What does healthy eating really mean?
The term healthy eating has become quite popular as a term as of late. Unfortunately this can mean many different things to different people, including your health care provider. A healthy dose of research will have to take place in order for you to decide for yourself what healthy eating means for you and how you are going to implement it. Once you have good information you can be free to make an informed decision.
Don’t be afraid to go against what is popularly given as advice if you are not impressed by the outcome of others. You alone are responsible for your health and well-being. It is always wise to get ahead of illness and disease by making healthy eating choices that fuel your body, nourish its systems, and build immunity.
For this article we will refer to healthy eating as any way of eating you undertake with the express purpose of building your health, promoting proper immune function, and developing proper hormonal balance. An emphasis will be placed on improved nutrition and mineral uptake.
Should pro-biotic foods be included in a healthy eating plan?
In my opinion, yes. Much of healthy eating focuses on the elimination of fake food products and non-nutritive eating. That is an excellent starting point. However, many of these items have taken a toll on our bodies over time, especially our gut health. The introduction of pro-biotic foods can serve to quickly re-establish the healthy biome these foods have robbed our bodies of.
Additionally, so much of what we currently eat is processed, over-cooked, dead food. There is so much opportunity for re-introducing live and active foods to our diet that will greatly impact our health and overall well-being. Pro-biotic (fermented) foods are literally a secret weapon for good health.
Why are pro-biotic foods not part of conventional healthy eating advice?
Without getting into too much depth here, I would say that most of modern healthcare is simply unfamiliar with pro-biotic (fermented) foods for health. Most providers do not consume fermented foods on a regular basis, if ever, and do not see the need to do so. The assumption is made that when health fails, a pill can be taken to prolong life. What quality does this pharmaceutically-sustained life offer? An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
We have become so far removed from what is good and healthy eating that our palettes often cannot recognize and appreciate the taste of truly good food when we experience it.
Secondly, there is not a lot of profit in pro-biotic foods for healthcare providers. While it is easy to see the $$ in writing a prescription for a monthly pill regiment, there is not much gain to be realized from prescribing real, active foods to you. Most of the pro-biotic foods you need for good health can be prepared right in your own home. How sad to see many providers and corporations choosing a prescription for profit over true healing!
How can I use probiotic foods as part of my healthy eating routine?
Let me assure you that it really is simple to add pro-biotic foods to your diet. There are even many options available in stores to help you get started. Once you are more comfortable, you may even prefer to make many of these items for yourself at home. Start small and allow your body to become accustomed to the new foods. Before you know it, you will be eating fermented foods as part of your daily health habits.
Fermented dairy, also known as cultured dairy is an excellent source of live, pro-biotic enzymes. Many of these you may be familiar with, while some may be new to you. These include such foods as yogurt, piima, filmjolk, kefir, cultured sour cream, and raw milk cheeses.
Yogurt is a pretty common source of about 7 live strains of beneficial bacteria. It is often a gentle starting place espcially if you want to make it at home. However, I would encourage you to try milk kefir as well. Kefir has so many more strains that colonize our digestive track with ease that its benefits really put yogurt to shame. Our family favorite is mixed berry kefir smoothies for breakfast.
Cheeses are another example of a once-healthy food that has been compromised by modern production methods and pursuit of profit. There are even a few raw milk cheese selections available at most larger grocery store chains. Conventional dairy should no longer be a part of anyone’s healthy eating plan, but if you are able to locate some raw dairy, consume and culture it yourself at home, you will be well on your way to excellent gut-health in no time.
Once upon a time, the beverages we know as Ginger Beer and Root Beer were actually beneficial foods to a large extent. These were originally made with a fermented ginger bug base as it was called. These live, pro-biotic drinks grew in popularity, but their traditional preparation method was replaced with the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of carbonation into beverages.
