Supercharge your health with fermented foods

Fermented foods are certainly in vogue right now. Unlike many other food fads, fermented foods are actually the real deal.  And now they’re becoming part of many people’s diets and featuring on trendy restaurant menus.  However, many people are unsure just what they are, how to eat them and what health benefits they provide.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer provides her ‘go-to’ guide to fermented foods.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

WHAT IS FERMENTATION? THE BASICS

The process of fermenting food has been around for many thousands of years. Fermented food is the mainstay of Japanese cuisine and is thought to be one of the reasons for their well-balanced hormone health.

To better understand the benefits of fermented food we need to look at how our gastrointestinal systems work. The digestive system is packed with billions of bacteria (mainly good) that are incredibly beneficial to health.  They help to keep the digestive system running in smooth working order, boost the immune system, detoxify the body, help manage the body’s natural inflammatory response, balance hormones and protect the body from serious degenerative diseases.

The process of fermentation encourages the production of these beneficial bacteria; it allows the natural sugars and salts within the foods, (together with the added salts that are part of most fermentation processes), to create the good bacteria. Put simply, the more fermented foods we consume, the more beneficial bacteria we have!   Live natural yoghurt is one great example of a fermented food. Fermentation also helps to preserve foods over a longer period of time.

TOP THREE FERMENTED FOODS

There are many fermented food options available but to get you started, here are three of my favourites.

KEFIR

Bang on trend right now is kefir.  It’s a fermented milk product made from either sheep’s, cow’s or goat’s milk.  It provides wonderful benefits for the digestive system, particularly helping to ease bloating and symptoms of IBS.  It’s also great for the immune system because it contains a high percentage of probiotics or beneficial bacteria.  Plus, kefir is high in some of the B vitamins to provide great energy as well as vitamin K2 which supports the bones and heart.

It’s naturally quite sour so is best combined with fruits or yoghurt, or can be used in any recipe as an alternative to buttermilk.

You can even make your own fermented coconut kefir!  Use kefir grains mixed with some coconut milk in a jar.  Store in a warm place, covered with a cloth for 24 hours and the mixture will naturally ferment to produce a more palatable and healthy milk.  It can then be used on cereal or in pancakes for a delicious, healthy start to the day!

SAUERKRAUT

Probably one of the most popular fermented foods, sauerkraut has been eaten for hundreds of years throughout Central Europe.  It’s very simply made from chopped cabbage that’s fermented in salt.  However, as with fermented dairy products such as yoghurt and kefir, fermenting cabbage takes its nutritional benefits to another level!

Probiotic foods, including sauerkraut, deliver huge benefits to the digestive system. Additionally, more B vitamins are naturally produced as well as beneficial enzymes, which are used for many essential body processes.

It’s actually very easy to make at home; simply chop one head of white or red cabbage into small shreds. Add some salt and pack tightly into a jar with a tightly fitting lid.  This needs to be left for about a week in a warm place and you’ve then created your very own superfood!

MISO

Another very fashionable ingredient right now, miso is a traditional Japanese ingredient that is produced by fermenting soy, usually with salt, which makes a brown paste.

Miso is often used by women struggling with menopausal symptoms and people suffering from other hormonal complaints. Soy naturally contains phytoestrogens – plant foods that have an oestrogen-like activity and a hormone-balancing effect on the body. Phytoestrogens became of interest to scientists when they realised that women in certain traditional cultures in Japan that were eating a diet high in soy and other phytoestrogenic foods, had fewer menopausal symptoms than Western women.  It seems that these foods can really help combat the effects of the peri-menopause and the menopause.

One of the most common ways of eating miso is in a soup and there are a number available in supermarkets or health food stores.  Alternatively, to make your own, you simply need to mix some tofu, nori (a type of seaweed) and onions with water and miso.  That’s it! The main point to remember is to simmer miso as boiling it can reduce its health benefits.

So try adding some fermented foods to your diet this season and give your health an extra boost!

 

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts

Protein essentials: why you need it and how to get it!

Protein is an essential part of our daily diet, alongside fats and carbohydrates. It plays an important role is so many body functions but often we do not consume enough.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, looks at why protein is so important and some great options for vegetarians!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

WHY IS IT ESSENTIAL?

Protein is an essential part of nutrition, second only to water in terms of the body’s physical make up. Protein makes up around 20% of our body weight and is found in muscles, hair, nails, skin and internal organs, particularly the heart and brain.

Protein plays a key role in the immune system, helping to form antibodies that fight infection, as well as supporting many hormones and enzyme reactions.  It’s certainly essential for growth and development, therefore is especially important during pregnancy and childhood.

Proteins are actually comprised of amino acids. There are eight essential amino acids that the body cannot make, therefore these need to be eaten in the diet: we can become deficient if the diet does not contain the proteins, vitamins, minerals or enzymes needed to produce each one.  The good news is that with a healthy, balanced diet these deficiencies can be avoided.

WHAT MAKES A ‘BALANCED’ DIET?

In general terms, a balanced diet is one that incorporates sufficient levels of all essential nutrients including amino acids.  Put simply, people who eat a predominantly non-vegetarian diet don’t need to worry about specific amino acids; meat, dairy, eggs and fish have varying amounts of each one but all contain some of the essential amino acids.

Pescatarians (people who don’t eat meat, but eat fish and other animal-sourced foods) will also be getting what they need, with a balance of food groups.  People who eat no animal foods at all (known as vegans) should combine grains and pulses to ensure the body is getting what it needs.  However, certain vitamins, specifically vitamin B12, is only found in animal products, so supplementation would be advisable.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I EAT PROTEIN?

Ideally protein is needed at every meal and thankfully nature has made that task a little easier by providing so many options!  Meat, dairy, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, soya, grains, pulses, nuts and seeds provide an abundance of options for every individual requirement.

It’s important to include protein at every meal, primarily to ensure sufficient total intake but also to help balance blood sugar levels and keep energy sustained throughout the day.

HOW MUCH DO I NEED?

That question is not quite so easy to answer!  It’s generally dependent on body weight.  A man will normally require more than a woman but a good rule is around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.  This means a woman weighing 60 kilos will need around 48 grams of protein per day as a minimum.  As an example, a normal sized chicken breast will contain around 20 grams of protein. Those working in more strenuous manual jobs will require more protein, as will athletes (including recreational athletes).

Interestingly, many women worry that eating too much protein will cause them to ‘bulk up’. Whilst there may be body-builders who are likely to over-consume protein, generally the highly refined Western diet is still more likely to contain too little protein.  This can lead to muscle wastage, hormone imbalances and lack of blood sugar control, so ensuring you are getting enough really is essential for a healthy body.

WHAT ABOUT VEGETARIAN SOURCES?

There are a number of excellent sources of vegetarian protein.  Grains come in many different guises; wheat, rye, oats, corn, barley, bulgur wheat spelt, millet and rice are the main ones. Quinoa looks like a grain but is technically a seed, but it’s still an excellent source of protein containing all the essential amino acids.

Soy products including natto, tofu and tempeh are great fermented forms of protein and also deliver other excellent benefits for the digestive system.  Nuts, seeds and all types of beans also have good amounts of certain amino acids.  Combine them with a grain and you’ve got a full house!

Hopefully these ideas for including more protein in your diet will ensure you are maximising your get-up-and-go every day!

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts