The health and longevity of this planet means a lot to me. As humans living on planet earth, we’re faced with hundreds of daily decisions about whether we contribute to the harm of this planet, or don’t. The media surrounding the many ways in which we can save Planet Earth has been hard to ignore this past year. Amen to that. But it’s hard not to become completely overwhelmed by it all, eh!
I’m writing this post a little later than planned… better late than never though, eh! Anyone else find that they fall massively behind schedule at this time of year?! Creating the seasonal collections is one of my most favourite parts about running FBL. I get to stretch my creative legs, work in alignment with nature and the beautiful seasons all whilst getting the much loved buzz from feeding my customers a range of new and exciting fermented flavours.
This is the second Winter collection I’ve created since launching in April 2017; the nice thing about doing it the second time around is that I have a great base to work from. I know what worked last time and more importantly, what the favourites were. It’s my mission to make each collection a box of ‘favourites’… so I should have it in the bag by year three!!
Curried Parsnip Kraut was the favourite last year, so I just had to include it again (remember, I’m working towards a Box of favourites!!) It’s tangy with a sort of creaminess (brought to the party by parsnip). One of my customers said I should’ve called it Coronation Kraut, because that’s exactly what it tastes like. I popped it on top of lamb biryani last year and it was MAGIC.
Winter Spice Kraut. What is a roast without a side of braised red cabbage? Incomplete, in case you’re wondering. Especially at Christmas. This Kraut will save you the job of making braised red cabbage AND add a probiotic lunch to your plate. Load up on it and it’s one less job for you to do when all your hob rings are taken and the oven’s full to bursting.
Horseradish + Mustard Kimchi. As the seasons have come and gone, one thing has become blatantly obvious. You lot LOVE Kimchi! I honestly think it’s down to the fact that it contains both prebiotics (the fibre that feeds your gut microbes) and probiotics (good bacteria)… it’s a combination that the gut microbiome craves and has you going back for more, fork and jar in hand. Horseradish is a wonderful vegetable and is even better when fermented. It’s what brings the heat to this Kimchi as it’s chilli free, making it a ‘white Kimchi’, not the red kind you may be used to. It’s also vegan, as all of my Kimchi’s are.
By combining two of the best winter fruits last year in the Cranberry + Citrus Kefir, I was missing a trick, so have decided to let them shine own their own this year…
Cranberry + Cinnamon Kefir. I imagine this one is going to make some wicked cocktails - alcoholic or not - over the festive period. It’ll also be the injection of Vitamin C you’ll need come January.
Clementine + Thyme. I always remember Jamie Oliver using clementines a-plenty in his Christmas cooking shows. They are delicious, so I really don’t blame him. Also, if Jamie does it at Christmas, the rest of us should too, right! If you’ve ever tasted one of my Kefirs using a woody herb (Pomegranate + Thyme, Red Grapefruit + Rosemary) then you’ll know just how marvellous they are. The woody earthiness of the herbs perfectly balance the sharpness of the fruit and sweetness of the Kefir. Again, this’ll make a fantastic mixer!
Pomegranate + Beet Kefir. If you’re thinking I’m mad for putting beetroot in Kefir, then I dare you to give this a try and say the same. It’s just enough to add a beautifully round earthiness to the astringent qualities of pomegranate. With a touch of lemon juice, its pure health in a bottle.
That’s about all for now, folks. I’ll be back soon with posts about the health benefits of these ingredients as well as some recipes showcasing how you can whip these ferments into a full on gut loving dish. Watch this space…
Wishing you a fantastic week,
Ahead of my first Self Care Sunday: Yoga & Gut Health; the gut healthy yoga brunch I’m hosting with the LOVELY yoga extraordinaire Lucy Victoria Jackson (pictured below), I wanted to share a bit about why we’ve created this event. Yoga and gut health might seem like a bit of an odd pairing at first, but they help each other out in more ways than meets the eye. The more I delve into the world of gut health and fermentation, the more I realise that EVERYTHING they are involved with is based upon beautiful symbiotic foundations. There really is no end to the magic of microbes! The Yoga and gut health duo is no exception but I have (rather stupidly, I now realise) only covered one side of the story in this blog. Gut Health for Your Yoga Practice will have to wait for another post!
