Fermented foods for gut health5 min read

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We’re almost to the end of January, but welcome to 2014.

Things have been a bit quiet here around our blog, at least from a publishing point of view. But despite that we’ve had lots of visitors to the blog, and many things have been simmering away in the background. We’ve both been doing plenty of reading, research, and experimenting….getting ready to share with you in the next little while.

There’s new books, new resources, and lots of new recipes. All things to help you live a healthy lifestyle.

Meanwhile, we try to make summer school holidays a time for rest…..and restoration. Part of that restoration this summer is fortifying our immune systems ready for the year ahead. Not only do we need it, but it’s important for us to send the kids back to school with their immune systems ‘firing on all cylinders’ so that they’re ready to face any attacks. There’s been lots of playing out in the sun for boosting the vitamin D, naps in the afternoon for some, and we’ve ramped up the effort to get more good gut flora established.

With all of that, it’s probably no surprise that both Sharon and I have been doing some further experimenting with fermented foods over this January ‘holiday’ time.

We were aiming for two things:

1. Good bacteria that would colonise the gut, and

2. A wider variety of bacteria

Yes, you can take probiotic supplements, but these can get expensive after a while, and we’d rather be teaching the kids that they can get great probiotics from foods – with a bit of effort. (That said, we do use probiotic supplements at times.)

When you think of probiotics, you probably think of yogurt. And while most kids like yogurt, it isn’t enough. The probiotics in it don’t actually colonise the gut. They just visit…..they pass through. They’re fine, but we really need more than that. We want bacteria that is going to set up home and stay in the gut.

So we’ve been getting back to making and using kefir, and experimenting with some new things as well.

1. Water kefir

water kefir grains
Left: water kefir Right: healthy water kefir grains

These little water kefir grains and the water kefir they produce are an easy way to get some probiotics into the diet. But I had stopped making it sometime last year.

I had gone through a stage where a few things all happened at once and I put my kefir grains in the fridge to rest for a few weeks. The grains seemed to be not functioning as well as they should; I was concerned about the residual sugar after fermenting; and I was away a lot for work. I would see the jar of grains in the fridge and think ‘I must get them going again…..’, but it never translated to action.

Then we had two of our grandchildren with us for a few weeks after Christmas and they were constantly asking for kefir. I quickly got some new grains and got the brewing underway. At the same time I get the old ones out of the fridge. I was about to throw them out. After all, I had new ones now. Instead I thought I’d see what would happen of I tried a ferment with them. Short story: they were working fine within about four days!!!

I’ve simplified the first ferment a little. (Here’s a previous post with how to make water kefir.) And the second ferment has included fresh ginger, lemon, and sometimes some cinnamon or turmeric. All of these with their anti-inflammatory properties….and yummy taste.

The kids, and hubby, love the refreshing water kefir drinks, and it’s proven to be a great way to get Amey to have enough fluids. (She’s ASD and tends to not drink enough and gets dehydrated.)

2. Milk kefir.

We got back to doing this one again. The many weeks of travel were not helpful in maintaining the ferments so I no longer had any milk kefir grains. It was back to the beginning with this as well. Fresh grains and a few days equalled plenty of beautiful, rich, milk kefir.

None of us particularly like the taste of plain milk kefir, so we have to work on ways to include it in our foods. A small ‘smoothie’ (kefir and fruits) so thick that you eat with a spoon, is now a popular dessert.  And with a good supply of freshly cultured milk kefir, we are enjoying our own home made sour cream, dips, cultured egg mayonnaise, ranch style dressing, and cultured butter.

That’ve been other things as well….like kimchi, fermented pineapple salsa, and lacto-fermented jalapeños. Science experiments all over the place.

That all adds up to a whole lot of recipes to share!!

I thought I was finished this post, but as I was writing hubby came in and asked me what we were having for lunch. It’s Sunday on a long weekend and I’d had a late breakfast….. I wasn’t thinking about lunch. But he wanted something, right then, as he was off to see The Hobbit.

Idea: a meal in a glass. (Duh!!!) One of those smoothies you eat with a spoon. It was so good I thought I’d share it here now.

I just put a variety of things into the  Thermomix bowl, but you could do it in any blender. Here’s what went in…

milk kefir smoothie
A smoothie you can eat with a spoon
  • 1 egg (good protein)
  • 1 large avocado (great fats)
  • 330g milk kefir (some more protein, fats, carbs, and probiotics)
  • 1 banana – frozen (natural sweetness, & good fibre)
  • 1 Tabsp coconut oil – we love Niulife coconut products (more good fats for sustained energy)
  • 2 teaspoon Gelatin – we use Great Lakes brand (some more good protein & great for joint health)

And this is what I did…VERY simple…

  1. Blend first four ingredients until smooth and creamy. About 10-15 seconds –  speed 10.
  2. With the motor running, add coconut oil and gelatin. Blend 2 seconds – speed 10.
  3. Serve immediately. (That sprig of fresh mint added a nice touch to the flavour.)

That’s one good smoothie for when you need a meal on the run.  (This served two of us.)

So, grab some kefir grains and enjoy the fun of creating these simple, probiotic filled foods.

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