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Ingredient Spotlight

Ingredient Spotlight: 5 Health Benefits of Beetroot

Ingredient SpotlightAlana Holloway

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…

health benefits of beetroot

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,

Alana x

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5 Reasons to Love Elderberries: Health Benefits and More

Health, Ingredient SpotlightAlana Holloway

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!

Ingredient Spotlight: Health Benefits of Cabbage

Ingredient Spotlight, HealthAlana Holloway
Health benefits of cabbage

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?

Ingredient Spotlight: Health Benefits of Rosemary

Ingredient SpotlightAlana Holloway

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.