10 REASONS IT’S A REALLY GOOD IDEA TO PRACTICE YOGA FOR YOUR GUT HEALTH
- The twist poses in yoga aid digestion as they apply pressure to your digestive organs, helping them to release toxins and waste matter. You may have noticed that in twist poses, you’ll twist first to the right and then to the left. This helps the natural flow of the digestive system (which flows from right to left), encouraging waste and gas to move along the transverse colon to the descending colon. Don’t tell me you’ve never left a twist-heavy Yoga class feeling a little windy!
- You’ll know that the gentle poses in a yoga practice help to relax your whole body, but did you stop to think that that includes the muscles surrounding your gut? So many of us hold tension in our abdomen (I am terrible for doing it), whether that’s by holding our tummies in or because we become tense during stressful periods. Tension restricts movement, wherever it’s held. Dedicating some time to a relaxing Yoga practice - therefore allowing your tummy to soften - will ultimately allow your digestive system to function as it should.
- Many of the poses which involve your thighs pressing close to your stomach - such as Child’s and Pigeon Pose – will gently massage your digestive organs as you breathe, helping to alleviate constipation and trapped wind, therefore aiding the natural detoxification of your gut…
- … Deep/belly breathing, which is mindfully practiced during a yoga flow, meditation and/or breathwork, is another way to give your gut a little massage. Great for all the reasons mentioned in the previous point.
- During Savasana (the lovely relaxing bit at the end) your body enters rest and digest mode. Oxygenated blood flows to your digestive organs, enabling them to work on digestion, cleansing and healing.
- A yoga practice is a fantastic way to manage and reduce anxiety and depression. Have you ever heard the gut being referred to as the second brain? That’s in part because the gut and brain communicate via a two-way nerve called the Vagus Nerve, meaning the brain feels what the gut does and vice versa. It’s more scientifically known as the gut-brain axis. A stressed brain = a stressed gut, so the more you can do to relax your mind will also help to relax your gut.
- What’s even cooler is that between 80-90% of the hormone Serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in the gut. Committing to a regular Yoga practice - that improves your gut health - means you’ll be doubling down on the anxiety and depression reducing factor.
- As well as reducing feelings of anxiety and depression, Yoga is well renowned for reducing stress. It’s not just a diet full of processed foods that reduces the strength and diversity of gut bacteria... chronic stress does as well. Yoga = less stress = stronger, more diverse gut bacteria = a healthier gut.
- Backbend poses, such as Camel, Bow and Wheel Pose, stretch the stomach and intestines and can alleviate constipation. These are my favourite to practice after a day of building tension in my abdomen.
- I’m glad we’re at a point in time where we (again!) realise and acknowledge that our whole body is connected. Tight hip flexors are a sign of the times. We spend approx. 90% of our day inside, probably sat on the sofa, at your desk or in bed, which does our hip flexors no favours at all. The hip flexors (the psoas muscle), run from deep within the hip joint all the way to the sacrum (bottom of the spine) and act as part of the shelf (together with the pelvis and pelvic floor) which supports the digestive system. Tight psoas can constrict the digestive organs, affecting flow and how well we digest food.
SO, THAT’S 10!
I’ve absolutely loved researching this post. Most of it I was familiar with, but I discovered some real gems along the way (the last one in particular). Have you found improvements in your gut health since committing to a regular yoga practice?
Lucy and I are really looking forward to meeting those of you that are coming to our first Self Care Sunday. If you were unable to come to this one, we hope to make them a regular thing, so keep your ears to the ground.