Today you can still prepare these the traditional way at home as well as a few other pro-biotic drinks as well. A little patience will need to replace your desire for instant gratification. Water kefir and kombucha tea have been gaining in popularity. Many options for both are available commonly on grocery store shelves. If you are able to get your hands on some kefir grains locally you should try making some Water Kefir Lemonade.
Brewing kombucha tea has become a favorite for many people who are wanting to enjoy the health benefits of kombucha at home. It is really easy to make your own fizzy kombucha tea once you get your hands on a SCOBY. Some stick with their tried-and-true favorite flavors, while others enjoy a sort of kombucha flavor-of-the-week club at home.
Fermented Vegetables and Fruits
Often thought of as just a preservation method, many overlook the practicality of fermentation. You can ferment almost any fruit or vegetable and transform it into a product that is superior in taste and nutrition to the original item almost without exception. Traditionally pickled items were actually lacto-fermented before the advent of commercial canning. Don’t stop with just cabbage or cucumbers, you can ferment okra, kohlrabi, eggs, berries, peaches, apples, et cetera in any combination that is pleasing to you.
Once you get in the habit of enjoying these live, active condiments you will not want to stop. Have you ever tried a sprinkling of real sauerkraut on your clean hot dog, some pickled onions on your taco, or some fermented cranberries with your turkey? Even hot sauce that has been traditionally fermented and prepared at home is a powerhouse of pro-biotic goodness just waiting to enter your body.
Just to add some further clarification, pickling is not exactly the same as fermentation. Though both are excellent preservation methods, commercial pickling does not produce a live, active product. Fermentation relies on the lactic acid bacteria to preserve the end product, while pickling relies on an acid, specifically acetic acid to preserve. That is the source of the “sour” taste.
Fermented Beans and Meat
What in the world? Yes, that is what I thought too. Do you realize that almost all of the conventionally preserved deli meats are fermented. Those that no longer utilize fermentation methods can still be prepared at home. The salami, pepperoni, capicola, summer sausage and so forth are all familiar meats that have been salted and cured. When these are prepared and fermented with traditional methods you can once again enjoy these delicious foods without guilt.
Fermented beans are still new to me. When they have been transformed by fermentation I like to fold them into my omelette or stir them into an already-cooked soup at the table to gently warm them. I have also whirred them up in a blender with some seasoning and used it as a bean dip. The more I use fermented beans, the more uses I find for them and you will too.
Healthy eating success with pro-biotic, fermented foods.
There is much evidence as of late to support the claims that pro-biotic foods are indeed excellent tools for healthy eating. Studies show that allergies, asthma, depression, and arthritis conditions are all improved with the addition of pro-biotic foods in the diet. Additional evidence also points to cancer-risk reduction as well. Perhaps the most widely-known benefit is that of improved gut-health and reduced inflammation.
Since the gut is often referred to as our “second brain” it is vital that we take great care to keep it in peak performance. Improved digestion and metabolization of foods are just a part of the pro-biotic boost. Our mental health and wellness is greatly impacted by the health and vitality of our gut biome. We must prioritize this relationship in our health and wellness pursuits if we are to be whole.
If you are interested in reading a detailed explanation of these health benefits and more as a result of consuming probiotic foods, Harvard University published a very thorough study recently.
Healthy Eating for Healthy Living
The live bacteria and yeasts that are present in fermented foods should be considered our friends instead of foes in our pursuit of healthy living. Learning about and developing skills for making and using more fermented foods in our diet will go a long way toward making healthy eating easier for us and our families.
A traditional foods lifestyle is a wellness lifestyle. As we get back to more traditional eating, learning the old ways of maintaining vibrant health, and simple living we can improve the health of ourselves and our families. Strong healthy families can build strong, healthy communities. It all begins with a focus on healthy eating at home and a desire to experience wholeness through healthy relationships. We cannot do this well when we are sick and run-down.
Make this the year your health turns a corner. You can build strength and resilience in your family. This can be your legacy!
Comment below with your favorite pro-biotic foods. Remember, let’s plant a seed and grow sustainability!