Wednesday, October 8, 2008

VeganMoFo: A Discussion and a Product Review

I've rarely run across a fermented food I don't like. I love miso, soy sauce, pickles, sourdough bread, and yogurt, just to name a few. One of my newest discoveries in the world of fermented food is kombucha, a fermented tea that originated somewhere in China and eventually made it's way to eastern Europe. It can be something of an acquired taste, but like other raw fermented foods it has reported health benefits. They include, among others, providing friendly probiotics and a good source of B vitamins. 

Why should we care? Americans in particular, but all of us who live in modern, industrialized communities, are being cleaned to death. Our food is sanitized beyond recognition. It is pasteurized, irritated, quadruple washed, and laced with antibiotics. We are bombarded with advertisements telling us we are bad parents or loved ones if we don't constantly rub down every surface with bleach and wash our hands with antibacterial soap every thirty minutes.  

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not against hand washing (in fact, please do it regularly, it is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease).  But we are cleaning ourselves sick.  Bacteria can not be all lumped together as one evil empire out to get us, but we are waging war as if it is. In fact, bacteria is very important in maintaining our health, our good health.  I'm sure you've all seen the commercials for various, mostly dairy, products touting their brand of bacteria that will boost your immune system or keep you regular (heaven forbid we eat some fiber). While the motives of these companies suck they do touch on a valid point. Friendly bacteria play a critical role in keeping our digestive and immune systems healthy. 

Besides salting and drying, fermentation was one of the few ways our ancestors had to preserve food prior to the introduction of canning and, most recently, freezing. It also happened to have healthy "side effects". When your gut is appropriately populated with healthy bacteria the icky bacteria that make us sick have a hard time finding a foot hold. That is why it is so important to eat fermented food after taking a course of antibiotics. Again, I'm not against modern medicine, and by all means, please follow your doctor's advise. But if you are told to take antibiotics it would be wise to supplement your diet with some miso soup or yogurt to help yourself recover. Antibiotics wipe out all bacteria, irrespective of benefit to the host. You can help speed the repopulation of of your body with good bacteria by eating live fermented foods.  

Kombucha is a yummy, bubbly way to get some of those healthy bacteria (the fermentation results in carbonation). It's not inexpensive, so I don't drink it all the time, but I have been trying to shake the tail end of a cold for the better part of a week so I splurged and drank a whole bottle last night. GT's is the brand available in my area. They have both straight kombucha, in four flavors, and what they call "Synergy" which is 95% kombucha and 5% juice. I've liked all the flavors I've tried so far, except the strawberry Synergy. You can also make kombucha at home if you are feeling adventurous, directions on how can be found all over the internet. I intend to try it soon (but you know what they say about intentions...).

(In reference to antibacterial soap, just say no. It is only effective in making the bad stuff stronger, and likely contains ingredients that are hazardous to our health. Studies show you are just as well off using a good natural soap, hot water, and adequate time - at least 15-20 seconds.)


Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

My favorites of that particular brand of Kombucha brand are gingerberry, strawberry and grape. It does make me feel a bit drunk though.

donesmoking said...

i tried it last weekend for the first time...its growing on me :)

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with everything you said about being cleaned to death. Over-prescribing (and reckless prescribing) of antibiotics is a major problem in the US.

I appreciate the Kombucha review. I've heard a lot of buzz about it, but didn't really know the scoop on it. Now I do! Maybe I'll pick some up next time I'm at the store.


Bethany said...

Interesting post. I agree that the in the us the commercials are a bit germ obsessive. which gets some people hyped up.

though I'm sure my sister loves it because she is a germaphobe. She wouldn't eat tomatoes from my mom's garden because they came out of the ground. my mother doesn't use chemicals in her garden. I don't get it.

never thought about drinking kombucha to help w/ a cold. I'll have to remember that.

the little one said...

I so want to like kombucha but I have such a hard time getting it down. I really need to find a flavor I like.