Understanding Fermented Foods

Understanding Fermented Foods

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Your Quick Guide to Choosing the Ones That Are Right for You

Fermented foods are unique. For many years, fermenting was considered just a way to preserve food. Now we know that fermenting allows beneficial bacteria and sometimes yeast strains to build up in the food, turning it into a powerhouse of nutrients that helps the gut and the rest of the body.

Research does exist for fermented foods, plus there is a lot of historical information as to how they have been used in the past.

Most fermented foods are made with an anaerobic process, meaning the good bacteria build up lactic acid bacteria and other acids without oxygen. This means that there are no moulds or bad bacteria present.

Sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, and cultured vegetables are generally made with a salt brine, although homemade versions can be made from whey (strained from yoghurt) or a vegetable starter.

Milk kefir, water kefir, and kombucha also use an anaerobic process but must be made with a “SCOBY” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). This means that both beneficial strains of bacteria and yeast are present.

Sourdough bread is made with a “starter” using an aerobic process. Oxygen is needed for the development of the wild yeasts. Wine and beer are also made with an aerobic process.

Most fermented foods contain various types of lactic acid bacteria which means they produce lactic acid. Wine and vinegars like apple cider vinegar or real balsamic vinegar have strains that produce acetic acid. All are beneficial.

As for the benefits, three different studies have compared the microbiomes of rural Africans, Japanese, and South Americans consuming a traditional diet with plenty of fermented foods. Researchers found that those consuming the traditional diet had higher levels of beneficial lactobacillus and bifidus strains and lower levels of pathogenic strains such as clostridium than people living in western urban centres.

Individually, each fermented food has been studied and found to be helpful in a number of ways. Some of the benefits for each fermented food are highlighted below. Learning more about each should make it easier for you to choose the right ones. However, the best way to choose is to try them.

How Do You Use Fermented Foods?

  • Fermented foods can be consumed on their own as a snack or served with a meal to aid digestion of the meal.
  • Kefir, yoghurt, kombucha, and pureed sauerkraut or sauerkraut juice work well in salad dressings, replacing some of the vinegar because they are all acids too, just not as strong.
  • Sauerkraut, cultured vegetables, and kimchi can be added to soups. Add after the soup has been ladled into the bowl.
  • Yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and beet kvass can be added to smoothies.
  • A delicious beverage can be made by adding fresh juice to water kefir or kombucha.

Are the Benefits of Fermented Foods Lost When Cooked?

No. You will lose the enzymes,  beneficial bacteria, and yeast strains. However, the microorganisms produce beneficial metabolites during the fermentation process, and these remain available to provide health benefits for the body. Also, the food that is fermented is somewhat predigested, and the nutrients in the food have been made more bioavailable. These benefits remain in the food even if it has been cooked.

What Is the Best Serving Size?

Try to consume 75g for sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, and kefir. For beverages such as water kefir and kombucha, 224 ml is a good amount. For beet kvass, 56–112 ml.

The Easiest Fermented Foods to Buy:

Many good-quality fermented foods are easy to find in the health food stores and many supermarkets. Real fermented foods, with the exception of wine, will be found in the refrigerated area. Those found on the shelf have been pasteurised and will no longer have the active bacteria. These are the ones you will most likely find:

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is made by “sweating” the juice out of the cabbage with salt to create a brine. This is a simple process of rubbing cabbage with the salt. All the benefits of cabbage are present but in a more bioavailable form. Other vegetables or herbs can be used to add to the flavour and to increase nutrient diversity.

Sauerkraut has many benefits. It is antimicrobial and antifungal, and the juice can be used to preserve other foods. Phytonutrients found in cabbage, known as isothiocyanates, may have anticancer benefits and may be helpful with ulcers.

Sauerkraut aids digestion and helps digestion of other foods in the meal. It also contains prebiotics which helps feed our own good bacteria.

Kimchi

The benefits of kimchi come from several key foods as it is a combination of cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, daikon radish, and hot red pepper powder (capsaicin). It helps carbohydrate metabolism, and the capsaicin in the red pepper powder may boost the body’s metabolism. It also contains the same isothiocyanates as sauerkraut which may help stomach cancer.

Kimchi can help boost the immune system. It aids digestion of all the food in the meal, has antimicrobial properties, aids intestinal health, and helps prevent constipation. A study found that Bacillus Pumilus, a strain found in kimchi, helped detox carcinogens and estrogen-mimicker Bisphenol A (found in plastic).

Kombucha

Kombucha is unique as it is made with a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), tea (with caffeine), and sugar. It aids digestion, helps stabilise blood sugar, and has antimicrobial properties. It may also help with cholesterol, and it offers beneficial antioxidant protection.

