Does it really matter how we prepare our food?
Yes, my Friend! It does.
I’ll show you why and how.
Welcome back to this series on Abundant Health.
My goal with this series is to provide information and inspiration you need to build abundant health for you and your family. Life is so good when we feel well!
This is article 4 in a 10-part series.
It’s hard to know what to eat for health when even experts can’t agree. However, they all agree on specific principles of healthy eating that are foundational. Those principles are the very principles of healthy eating that sustained me amidst illness, intense stress, and loss. In the previous article, we delved deep into each of those principles of abundant health.
In this article, we continue the discussion on healthy eating by looking at why it’s so important to eat food that has been properly prepared in traditional ways and what those traditional ways are.
Because What to Eat is such a huge topic, you can learn about it in 3 parts:
What to eat. (read about that here).
How to prepare food for greatest health (this article).
How to do this in the real world of your busy life. Don’t worry, I’ve got you! I’ll help you through the nitty-gritty of making healthy-eating work for you in your home.
In Article #1 of this series I introduced principles of abundant health and explained that they are principles with a promise. Article #2 is my story of being guided to principles of health that sustained me through the hardest year of my life and provided abundance even amidst illness, intense stress, and loss. I believe they can do that for you too. You can find links to all articles in this series at the end of this post.
Hey Friend! I remember making homemade whole-wheat bread with yeast thinking I was providing the best nutrition for my family. Granted, it was a huge improvement from grocery store Wonder Bread. But I have since learned that there’s an even better way.
This opened a whole exciting culinary and healthy world to me!
There are MANY foods that, if prepared traditionally, will greatly add to our health, such as sprouted grains and using natural yeast, or sourdough, cultured dairy products to make yogurt and kefir, cultured vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut, and nutrient-rich bone broth.
Long before refrigeration was a thing, people used lacto-fermentation to preserve their food. The bonus was that this process also increased nutrition and supported health. For generations people passed on the skills and recipes of foods prepared properly because it meant survival. It meant strong mothers and children. It meant the continuation of life.
In the last one hundred years, however, the modern food industry replaced traditional practices for inferior methods of mass production. The good old traditional methods of preparation have been largely forgotten. And that has been detrimental to our health. Traditional ways of preparing food preserves and increases nutrients. Modern means of mass production and preservation of food destroys enzymes, nutrients, and health.
By just making a few adjustments in the way we prepare our food, we can really affect our health for the better. I’m here to teach you what those traditional practices are and how you can apply them at home.
They are easy, affordable, and delicious. Oh, and did I mention they promote ABUNDANT HEALTH? I love these foods and can’t wait to tell you more about them.
What is cultured food?
Culturing food is a traditional method of food preparation that has been neglected and forgotten. My goal is to help you understand what cultured foods are and how awesome they are for health!
Cultured food uses naturally occurring good-for-you microbes called lactobacilli (or lactic acid) to break down harmful substances in our foods while at the same time adding life-giving properties that preserve food – and you.
A quick run through history and across the world gives a snapshot of cultured foods in human nourishment: we get kimchi from Korea, chutneys from India, kefir from Russia, yogurt from Bulgaria. In Ancient Rome sauerkraut was prized for its taste and healing properties. Traditional American cuisine includes sourdough breads, corn relish, cucumber relish, and pickled watermelon rind.
Science is now shining light on the importance of probiotics and prebiotics to our health which cultured foods supply in a million ways. There is momentum towards homing back to our traditional roots in preparing foods in ways that preserve nutrients and provide health and wellness.
Why Cultured Food is so good for us.
I think that is so exciting and amazing! As though Someone knew what our bodies would need for abundant health, and provided literal microscopic armies to help us fight our battle for good health.
You can culture all kinds of foods. I’m going to tell you about the ones I use the most and love: grains, dairy products, and vegetables.
When we culture milk with lactobacilli (friendly bacteria) microbes, they first go to work breaking down lactose and casein – both difficult to digest – and then set up house inside you with millions of beneficial yeasts and bacteria that increase vitamins, minerals, and restores the gut’s ecology along with providing antibiotic properties to help you stay healthy and well. These microbes are busy little guys that I have come to love and appreciate because of the health they have provided me.
“Fermentation of milk results in numerous beneficial changes…culturing restores many of the enzymes destroyed during pasteurization including lactase, which helps digest lactose or milk sugar, and numerous enzymes, which help the body absorb calcium and other minerals…Both vitamin B and vitamin C content of milk increase during fermentation.” Fallon 81
Traditional fermented dairy foods include yogurt, creme fraiche, and kefir.
Kefir is my ALL TIME FAVORITE way to eat cultured dairy. My article “How to Make the Best Kefir Ever” details exactly why this “magic elixer” is so good for you and will take you step by step to learn how to make it. I drink 1-2 pints of this best-kefir-ever a day and swear by it’s healing and immune-building properties. Give it a try!