With microbial love,
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Ingredient of the week is BACK! It’s been a while since I posted one of these but I’m reeeeally going to try to share them more regularly from now on. I mean, seeing as I put so much thought into what ingredients I use in FBL ferments, it’s only right I share with you WHY I choose them, eh! I’m hoping you’re in total agreement with me here…
This week, I’ve chosen to feature beetroot. Not only do I bloody love a beet, in all it’s forms, it’s also the star ingredient in Autumn’s Ginger Beet Kraut, giving it a real earthy depth of flavour.
- Red beetroot are one of the richest sources of glutamine, which is an amino acid (protein building block) essential to the health and maintenance of the gut lining. Maintaining a healthy gut lining protects our inside world (body) from the outside, keeping everything in its place. You can read more about an unhealthy gut lining– aka leaky gut - here.
- Beetroot are a fantastic source of fibre. Fibre is not only extremely important when it comes to maintaining regular and healthy bowel movements but it also acts as fuel for our gut microbes, allowing them to multiply in number and diversity (which is a VERY good thing!)
- You’ll know that I change the FBL ferments seasonally… that’s because nature has created a wonderful pattern (aka the seasons) whereby the nutritional and energetic properties of any given naturalfood peak at certain times throughout the year. Beetroot are at their peak between July and October, making them the perfect ingredient for our Autumn ferments.
- Being that it’s a root vegetable, beetroot is considered a grounding food, energetically speaking. Ever get that slightly jittery, floaty, chattery, anxious feeling? The kind where you’re unable to concentrate on a single task and you feel like you’ve had one cup of coffee too many (I’m actually feeling like that right now!)? In traditional medicine, Autumn is associated with the wind and air elements and the aforementioned feelings of anxiety, jitters, etc. can be more present during this season. EAT A BEET! Beetroot (and other root = grounding vegetables such as carrots and potatoes) will help to balance those feelings and GROUND you.
- And if that’s not enough to convince you to eat beetroot, you may want to reconsider because it has been considered an aphrodisiac since Roman times! Who knew?! It contains high levels of boron, which has been shown to increase levels of testosterone (a hormone responsible for sex drive) in the body.
There you have it. Those 5 little golden (beetroot) nuggets are the particular reasons I chose to use it in this Autumn’s ferments (well, perhaps not so much the aphrodisiac one!) and they only cover a small handful of beetroot’s health benefits…
Until next time troops,
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How it all began
When I first started FBL, I was sure I was going to be a plastic-free, or at least very low-plastic business. The first Boxes I sent contained bio-degradable packing peanuts to protect the glass jars and bottles. The labels on the jars and bottles were paper, the Boxes themselves were cardboard and even the tape I used was paper (both of those thigs still stand). About a month and a half, I had had to send out so many replacement boxes due to breakages, that if I didn’t change something about the way I was packing my ferments, I’d be out of business pretty quickly. Not to mention the extra carbon miles accrued and the tonne of wasted product. You see, the bio-degradable packing peanuts are made from corn starch and dissolve when they come into contact with liquid. The nature of ferments mean that they can be pretty lively and occasionally the jar or bottle leaks when in transit. Add that to the condensation from the pre-chilled bottles ad what was often being delivered was a Box of dissolved, gluey, packing peanuts stuck to glass jars and bottles that had crashed against each other and broken … not quite what I was aiming for.