Research of kombucha focusses on the polyphenols found in black tea. They are more bioavailable in kombucha which can explain a lot of the health benefits.

 

Milk Kefir

Milk kefir originated from the Caucasus mountains in Russia. Despite attempts to duplicate them, only kefir grains can make traditional kefir. They are a symbiotic combination of 32 strains of good bacteria (both lactic acid and acetic acid strains) and yeast strains.

Kefir has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce histamine, the chemical released during an allergic reaction. It may aid those who are lactose intolerant. Kefir is well-researched and has been shown to have anticancer properties, help reduce inflammation and stabilise blood sugar. It also helps inhibit candida albicans. And like all fermented foods, it aids digestion.

Kefir works best when made with cow and goat milk as the lactose and GOS help feed the grains. It can be made with coconut milk,  but some type of carbohydrate such as date puree must be added to feed the grains.

Yoghurt

Yoghurt is one of the oldest fermented foods and is made from at least two to four strains of good bacteria. It is common to more cultures than any other types of fermented food except perhaps wine or cheese. Different cultures use different strains for making yoghurt. Cow, sheep, yak, goat milk – all have been traditionally used for yoghurt. In North America, yoghurt is typically made with the strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.

Commercial yoghurt may be fermented in as little as an hour with thickening agents such as gelatin or modified cornstarch being added. In order to break down enough lactose and have a significant amount of good bacteria, yoghurt must be fermented for at least four hours or longer. Speciality yoghurts like Mediterranean and Greek are also popular –  both involve the process of straining whey to make it thicker. Zero per cent Greek yoghurt is made with non-fat milk. Whole milk yoghurts have more nutrients than low-fat Greek.

Real yoghurt should only contain two ingredients: milk and bacterial culture.

Studies on yoghurt are inconsistent – mainly because they do not specify what type of yoghurt was studied. What is known is that it aids digestion and helps support immune function. It may also be helpful for ulcers.

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough is made from a starter of flour and water that has been fermented by wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. A good starter or “sponge” can last for decades and be passed down from one generation to another. The fermentation process changes how the grain is used by the body.

It makes the nutrients in the grains such as zinc, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and phytonutrients more available to be absorbed into the body. The yeast actually produces the B vitamins (even in white bread). It also helps break down the gluten and starches making the bread more digestible. Many people who have digestive issues with wheat have no issues with sourdough bread made with wheat.

Research has shown that sourdough does not spike blood sugar and insulin release, even when made with white flour. One study found that consuming sourdough in one meal positively affected blood sugar for that meal and the next. (Breakfast may be the best time to consume it.)

Look for sourdough bread at local bakeries. Some supermarkets and health food stores are now selling sourdough bread. It may also be available online and sold frozen.

Wine and Beer

Is there a place for wine and beer in a healthy diet? Yes. Both are traditionally fermented foods. Both are low in alcohol (in comparison to hard liquor).

Beer

To be beneficial for gut health, beer must be unpasteurised. This ensures that the good bacteria and yeast are present. Many commercial beers are pasteurised so be careful when choosing. Beer contains B vitamins and silicon which blocks the uptake of aluminium and may help prevent Alzheimer’s. Beer also contains hops which are anti-inflammatory and may help with sleep.

Wine

The health benefits of red wine are well known: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-ageing,

anticancer, and may help prevent heart disease. This is due to the phytonutrients known as the polyphenols which also happen to be prebiotic and feed good bacteria in the gut.

Wine is traditionally served with a meal to aid digestion. Most studies are on red wine, but white wine has high phenolic values as well. As long as they are consumed in moderation, red and white wine can be part of a healthy diet.

Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar with mother (meaning it has the remnants of the apple in it) is a true fermented food. The same is true of an aged balsamic vinegar. There are other vinegars that are fermented, but these two are the easiest to find, have many health benefits, and are rich in nutrients. Even though we only consume a small amount, they are still worthwhile to add to our diet.

Don’t Forget About Cheese

All real cheese is made from a fermented process, but it’s the hard, aged cheeses like natural cheddar and parmesan that have the most benefits. The older the cheese, the more the lactose is broken down and the more enzymes and beneficial bacteria are present. Look for cheeses made from raw milk, preferably organic, as these are the very best. Milk has many properties that are good for the gut and consuming a fermented version makes it more digestible.

How Much Should You Consume?

A study looked at people who consumed at least three different types of fermented food and had at least five servings per week. The fermented foods were removed for two weeks, and the immune response was lowered. Yoghurt was added back first and while immune response improved, it did not return to previous levels until all the fermented foods were added back in. Quantity and diversity matter.