I also teach you how to make kefir whey and kefir cheese in this article. Kefir whey is the starting place for being able to make cultured vegetables – it’s what introduces the lactobacilli (good bacteria) into the brine and starts the process of culturing. Kefir cheese is used as a wonderful base for dips and dressings. Hey Friend, you’re entering an exciting culinary world!
Soaking flour and grains in cultured milk products (yogurt, kefir, whey, buttermilk) or in water with lemon juice or vinegar provides the greatest nutrition from grains that we can get. It helps break down the anti nutrients and increases the vitamins and minerals available for our bodies.
Historically, all pre-industrialized people soaked or fermented their grains before eating them as porridge, bread, and cakes. Until about 100 years ago grain was harvested, gathered into sheaves, and stacked in the fields subject to dew and moisture until threshed which allowed the grain to sprout. Sprouted grain holds the live elements needed to create a new plant including increased nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids such as lysine.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from some of my favorite resources about the value of preparing grains in traditional ways:
“…sprouting neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc; sprouting also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds…Sprouting inactivates aflatoxins, potent carcinogens found in grains.” Fallon 112
“This process activates the enzyme phytase, which works to break down phytic acid in the bran of grains…[and provides] lactic acid and lactobacilli that help break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins…increases vitamin content and makes all the nutrients in grains more available.” Fallon p. 476
Sprouting grains “…not only produces vitamin C but also changes the composition of grain and seeds in numerous beneficial ways. Sprouting increases vitamin B content…Carotene increases dramatically – sometimes eightfold.” Fallon 112
Cut-up vegetables soaked in a salty brine chemically change to a preserved state with greater nutrition than when they started. They become superfoods! This is how it works:
“Lactobacilli, a good bacteria found naturally on vegetables, converts the starches and sugars of the vegetable into lactic acid, a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Lactic acid makes the environment surrounding the food too acidic for dangerous bacteria to survive, but keeps the acid at a level in which good bacteria thrive, thus creating a powerful probiotic. Lacto-fermentation also partially digests the food, starting the process of breaking it down into its component parts and making it easier for our bodies to get the most out of it. It also unlocks additional nutrients – including enormous amounts of vitamin C – that aren’t found in the same quantities of uncultured veggies. The enhanced probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins in cultured vegetables makes them powerhouse foods.” Schwenk 31
If you’d like to learn more about the magic of cultured vegetables and how to make them, check out my post “Why Cultured Vegetables are So Good For You & How to Make Them”. It includes recipes for three of my favorites: kimchi, ginger carrots, and salsa. Yum!
Beyond Culturing: Bone Broth
I want to share with you one more of my favorite traditional foods: bone broth. Homemade bone broth is a superfood when made from real bones of real animals with loads of vegetables added in and simmered for days.
“Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow, and vegetables as electrolytes…and draws minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, in the broth. Modern research has confirmed that [properly prepared] broth helps prevent and mitigate infectious diseases.” Fallon 117
Indeed, homemade chicken noodle soup really is the bomb!
How to get started.
Interested in trying it out? Are you ready to get more nutrition out of your food by incorporating traditionally prepared foods into your family’s diet? Great! I can’t wait to help you!
Although there’s always a learning curve when you are mastering a new skill, you can do it! And it’s sooooo worth it! If we want wellness, it’s all right to take the time to master the skills necessary to provide it. It will be an investment in your time that will pay out again and again in your good health and the health of your family.
My recommendation is to start first with culturing dairy and vegetables, add in homemade bone broth, then tackle making homemade sourdough breads for your family.
I honestly swear by my homemade kefir – The Best Kefir Ever, and walk you through how to make your own in my article found here. Since we have been drinking it daily, we have had less cold and flu and greater health and wellness than our pre-kefir-drinking days . Not only is it good for you, it TASTES good!
I love our cultured vegetables also and tell you all about how to make them here.
Friend, if you really want to get the most health from your foods, the best way is to learn how to prepare your foods in traditional ways. We can use cultured grains, milk, and vegetables, and homemade bone broth in our Mama-toolkit to equip us to provide greater health for ourselves and our families.
Read the entire Principles of Abundant Health series:
No link yet? Coming soon!
- Principles of Abundant Health: An Introduction
- My Story: How I Came to Live the Principles of Abundant Health
- Healthy Eating: What to Eat
- Healthy Eating: Prepare Food Traditionally for Optimal Health
- Healthy Eating Strategies for Success & How to Get Started
- Spiritual Connections to Abundant Health
- The Things You’ve Gotta Get Rid of for Abundant Health
- How Fasting Regularly Brings Abundance
- Movement is Medicine
- Abundant Health Mindset
Resources to check out for further study:
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon
The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast, by Caleb Warnock and Melissa Richardson
Cultured Food for Life, by Donna Schwenk
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