefir contains naturally occurring carbon dioxide, which pushes any sediment in the kefir to the top, especially when particularly pulpy foods such as citrus and berries are used! Just give is a gentle shake to re-distribute and drink away!
What are the health benefits associated with eating fermented foods?
Fermented foods are alive and kicking with good bacteria, or probiotics. They help to balance your gut bacteria and stomach acids; releasing enzymes to help ease and improve digestion, making it easier for your body to extract and absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat. Not only that, but when you introduce good bacteria into your diet via fermented foods, you enable your gut to support your immune system in fighting disease and contribute to the reduction of systemic inflammation, which is said to be at the root of many modern-day, chronic illnesses. Read more about the health benefits here.
Phew, what a week! Whilst Alana had a few well earned days off in Devon over the Bank Holiday, I was busy with a mammoth project for one of my clients. Why is it that the week after a Bank Holiday seems to be the most hectic and stressful of all? The silver lining is that it’s given me lots of food for thought about next week’s post, so stay tuned!
Last week we were sent some information by Dr Caroline Kerridge, and felt that it was just too exciting to keep to ourselves. Caroline is a fellow fermented food fan (don’t try saying that after one too many!). She put together the following paragraph for us after conducting some research on the effect of kefir on cancer. As a nurse who has cared for countless cancer patients, I think this is really quite incredible.
Dr. Caroline Kerridge says:
"Exciting research is emerging from scientists around the world implicating yet another potential benefit of Kefir.
There is a small, yet consistent body of evidence to suggest that Kefir products (both milk- and water-based) have beneficial effects on cancer prevention and treatment. Although the mechanisms of action are not clear, the effects have been attributed to the special bioactive products that are made during the fermentation process. Experiments have been carried out in numerous cancer models including cancers of the breast , skin, colon , sarcoma, stomach and blood. What is striking is the consistency between the studies, all of which show significant evidence of the slowing of cancer cell proliferation  (or growth) whilst having no negative effects on healthy (non-cancerous) cells . There is still a long way to go, as studies will need to be carried out on humans, however, it is a promising emerging area of scientific investigation."
There is a significant amount of research which shows a link between consuming kefir (and other fermented food/drink) and the decrease of symptoms and growth of disease. I’ve listed a small selection of the areas of research below, and look forward to exploring some of these fields in future posts. This is life changing stuff!
Keep reading to find out about the countless ways in which enjoying fermented food can help us heal.
 Zamberi et al (2016) The Antimetastatic and Antiangiogenesis Effects of Kefir Water on Murine Breast Cancer Cells. Integr Cancer Ther. 15(4):NP53-NP66.
 Khory et al (2014) Kefir Exhibits Anti-Proliferative and Pro-Apoptotic Effects on Colon Adenocarcinoma Cells with No Significant Effects on Cell Migration and Invasion. Int J Oncol. 45(5):2117-27.
Rafie et al (2015) Kefir and Cancer: A Systematic Review of Literatures. Arch Iran Med. 18(12):852-7.
 Jalali et al (2016) Kefir Induces Apoptosis and Inhibits Cell Proliferation in Human Acute Erythroleukemia. Med Oncol. 33(1):7.
 Chen et al (2007) Kefir Extracts Suppress in-vitro Proliferation of Estrogen-Dependent Human Breast Cancer Cells but not Normal Mammary Epithelial Cells. J Med Food. 10(3):416-22.
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It’s been another busy week for us at LAB. On Monday, Alana and I were busying away packing subscription boxes to send out to our lovely customers. We hope those of you who received your boxes on Tuesday are enjoying the last of the Summer flavours. We’re so excited to see what you think of the Autumn flavours. I haven’t even tried them yet, Alana’s kept them under lock and key! I’ve had some great feedback from you about last week’s post. Thank you all for reading!
This week, Alana and I thought it might be useful if I did a bit of a ‘de-jargoning’ post for you all. The world of fermented food and drink certainly involves some strange sounding names. These can be a little alienating! The first time Alana used words like Kefir, Kvass, Kombucha and Kimchi I thought she sounded like she’d swallowed a pretentious dictionary. Now, I love these words because I know they mean something delicious and good for me! Hopefully, this post can serve as a point of reference to those of you who, like me, thought these words were a foreign language. I’ve added in some of the other words you’ll find that we use, so that we’re all reading from the same hymn sheet.
A recent magazine article which detailed the diet of a chef who ate ‘cultured veggies’ sparked some pretty funny comments on social media (‘‘My veggies read The Times’’ was a personal favourite). So what are they? Cultured vegetables are lacto-fermented, which is a method of food preservation which also increases the nutritional benefits of the vegetable. It turns a healthy vegetable into a probiotic superfood! Lacto-fermentation is a fairly basic process. The food (vegetables in this case) is submerged into a salt brine, creating an environment which encourages good bacteria (probiotics) to grow and thrive, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The good bacteria convert the naturally occurring sugars from the food into lactic acid (a natural preservative). It’s an age-old method of preserving food!