Easiest plan: Have a serving of one fermented food every day, and choose three different types to rotate throughout the week. For more tips on how you can improve your gut health check out my recent blog Better Gut Health & Well-Being

I created the Sugar Detox and Weight Loss plans to help provide my clients with the knowledge that allows them to understand how to support their bodies more effectively. Gut health is an ever-evolving topic. The research is coming so fast and furiously that it may seem impossible to keep up. My goal is to help you find the foods that work best for you.

Different cookie-cutter diets are being recommended, but the long-term results show that this doesn’t work. I focus on taking a more foundational approach allowing the body to correct itself. This requires patience and customisation.

For more details on my one to one coaching plans click here.

Best wishes,

Christy x

Why you aren’t losing weight after 30

Why you aren’t losing weight after 30

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If you notice your weight starting to creep up once you hit 30, your lifestyle could be having more effect than you think. We all know the obvious triggers such as eating too much and not doing much exercise but there are some sneakier factors that can play a big part in weight gain. Here are some of the most common ones to avoid so that you can keep your tummy trim and within a healthy weight range.

Too Much Stress

Struggling to keep your stress levels under control? There’s a good chance that it’s affecting your weight – especially for women. Your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, during stressful periods and this can send your blood sugar levels haywire. According to studies, high cortisol production leaves you craving sweet foods and means you’ll probably eat more calories.

Cortisol also changes how your body uses glucose, makes it harder to burn fat and makes it easier to store fat. Women are more likely to store fat on their stomach but this can also be true for men. Abdominal fat has been linked to health issues so it’s definitely something you want to keep to a minimum!

Falling Into Emotional Eating Habits

Not taking care of your wellbeing can mean that you eat in line with your emotions rather than when you’re genuinely hungry. Feeling sad, stressed, lonely, bored or disappointed can lead you to eat to fill an emotional void and crave particular foods (usually the unhealthy kind!).

You might feel a little bit better in the immediate aftermath but in the longer term, this type of emotional eating can have a big effect on your weight. Most of the time, you won’t get a signal to say that you’re full and it’s all too easy to find that you’ve eaten a lot more than you planned in a very short space of time. And you probably won’t feel any better afterwards. In fact, you may well feel a whole lot worse as it’s common for emotional eating to make you feel guilty and ashamed of your food choices.

Not Sleeping Well

Poor sleep quality makes you more likely to eat more calories and gain weight. This is because it disrupts hormones that control your appetite. Lack of sleep increases production of ghrelin and decreases leptin levels, which means it’s harder to manage your appetite.

Sleeping well is one of the underrated ways to keep your weight in check as your levels of these hormones will be a lot more balanced.

Not Building Muscle Mass

If you spend a lot of time sitting down and aren’t very active, you probably don’t have much muscle mass. This might not seem like a big deal but it’s a common weight gain trigger.

Lean muscle boosts your metabolism and makes it that little bit easier to burn calories. If you don’t have much lean muscle, your metabolism doesn’t get this benefit and it’s harder to burn calories.

One of the best ways to build more muscle mass is through strength training. Don’t worry- you won’t end up looking like a bodybuilder! The idea of strength training is to build a toned body with minimal body fat rather than the bulky look we often associate with weights.

Not Eating Enough

Being on a diet more often than not means you’re definitely going to lose weight, right? Not always! Restricting your calorie intake too much slows down your metabolism and encourages the body to go into “starvation mode” so that it can run on fewer calories. This also means you burn fewer calories too as your body uses most of your intake to survive.

These kind of diets are very hard to stick to in the long term. Chances are, you’ll go back to a less restrictive way of eating but your body can still be more likely to store fat. This is why many people find that they gain weight after coming off a low-calorie diet.

Eating “Low Fat” Foods

Just because a food claims to be “low fat” doesn’t always mean that it’s going to help you to stay in shape. A lot of supposedly “low fat” options are often high in sugar and salt to make them tastier and can also contain a lot of calories. Eat too many of these “low fat” foods and you’re probably going to put weight on!

Tips for Avoiding These Triggers

So, what can you do to avoid these common triggers and get your body in the best shape?

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that isn’t too restrictive on calories and stay away from “low fat” foods that can promote weight gain
  • Be physically active and help your body to gain a bit more muscle mass
  • Get plenty of sleep to keep appetite hormones in balance
  • Make stress reduction a big part of your self-care routine and finding healthier ways to manage your emotions that don’t involve emotional eating
  • Adopting a more mindful approach to eating so that you don’t eat on autopilot
Healthy Eating on the Go

Healthy Eating on the Go

Blog From the Author

How to fuel your body for better health and more energy even when you have a crazy busy schedule.