Packaging: marks 2 and 3
When I came across plastic inflatable air-packs, I thought my prayers had been answered. I had found something that protected to a very high level (the journey my boxes go on with the courier is very bumpy, cramped and turbulent, so high-level protection is vital) that was also 100% recyclable and I have been using them ever since, with much success. However, the recent hike in awareness about the damage plastic is doing to our planet – recyclable or not – has meant that I’ve had to return to the drawing board. It’s at this point (and at many points before) that I wish all my bottles and jars were the same size; that way I’d be able to use the standard cardboard dividers, some extra padding and I’d be away! Being a one-woman-band has meant that this trip to the drawing board has taken longer than I’d hoped. There have been quite a few back-and-forths with the packaging company to try and get the design right, which has delayed the process even further, and it’s still not quite there. You, my lovely customers, have been extremely patient and understanding of the time it’s taking and for that I am ever so grateful…
… But then my eyes were opened and on Tuesday of this week (02.10.18), I said enough is enough. I, like many others, watched the BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic and I felt physically sick. Even thinking about it now brings a tear to my eye. I was well aware that we couldn’t go on using plastic like we have been, but I had absolutely no idea quite how bad the situation had become. And to think that I’ve been contributing to that as a business, makes me feel so ashamed. I have made a promise that I won’t place another order for the plastic air-packs; there has to be another way. I have a number of them to get through before I can stop using them altogether, but over the next few deliveries, I’ll be phasing in an alterative. It won’t be the alterative that I’ve been working on as the design is still being tweaked and then the bespoke cutter needs to be made. The lead time, once the order has been placed, is then another couple of weeks, give or take. Then there’s the busyness of the Christmas period to think about. But, for the sake of not putting any more single-use plastic into our oceans - and the creatures that live within - I’m just going to have to suck it up. I’m freaking out that it’s all going to go tits-up and I’m really hoping that the temporary alternative won’t result in a load of breakages – I’ve learnt a lot about how to package since my early days – but if it does, I’m praying that you’ll bear with me.
I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any progress that’s made. If you have any suggestions for my interim alternative, please throw them my way!
That’s it for now!
A little tale about elderberries…
My first experience with the humble elderberry was when I was a wee young thing. My dear Gran used to look after my sisters and me in the Summer holidays and we would often rope her into doing all sorts of things, as grandchildren are so very good at doing. Her well-thumbed WI Cookbook would always be pulled from the shelves and on this occasion, I stumbled across a recipe for elderberry syrup. It must’ve been the very end of the holidays as a few moments later, we were walking down the lane to pick ourselves some elderberries. Once we had cleaned, picked and simmered the elderberries in water and sugar, we strained and bottled the cooled liquid and put it aside until it was ‘ready’… reading this back now, I really have no idea what we made that required us to wait! Wine?! After all that effort and patience, I couldn’t wait to taste our magic potion. A few visits later, we popped the top, mixed with water and sipped on a glass. I HATED it!! I was so disappointed and vowed never to try elderberries again with no idea that years (and years) later, I’d be flavouring Kefir with it and drinking it like it was going out of fashion!
As FBL grows older and more seasons pass, I am even more drawn to using the seasonal ingredients I find on my doorstep. Mother Nature continuously proves that she’s got our backs, providing us with what we need to survive and thrive throughout the ever changing ebbs and flows of life. Elderberries are probably one of the best examples of that. As the sunlight hours reduce and the nights draw in, the temperatures dip and central heating gets turned on, it’s vital that we increase our intake of immune boosting foods high in vitamin-C to ward off the coughs and colds that inevitably follow the back to school period. Read on to find out more…
- Elderberries immune boosting power comes from the flavonoids (a group of phytonutrients aka plant chemicals, responsible for vivid, deep and rich colours in plant foods). Flavonoids are powerful anti-oxidants that help keep our immune systems fighting fit.
- Elderberries are extremely high in fibre, therefore promoting good digestive health and constipation relief. We use re-hydrated elderberries to make an elderberry puree to flavour our Autumn Berry Kefir, meaning some of that fibre remains in the bottled, finished product. Dried elderberries can also be added to cakes, muffins, sauces and jams to increase their fibre content.
- Elderberry syrup has been used for centuries to ward off and treat colds, coughs and flu. It boasts anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and works a treat… hence it sticking around for so long.
- High in both vitamins A and C, elderberries are a great addition to your diet if you’re looking to improve the health and appearance of your skin.
- Elderberries have anti-inflammatory properties and can help to reduce swelling in mucous membranes such as your sinuses, helping to reduce nasal congestion, aka the sniffles!
Instagram can be a wonderful place, can’t it?! One of my favourite people to follow is Dr Megan Rossi, aka @theguthealthdoctor. She shares a wealth of ‘no bullsh*t’ gut health related information, demystifies studies and debunks media articles which I just LOVE to read!
