Cultured Foods

Right now for my Digestion & Detox class, we are reading a book called Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski. She talks about how an unhealthy digestive tract can actually be responsible for not only digestive disorders such as IBS, acid reflux and constipation, but also for other issues such as arthritis, migraines and even autoimmune diseases. It’s a really interesting and eye-opening book, and I recommend it for anyone who thinks they may have less-than-perfect digestion and is open to trying some new things.

Lipski spends some time talking about the importance of the balance of bacteria in our digestive tract. We each have about 4 pounds of bacteria in our GI tract, and it is important to keep it healthy and thriving and prevent the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that can lead to digestive distress. One of the ways to maintain this balance is by eating cultured foods.

Cultured foods are eaten all over the world and have a long history of being used to treat digestive disorders such as ulcers. These foods are rich in nutrients because they contain more beneficial bacteria. The bacteria make extra nutrients for their own benefit, but we benefit from the extra nutrients too! Cultured foods tend to be higher in vitamins A, B-complex, and K. They also are higher in natural probiotics, which keeps our GI tract healthy and aids in digestion. Finally, cultured foods provide many healthy enzymes.

Some examples of cultured foods include yogurt, tofu, miso, tamari, tempeh, sauerkraut, pickles, and even wine. To give you an idea of how much higher in nutritional value they are, yogurt made from full-fat milk has anywhere from 5-30 times the amount of vitamin B12 than milk, and 50 times the amount of vitamin B3 than milk. Yogurt is an easy cultured food to incorporate into the diet, as it can be added to smoothies or eaten with any meal. Remember to go for the plain full-fat yogurt to get the most health benefits and the least amount of added sugars or flavors.

Also, keep in mind that many foods that would traditionally be considered “cultured” in certain countries are not necessarily cultured where we live. For example, soy sauce made in Japan uses several microbes such as yeast and L. acidophilus in the fermentation process, which can be very beneficial. But in the United States, most soy sauce is manufactured from inorganic acids that break down the soybeans, so it doesn’t have the same health benefits.

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