One of the biggest struggles that most people face today is a hectic schedule.

We are so busy that it makes eating healthy a real challenge. Quick and convenient foods end up taking the place of healthy, nourishing food when we are on the go, go, go all the time. These less-than-ideal food choices put us on the hamster wheel of experiencing low energy, weight gain, and potential health problems.

What if I told you it didn’t have to be this way? You don’t have to be a slave to your schedule and resort to fast food or processed foods on a regular basis.

It’s possible to eat healthy foods, even with a jam-packed schedule. It just requires a little bit of pre-planning to ensure success. You’ll feel better, have more energy, and your waistline will thank you too.

When you start fuelling your body with healthier choices, you’ll probably also find that you don’t have that 3 PM slump or need that afternoon caffeine boost.

I’ve included a list of healthy snack ideas to get you started, so keep reading.

Eating Healthy When You’re Not Home

There are plenty of circumstances that will take you away from home, and make it more challenging to eat healthy food. Take the time to plan ahead and you can relax knowing that you won’t be derailing your healthy living efforts by consuming empty calories that only make you hungry again a short time later.

Daily Activities

Most of us spend several hours in our vehicles every week running errands, stuck in traffic or shuttling kids back and forth between activities. If we don’t plan ahead, it is easy to fall into the trap of swinging through the closest drive through when you (or your family) are hungry.

Don’t wait until the point that you’re starving to make food choices, as this will almost always lead to bad decisions. Instead, plan ahead, so you don’t have to rely on your willpower alone to keep you on track. Pack easy to carry healthy snacks. This way you always have healthy choices right at your fingertips.

Long Car Journeys

Just because you’re on holiday or travelling, doesn’t mean you should take a total hiatus from your health goals. You can still live a healthy lifestyle on road trips by packing healthy foods to eat in the car. You can pack a cooler to keep handy so you have easy access to snacks while on the road. If you’re planning on stopping at rest areas along the way, pack a nutritious picnic lunch to eat before you head back out on the next leg of your trip.

Airports

Even though you can’t pack liquids in your carry-on bag, there are still plenty of options for what you can bring. You can pack wrapped whole food snack bars, nuts, seeds or even pieces of fruit in your hand luggage. With a little creative planning, you can keep your nutrition on track, and save yourself a bundle of money you would have otherwise spent on pricey (and often unhealthy) airport food and snacks.

Foods That Are Easy to Pack

The following items are all easy to prepare, and convenient to take on the go. Feel free to experiment, and find out which snacks best fit your preference and lifestyle. Mix and match options to see what works for you. Be sure to keep any perishable foods in a cooler or use an ice pack.

Easy transportable snack ideas:

  • Sliced or whole apples with peanut butter
  • Carrot and cucumber sticks with houmous
  • Clementine or mandarin oranges
  • Grapes
  • Sliced or whole pears
  • Smoothie (if you plan to drink it within 30 mins or so)
  • Nuts and raisins (you can make your own trail mix)
  • Pumpkin seeds and/or sunflower seeds
  • Low sugar protein bar
  • Sandwiches or wraps (whole meal)
  • Cheese
  • High quality beef jerky
  • Cut-up pieces of chicken
  • Hard boiled eggs

 

Make Midweek Meals Easy

Just because you have had a busy day doesn’t mean you have to resort to fast food or processed foods for dinner. With a little forethought, you can make sure your family has healthy meals ready to go when you walk in the door.

 There are thousands of healthy one pot meal ideas available for free. Do a quick search and see what recipes may interest you and your family. If you prep everything the night before, or even earlier in the morning, you can come home to a delicious home-cooked meal that is ready to serve.

TIME SAVER TIP: Batch cook and plan for leftovers. When you do have time to cook, simply double the recipe and set the extras aside to use later in the week on a particularly busy day. It takes very little extra effort to double the recipe, and you will reap the benefits of time savings later in the week.

cream cod-min

Make Healthy Eating Strategies Work for You

Even with a busy schedule, you can still make sure that you are eating healthy, nutritious meals. By putting in a little bit planning, you can ensure that you and your family enjoy healthy foods that support your lifestyle and your goals.

You can do this!

Let me know if you need my help.