The art of fermenting food is something that dates as far back as 6000 B.C. Fermentation was used to prevent the need for constant hunting and gathering by preserving food, and was also a method of converting potentially poisonous foods into something safe to eat. Romans ate Sauerkraut and relied on the health benefits it contained to stave off scurvy and and other diseases. It could be said that the health benefits of fermented food were discovered by happy accident, as fermentation was originally intended to preserve food . See ‘Cultured Veggies’ for details.
Pronounced ‘Kuh-fear’. There is more than one type of this gut loving drink. Kefir is really just a mixture of yeasts and bacterias living happily together! You may read about Kefir ‘grains’ (not actually grains), also called ‘SCOBY’. Kefir can be added to various milks to create milk Kefir (tastes a little like natural yoghurt), or to a sugar-water solution to create water Kefir (the sugar is mostly consumed by the Kefir bacteria during the fermentation process). We use raw organic cane sugar and add pure, cold pressed, organic fruit and vegetable juice (sometimes herbs/spices too) to our water Kefir to make our delicious sodas (pictured above)!
Kimchi originates from Korea, and whilst it is best known as spicy fermented cabbage, it actually covers a variety of highly seasoned fermented vegetables such as cucumber or radishes. It is considered to be one of the healthiest foods in the world, boasting high levels of B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals (including iron) and fibre. Kimchi is also made using lacto-fermentation (see Cultured Veggies).
Pronounced ‘Kom-boo-cha’. Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic ‘living’ tea drink. Like many other ferments, it has been around for centuries. It is made using SCOBY, but Kombucha SCOBY is rather different to Kefir SCOBY and is also known as the ‘Kombucha mushroom’. It looks a bit like a jelly pancake, and is white or beige. The SCOBY is added to a sugary tea, and ferments over 7-10 days. It has many health benefits, which include improving digestion, fighting disease and stabilising mood.
Pronounced Kuh-vah-ss. Kvass is another type of fermented drink. It can be made in many ways, including the original method which involves using stale rye bread. Kvass originates from Russia and is always water based, usually cloudy in appearance and often contains fruit juice or honey.
‘The Mother’- This is the cloudy, cobweb like substance that occurs in ferments like Apple Cider Vinegar. It is often strained out, but it’s the best bit for your gut! It is the original ferment, and is a natural carbohydrate which is produced by the bacteria in the vinegar.
The concept of Prebiotics is relatively new, and was only introduced just over 20 years ago. The definition of a prebiotic has been altered several times since then. A prebiotic is currently said to be a specialised plant fibre which nourishes the existing bacteria in the gut. Simply put, a prebiotic feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
The World Health Organisation defines probiotics as ‘’Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’’. Essentially, good bacteria which do good things for your health when you eat them! Probiotics are created during the fermentation process. The word ‘Probiotic’ literally means ‘for life’.
Pronounced ‘Sow-er-krowt’. Also known as ‘Kraut’. Sauerkraut is lacto-fermented shredded cabbage. Thought to have originated in China, over 2,000 years ago, it was first made by pouring rice wine over finely shredded cabbage. It is more commonly known as a German delicacy, but in the German preparation it was made by sprinkling salt over shredded cabbage to draw out the water which provided the ‘juice’ or brine which accompanied it. It was discovered to be so nutritious that, in Northern Europe, it was made a requirement for Sauerkraut to be on board every ship to prevent disease. Our Turmeric and Black Pepper Kraut (pictured above) was a big hit this summer, but we didn’t post it out to any boats!
This is actually an acronym for ‘Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts’. Essentially, it is cellulose containing the live part of the yeasts and bacteria, which multiplies when fed. It is the presence of SCOBY in fermented drinks such as Kefir and Kombucha which makes them such a good source of natural probiotics.
So now you know!
HOW WE EAT OUR FERMENTS...
I have Endometriosis, a chronic condition in which cells alike to those found in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body. This can cause pain, heavy bleeding, inflammation, fatigue, bladder and bowel problems and infertility. I was only 9 when I started my period, and suffered with severe pain and heavy bleeding almost from the onset..
Incorporating something new into your diet can be a challenge. Many of us are creatures of habit, particularly when it comes to what we eat, which can mean eating the same meals week after week. Whilst this is convenient, it’s not the best thing we can do for our gut. Meal planning can help with budgeting, time management and shopping lists, but how often do we think about our health when we’re deciding what to eat for the week? More specifically, do we think about our gut health?
With all the new and exciting research that’s going into gut health at the moment, it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to keep up with all the terminology. Here’s a few that you may have heard flying around, with a little bit about what they mean.
Ferments are foods and drinks that have been through a process of lacto-fermentation, in which naturally present bacteria, or bacteria introduced in the form of a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) feed on the sugar and starch in the food, creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Eating (and drinking) fermented foods is a way of including probiotic bacteria into your diet, and therefore, your gut.