One of her recent posts posed the question: is a vegan diet healthier for your gut than a non-vegan diet? She often asks these questions as polls in stories. I answered ‘no’ but was pretty sure the answer to this one wouldn’t be a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I was right! Whilst a vegan diet isn’t necessarily healthier for your gut (vegan doesn’t always mean healthy), a focus on plant-based foods is. Your gut microbiome relies on a variety of foods to build a diverse community and in gut terms, diverse = strong and health and Dr Megan Rossi’s recommended weekly target is 30. That’s 30 different plant species throughout the week.
Is that achievable?* A combination of precious kitchen space, weekly - rather than daily - shops, bulk cooking/meal prep, busy schedules and small households means it’s all too easy to fall into a routine of eating the same (or very similar) foods, every day. When you cook a big meal on a Sunday, the likelihood is that you’ll be eating that same meal for lunch/dinner for the next 2–3 days. When you buy a bunch of bananas, at least one of your 2-3 daily pieces of fruit is going to be – you guessed it - a banana! You get the gist, I’m sure. So, I decided to record the plant foods I ate for a week, to see if I was anywhere near hitting the target. Honestly, I wasn’t so sure that I was going to, for all of the reasons listed above. I, like many others, have been so busy thinking about what I eat in a day (am I getting my RDA of fruit and veggies, fibre, protein, etc?) that I really wasn’t paying too much attention to how that panned out as the week went on.
Here’s how I got on (‘<’ means a very small amount of something):
White rice noodles
Wow, day 7 was a good day!! Jokes aside, all in all, I ate 43 different plant species. I was really careful not to fudge the results by doing anything different than my norm and am pleasantly surprised. Looking back, what I think helped me achieve the target was making dishes where I could sneak in extra ingredients, such as the crumble I made at the beginning of the week (the topping alone contained 5 different plant species), or the savoury veggie pancakes I had towards the end (the fillings were very veg heavy). I could’ve varied my grains/legumes a bit more, so will make a note of that for the future. Over the winter, I’ll make sure to pack my stews and curries with veggies and grains and I’ll be interested to give it another go to see if the results are at all similar.
If you fancy giving this a go, please share the results with me over on Instagram @fermentedbylab – let’s raise the awareness of this weekly target and all help each other achieve a more diverse gut microbiome!
*Megan does recommend just adding one extra plant food to your week if 30 seems unachievable.
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Discovering the root cause of a health issue is often a complex task that needs to be approached from different angles. I've been asked a few times about what else I do - outside of the fermented food/gut health arena - to ensure my skin stays healthy, so I thought I'd create a blog post to consolidate it all.
As many of you may have read, fermented foods and improving my gut health were key to me healing from TSA/TSW (Topical Steroid Addiction/Topical Steroid Withdrawal). They were, and still are, the cornerstone of how I manage my eczema - medication free - in a more natural and holistic way.
Eczema is now considered an auto-immune disease. Autoimmune means that certain triggers cause your immune system to attack certain cells in the body. I’ve come to realise that eczema is something that will always be in the background and can even be put into remission, but that in order to maintain healthy skin, I need to follow certain diet and lifestyle choices. Here’s a list of the tools I’ve compiled over the years to keep my eczema at bay;
- Eat/drink something fermented every day!
-Plenty of fibre in my diet. Fibre is fuel for gut bacteria.
-Eat lots of plant foods!
- Yoga as much as I can. To get my blood flowing, system moving and mind calm.
- Daily 10 minute meditation. Stress has such a huge impact on my health and my skin. I find the Calm App to be best suited to me.
- A water softener as I live in such a hard water area.
- Early to bed and sleep for 8-9 hours every night, although this is a constant work in progress!
- Natural skin products and no make-up (natural make up for when I have to!) I’ve actually now started making my own.
- Limited/no alcohol. I've tried natural wines but find I wake the next morning more inflamed than I'd like.