4 Simple Steps to Regain Control of Your Diet

4 Simple Steps to Regain Control of Your Diet

Blog From the Author

It is that time of year again, the holidays are a distant memory, the kids are all back at school and dare I say it Christmas is fast approaching!! Yes, I did just mention the C word. As wonderful as the summer months are, it becomes more challenging to stay focused on your diet and exercise regime. We all naturally thrive with good routines and habits. I know I am far more efficient when I’m busy and have some proper structure in my day, as the saying goes “If you want something done ask a busy person”

I try very hard to live a healthy balanced lifestyle. I eat well and exercise daily. However, if I am perfectly honest the holidays have taken their toll on me. I enjoyed a few extra glasses of wine, my food choices were not always perfect and fitting in plenty of exercise was tricky. I knew this was not a long-term issue for me and as soon as I felt ready to get back into my routine I would bounce back quickly because for me I much prefer how I feel on the inside when I’m in control of my diet and lifestyle.

Regaining control for me is not about jumping on the new latest food fad, chugging down carrot juice, meal replacements and food supplements in the hope I drop a dress size in three days, because lets be honest we have all been there and know it doesn’t work! It doesn’t have to be so drastic……

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I want to share 4 steps with you on how I get focused in the hope it inspires you to regain control and start to feel more energised, motivated and generally healthier while dropping a few pounds along the way.

BE REALISTIC

Don’t set yourself unrealistic weight loss goals. Be honest with yourself based on previous weight loss attempts. Set yourself short, medium and long-term goals. These goals don’t need to be focused purely on the dream number on the dreaded scales. For example, your short-term goal could simply be to eat a healthy breakfast every day, medium goal, to drop a dress size in 6 weeks and long-term goal to run your first 10k in 12 weeks. Research shows that those who write down their goals in a meaningful way increase their chances of achieving them by 30%, this can increase your success ratio by 60%.

 So, get planning and smash those goals!

GO BACK TO BASICS

We have all been there, it is Monday and we have started our ‘diet’ once again! This process normally starts with massively reducing calories, fat intake and signing up to every exercise class possible only to crash and burn within a week. This is due to complete exhaustion, boredom at lack of food choices which ultimately zaps your motivation and makes you give up altogether. Going full throttle like this is so common and is one of the reasons many people have such negative feelings associated with healthy eating and being active because they have failed time and time again.

I recommend rather than making massive changes and going full steam ahead, you make simple easy achievable changes that will make a big impact with minimal effort.

  • Drink 2 litres of water a day Hydrate to Lose Weight
  • Load your plate with greens
  • Consume good lean sources of protein at every meal
  • Exercise daily
  • Swap the afternoon biscuit for a piece of fruit
  • Get some early nights

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DON’T OVER RESTRICT

The biggest reason we all fail or give up is we restrict ourselves too much. I’m not saying its ok to carry on eating whatever you like, whenever you like. It is all about balance, 80% good 20% naughty! This can be spread out over the week or saved up for a cheeky curry on a Saturday night, whatever floats your boat. My 20% is a big juicy pizza and a bottle of red!

Too many people in society are tipping the scale in the opposite direction. If you give yourself that treat, own it, enjoy it and commit to making your next food choice as healthy as possible. Don’t let one treat derail your entire weight loss plan, it does not have to be like that. Research shows that banning your favourite treat can cause guilt eating which leads to binging and ultimately more weight gain in the long run. Enjoyment around your food and food choices is essential to lasting weight loss. This strategy is scientifically known as “flexible control.”

Life is too short to never eat cake again!

Lastly – DESTRESS AND MAKE TIME FOR YOU

We all have responsibilities and in this day and age we just don’t stop. We often put our own health and wellbeing at the bottom of our massive to do list, if it even makes an appearance on the it’s at all. Stress is associated with higher cortisol levels, suppressed immune function, decreased sleep, increased consumption of comfort foods, high blood pressure, higher BMI all of these are a massive risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is important when undertaking any changes in our diet and lifestyle to look at all associated factors. Managing stress levels and reducing triggers to ‘self-medicate’ by using foods as a pacifier. Here are some simple tips to reduce stress.

  •  Undertake some moderate exercise for example go for a brisk walk, do some yoga or take up palates.
  • Try undertaking some kind of resistance training which will help burn fat and any fatty acids that are released during times of stress. Increasing the levels of serotonin will also help improve mood and help you relax.
  • Sleep is so important you must aim for a minimum of 8 hours per night, a good night’s sleep reduces cortisol levels, boosts the growth hormone which helps burn fat. If that’s not a reason to hit the sack early every night I don’t know what is.!!
  • Keep a diary of your emotions, this will help you establish triggers that may result in over eating. Writing down your emotions also helps you release negative feelings while distracting you from your temptations. Getting a good understanding of your behaviours and triggers associated with emotional eating will help you gain some self-control.

As you can see from the above it isn’t just as simple as watching what you eat to lose weight, there are many other factors that come into play. The next time you start a diet remember the steps I have suggested and don’t be so hard on yourself.

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