No Guts, No Glory: How Fermented Foods Are Winning the Race to Good Health

An active Coast Mountain lifestyle requires a certain level of get up and go. Hoping to enhance our powers of outdoor adventuring, many of us eat healthy and organic foods to fuel our pursuits. We spend our cash accessorizing with the best gear, and allocate precious time for bodywork or gym training to strengthen our core muscles for optimum physical ease. But what if your abdominal six pack is not as important as what lies beneath it? Are you paying enough attention to the microbial flora in your gut?

 

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By Jaimie-Leigh Bourne

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According to fermentation specialist, Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation, “Your body is an ecosystem that can function most effectively when populated by diverse species of microorganisms.” A healthy microbiome has been linked to increased energy levels, as well as easing stress, anxiety, depression, even modulating how we process information. So how do you know if you’re in need of a digestive tune-up? Take a look before you flush. If your poop is not in a group, is particularly odoriferous, or speckled with enough undigested fodder for a second meal, you should ring the gastric alarm.

“Because everyone is biochemically unique, their requirements are going to vary,” says Joey Christensen, a local Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN). She adds that while some people will benefit from digestive enzymes or probiotics in capsule form, the only way to know for certain is by having tests done. Instead, a simpler method is to introduce enzymes into your diet by eating live foods.

Live foods are plant-based foods that are raw, and uncooked, therefore abundant with living enzymes. Miso soup, made with fermented soybeans, is an easy place to start, and so is Korean kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage). Local caterer, Alice Savage (RHN), prepares a wickedly good garlic sauerkraut that disappears from Sea to Sky farmers’ markets almost as fast as she can make it. Soaking beans, grains, and pulses overnight to begin the sprouting process increases their digestibility and is another simple way to introduce live foods to your diet. But the latest trend to hit this area is the consumption of fermented beverages.

 

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“Consuming ferments doesn’t have to be a sour and stringent venture”

Kombucha (tea-based) and kefir (dairy-based) are fermented beverages that vary in appearance and microbial composition, both of which are considered rich sources of beneficial bacteria. Chances are pretty good that you know someone intensely engrossed in “Operation Fermentation” (and don’t think for a second that it isn’t an on-going project), who will be quite happy to share their latest “bucha babies” or “SCOBY” colony, but not everyone (this writer included) is keen on accumulating jars of frothy, fizzy, or semi-gelatinous fluids. Luckily, you can outsource your fermented fix and the Sea to Sky Corridor is alive with drinkable ferments that are downright delicious.

Spark kombucha, handcrafted in Squamish, is available in single-serve sizes for the uninitiated to sample before moving up to the large jug. Crazy about kefir? Squamish Water Kefir Co. makes a dairy-free version that is dangerously delicious, and quite possibly habit-forming. Don’t guzzle the entire bottle, however, start with small quantities to avoid feeling sick from an overabundance of beneficial microorganisms kicking bad bacterial ass.

“Start with small quantities to avoid feeling sick from an overabundance of beneficial microorganisms kicking bad bacterial ass.”

Consuming ferments doesn’t have to be a sour and stringent venture either. Yogurt is teeming with good bacteria eager to wage gastrointestinal warfare against the bad microbes lurking in your guts. Make a mouth-watering Mango Lassi by adding one cup of organic yogurt, a half cup of organic milk, and one cup of frozen or fresh mango chunks to the blender jar. Liquefy, pour, and enjoy a massive jolt of microbial sunshine.

Whether you mecca for mountaintops, bike like a beast, or have a first-ascent fetish, patience and perseverance get you anywhere. The same goes for digestive health — “Bring it back to food,” Christensen says. “Keep it simple.”

Healthy guts, more glory!

 


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