Your body is amazing. To help you stay healthy and grow, your digestive system is the perfect factory: it takes the good food you eat and turns it into energy plus everything you need to fight off illness. But it needs some fabulous tiny workers to keep everything running smoothly, and those are good bacteria!
They may be too tiny for you to see with the naked eye, but you can see what bacteria DO! Think about what happens to all the leaves that fall in autumn: they start to rot and break down – pretty soon they turn back into the rich soil they came from, and that work is done by bacteria. Inside our bodies, good bacteria do a very important job: they help us to digest food and they help to fight off bad bacteria.
Getting enough good bacteria
The only way to get enough good bacteria is to eat foods that contain them. Seeing as they don’t live in pasteurised, processed or cooked food, you need to also eat raw and fermented foods to get what you need.
What is fermentation?
Fermentation is a process using a solution called brine that keeps vegetables good for months. Before we had fridges or preservatives, this was how people made sure that their harvested fruits and vegetables would last through the long winter months. And, best news of all, fermented vegetables don’t lose vitamins – they actually make extra ones.
Some fermented foods you already know are cheese, yoghurt and pickles, but you can make all kinds of good things at home, such as:
- Pickled beetroot
- Fizzy fermented sodas, like ginger ale
It isn’t hard or expensive to make your own fermented foods – there are only two golden rules:
- Follow the instructions carefully. If you allow air into the mix, it will introduce the wrong bacteria and food can go bad.
- Use the correct ingredients, such as filtered tap or pure spring water and unrefined sea salt. Chlorinated water and iodised salt kill good bacteria.
In Korea, nearly every meal has kimchi - a pickled fermented cabbage. Every home having its kimchi jar began as a way of preserving vegetables through the cold winters and providing vitamin C all year round.
In Scandinavia, it is tradition for brides and mothers to guard their own supplies of sourdough starters, so that they can always make delicious bread for their families.
Certain yeasts were used to make fermented drinks when people didn’t always have a fresh water supply – lager beer is just one example!