- Plenty of water throughout the day and herbal teas depending on my mood.
- Limited sugar. I tried totally sugar free for a while but am only human and missed treats! Saying that, I stick to the more unrefined sugars and try to keep my consumption below the RDA.
Diet wise, I do avoid cow's dairy and gluten as they tend not to sit well with me (although I've recently been experimenting with sourdough), and am mindful of my consumption of goat's dairy as it can make my skin feel 'damp/clammy' (you'll know what I mean if you suffer with eczema) I've found what works for me and do experiment from time to time. The wellness world can be so black and white about what's 'good' and 'bad' for you. It doesn't allow for exceptions to rules and that can cloud judgement. For example; I've found that I'm absolutely fine with ghee but not with butter. In essence, they're kind of the same thing but the way in which ghee is made makes it tolerable. My point here is: don't be too strict when it comes to food and food groups. Experiment, test and keep an open mind.
Lastly, over the past couple of years, I've been taking more interest in Ayurveda. It's something I've only recently started incorporating into my daily life but find it really helps. I've found it a really gentle and sympathetic way to approach my health, making tweaks here and there when I need to. I would really recommend looking into it.
I really hope the helps some of you on your quest to better health. As always, please feel free to ask any questions either in the comments below or by emailing me.
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This was originally published on the Pollen + Grace blog, as part of their Food Diary series. Read on to find out what and how our Founder, Alana eats to keep her gut in good health.
Approach to food: I love to eat intuitively, according to the seasons… not only that, but according to the weather and how I’m feeling on any given day. After a lifelong battle with eczema, I have now found the key to managing it with the right foods for my body, and a complimentary lifestyle, too. I like to maintain a balanced, healthy gut and so eat/drink ferments every day… just as well I run a company that makes them!
DAY 1 - FRIDAY
I tend to start day with about a pint of warm water. I really find it gives me immediate energy following sleep. I’m really not a lover of cold water, so will always drink it at room temperature or warm/hot.
I usually have breakfast about 10.30 as I struggle to eat too early in the morning. I like to allow my body time to build up a good hunger! Now that Spring is here, I’ve swapped my porridge for smoothies. This morning’s is organic cooked beetroot (I cook up a batch and then freeze it for smoothies), organic frozen strawberries from last Summer, a green banana, which is a great source of prebiotic fibre, coconut yoghurt, goats milk Kefir for the all-important probiotics, Plenish cashew milk (my favourite) and a little raw honey for a some more prebiotic love! I also take an omega 3 supplement; generally speaking, I’m not a massive supplement advocate and prefer to get what I need from my diet, but as I am prone to really dry skin, I find this one helps.
I grab a small handful of Brazil nuts as I head out the door.
At 1pm I have a chunk of goats Gouda and another pint on warm water whilst waiting for my lunch to cook. I can tell it’s going to be a hungry day for me today!
At 1.30, I have a lunch of sliced avocado roasted chickpeas with nigella seeds, soft boiled egg, roasted sweet potato, Fennel + Lemon Kraut from the Fermented by LAB Spring Collection, steamed broccoli & kale.
3.30 small glass of Kombucha as I need a bit of a kick!
At 7pm I have dinner - it's lentil Dahl with Carrot + Coriander Kraut from last year’s Autumn Box (one of my favourite things about fermenting foods is getting to eat them months later!)
I drink a Golden Mylk before bed and soak some oats for tomorrow morning’s porridge… I mentioned Spring too early and hear it’s due to snow tomorrow!
DAY 2 - SATURDAY
10am - I start the day with two huge mugs of warm/hot water again and follow it with the porridge I soaked last night. I always soak my grains/pulses/legumes to make them easier on my digestive system. My porridge toppings are roasted rhubarb, coconut yoghurt, a little raw honey and some chopped Brazil’s.
3pm - Lunch is a chunk of goat’s milk Gouda (I can’t get enough of it!) and roasted broccoli, carrot, fennel, sweet potato and nigella seeds with a soft-boiled egg (again!) Despite it being the weekend, I’m working and need something easy to cook which doesn’t require too much thought!
5pm - I have a bottle of Red Grapefruit + Rosemary Kefir from the Spring Box. I’m lucky enough to be able to delve into a good selection of seasonal ferments… it means I don’t get bored with eating the same Kraut all the time!
7pm - I try to stop eating by 8pm so that I can give my digestive system a break overnight. As I had a late lunch, I’m not overly hungry so make a beetroot, carrot (both cooked and frozen), blackcurrant, green banana and goats kefir smoothie and have a mug of chicken bone broth.
I drink a small Golden Milk just before bed. They really relax me and as I have a history of eczema, find they really help keep my inflammation at bay.
Best piece of advice about health + wellbeing?
Don’t search for all the answers in one place. Every day, I try to remind myself that it’s not just about a healthy diet, a good exercise regimen, good quality sleep or daily meditation practice, for example, it’s a combination of all of them that allows you to live your healthiest and happiest life.
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Cabbage, on the surface, is probably one of the most boring vegetables around. Unlike its celebrity cousins, kale and broccoli (all part of the brassica family), it often gets disregarded as smelly and bland. But I LOVE IT! Without cabbage, my beloved Kraut wouldn’t be what it is, so it only seems right to celebrate it every once in a while.
⁃ We’re now realising that, on the whole, our diets fall way short of the RDA of fibre. Not only is cabbage a great source of fibre, studies have found that raw cabbage juice has been found to help cure stomach ulcers. All the more reason to drink that Kraut brine!
⁃ I’ve already mentioned it’s ‘superfood’ cousins kale and broccoli, which are well renowned for being high in antioxidants. Well if you fancy a change up, grab a cabbage which has its own array of the inflammation reducing, brain boosting powerhouses.
⁃ Cabbage is already a great source of vitamin K, but when eaten in its fermented form, it helps to support our gut flora in producing Vitamin K2. A deficiency in K2 increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer.
A bit like marmalade, I like my Kraut somewhere in between thick and thin cut, providing the perfect bite! How do you like yours?
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You'll know if you've followed LAB for a while that one of the most joyful parts of developing the recipes is getting to research the ingredients. Not only are they chosen for their flavour, but for their health benefits, too. I asked Claire, one of LAB's most devoted customers to have a look into the hardy herb and report back. Over to you Claire...
To be perfectly honest, up until now I had never thought of Rosemary in terms of anything other than culinary as it is very frequently added to meat and fish dishes; so to increase my awareness of the many health benefits of this wonderfully aromatic herb, and because it is being used alongside red grapefruit in this season’s Kefir, I would like to share with you a few of the reasons we are so excited about it:
My knowledge of this herb is that it is a very hardy member of the lavender family and grows prolifically in well-drained soil and is often planted alongside thyme. Therefore its floral fragrance provides a sense of nostalgia for anyone whose parents cultivated a herb garden or patch. The scent of Rosemary always reminds me of the family Sunday Roast when lamb was that week’s joint as I would stab the joint deeply all over and poke in slices of garlic with a sprig of Rosemary before seasoning and popping into the oven. Only yesterday I was at my daughter’s for Easter Sunday and it was so comforting to watch her do the same thing exactly when she was roasting the lamb.
What I didn’t know until today, was how Rosemary is used in herbal and holistic medicine and that when we add it either internally or externally, there are many ways in which we are helping to combat some health issues. For instance, did you know that amongst many other things:
· Rosemary is a powerful antioxidant. Its properties also have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory benefits and have even been shown to ease allergies ~ a good reason to increase your intake during the hay fever season!
· Rosemary is a good source of fibre and vitamins A, B & E, copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron.
· The best thing I have discovered about Rosemary today is that not only does its intake improve memory and concentration, but current research into Alzheimer’s disease has shown, although a cure for the disease is not yet on the horizon, that two compounds of Rosemary, namely rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, have been found to enhance the production of nerve protein structures responsible for the survival and repair of nerve cells and to protect brain cells from plaque ~ now considered to be one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
It would be impossible to list all the benefits of Rosemary in this blog, but for now, just try rubbing a leaf between your thumb and forefinger some time; and then inhale deeply. I always find it gives me an incredible sense of well-being and comfort.
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It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted on this blog - so much to do and so little time! We’ve been having a blast backstage at LAB. Alana has been working hard on developing the Spring flavours and I can’t wait to taste-test! Alana and I call the day we package your fabulous ferments and send them out to you ‘Boxing Day’, but we often find it doubles up as ‘Therapy Day’ as we end up talking the hind legs off a donkey and putting the world to rights. I cook lunch for us and bring it along to headquarters, usually a hearty soup or a reviving curry (with a generous serving of a complementary ferment, of course!). After the obligatory high five when your boxes have been collected by our courier, we sit down, take a deep breath and relax. I’ve got to say, working with my sisters is brilliant. I am the eldest of three. Alana is in the middle and our youngest sister is Georgina. Georgina is currently working on her own contribution to LAB, which we hope will help spread the word about what we do. We’ve all worked together one way or another before and I love that we can do that. I strongly believe that having a support network as strong as we do is a huge factor in our potential to achieve, keeping us motivated. Which leads me to the subject of today’s post- motivation!
It’s remarkable how much motivation we can find for something that we want to do. Whether it’s getting dressed up to go out or saving money towards a holiday in the sun, we can often dig deep when there’s a dangling carrot to spur us on. Why then, is it so difficult to be motivated to eat well when the dangling carrot is good health? You’d think that feeling good would be the ultimate reward, yet millions of us fall in to the trap of eating something quick and easy that doesn’t always satisfy our body’s nutritional needs. We’re pre-programmed to enjoy high calorie foods. Primitively, this helped us to survive when access to food wasn’t guaranteed . With processed and fast food readily available today, our need for convenience often leads us to grab a sandwich from a petrol station or order a pizza. The result? A calorific intake is achieved, but our bodies haven’t necessarily been nourished.
What we eat is fundamental to not only our body weight, but energy levels, ability to fight infection and disease, emotional well-being and ultimately, how long we live. Most of us have tried various diets and with the media advertising the latest way to lose weight at the appropriate times of year (after Christmas, the lead up to summer for a ‘Bikini body’), we’re spoilt for choice. Food is everywhere. Deep down, we all know that eating healthily is as simple as these seven words. “Eat food. Not too much. Mainly plants.” (Pollan, 2016). Whilst true, this doesn’t provide the specifics on how to do so, or, equally importantly, how to want to do so.
I am my own worst enemy when it comes to what I eat. A self-confessed chocoholic and cheese addict, I find myself reaching for these things when I’m in need of comfort. During the past 2 years, I think I’ve changed what ‘comfort food’ means in my head. As I discussed in last August’s post, I started eating fermented foods by becoming Alana’s guinea pig! I rapidly noticed an improvement in my mood, reduction in symptoms of my Endometriosis, clearer skin and the list goes on. Fermented food and drink has acted as a bit of a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me. I eat/drink it, I feel better. I am comforted. It is my healthy comfort food! It has made me think twice about my food choices. I recognise now that when I eat unhealthily I am actually sabotaging my chances of feeling good (read ‘Love What You Eat: Choosing Foods That Will Change Your Life’ by Nicholette M. Martin MDHC – so helpful!).
Many of us find things easier to manage step by step. I’m one of those people! My first step to eating for health was to eat a portion of fermented food or drink every day. My second step was to drink more water. My third step, to ensure that half of my plate of food contained vegetables. I’m working on the fourth step (reducing my chocolate intake)! I don’t get it right every day, but I do know why I’m doing it. I want to feel good! So far, I’ve found that changing how I think about ‘comfort food’ has helped motivate me to eat for better health. What helps to motivate you?
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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...
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.