Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cultured Foods: Crucial on a Raw Diet..or any diet!

Cultured foods are a part of every traditional diet around the globe. In the U.S., the need for cultured foods is immense. This is because of the consumption of some of the strangest factory formed foods on this earth, but also because the food processing industry really changes for the worse the small number of fermented foods that we have. Sauerkraut is cooked and treated with regular table salt, which is basically harmful to the body. (Sea salt is the best...) Commercial yogurt has been pasteurized. This kills many of the enzymes and beneficial bacteria that comprise the very reason to consume yogurt!

Why cultured foods?
Cultured foods are foods that have been fermented. The fermentation process causes the production of enzymes and strains of bacteria which are beneficial for human health. Enzymes are big stars ultimately responsible for sustained human health and should be given a front row seat in any discussion on nutrition. Enzymes help us to completely break down any food that we consume. What is often forgotten is that they also help us to build everything up as well. Enzymes are important in digesting food, but also in powering all the other chemical reactions in the body. I believe that when enzymes are in abundance in the body, they also play a role in removing metabolic waste on a regular basis. This type of waste, if not cleared from the body, could eventually become problematic. By increasing your consumption of enzymes from your diet you give the body much more to work with for all of these important functions.

Why are enzymes so important?
In his absolutely groundbreaking book, Enzyme Nutrition, Edward Howell talks about how important it is to preserve the body's supply of enzymes. His scientific studies of the function of enzymes in humans revealed that the pancreas has a limited ability to produce digestive enzymes over a lifetime. He strongly felt that a key to longevity is the supplementation of enyzmes through a living food diet, cultured foods and/or actual supplementation of dietary enzymes. These add to your own enzyme "bank account" and assure you that you will have plenty of enzymes to run all the functions of the body and take care of important housekeeping tasks.

So, what about "cultured" part?
Consuming raw cultured foods means getting a phenomenal blast of enzymes! You will likely notice that your digestion will improve immediately. Cultured foods that are raw are easy to prepare and taste amazing. I want to send you over to Andrea Livingston's website for a very well done lesson in making your own coconut yogurt!!! Crazy yum and amazing enzyme content. Check out her video on this at www.phytofoods.blogspot.com.

Let's not forget about the probiotics in cultured foods. Probiotics could be right up there with the impotance of enzymes. Probiotics are another way of saying friendly bacteria and we are just full of it! In a healthy person, the bacteria that is beneficial to human health literally outnumbers the cells in our body. Despite having trillions of cells, we still have a greater number of gut bacteria. Perhaps we exist only to provide a warm home to these guys! Friendly bacteria is important also in breaking down food completely. One thing about bacteria like acidophilus is that it can neutralize the effects of poisonous wastes that can form from the breakdown of food, or the harmful fermentation of food in the digestive tract.

For example, meat is known to breakdown into such lovely substances as cadaverine. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. This substance is the end result of putrefaction or the rotting of meat in the intestines. This harmful substance can be rendered much less harmful by friendly bacteria. Along with the enzymes, the probiotics are assuring that our body has completely broken food down and neturalizes hearmful substances and eliminates waste.

These benefical organisms protect the lining of the intestines. Ever heard of leaky gut syndrome? Without beneficial bacteria, the lining of the intestines, call the mucosa can become inflammed. This may allow proteins that normally stay inside your stomach, small intestines and large intestines to enter your blood...Not good! This causes many different reactions including increasing your immune response to many foods and perhaps to pollens and other environmental allergens. You can prevent this leaky gut syndrome by consuming cultured foods each day. The probiotics contained in these cultured foods will coat the mucosal lining and protect your health.

Consume some cultured foods EVERY day. You will feel how your body is supported by the increased enzymes and probiotics. Your digestion may instantly improve. Even if you don't have any isntantly increased feelings of wellness, you will be doing your body a world of good. When people tell me that they do not feel well on a raw, organic vegan diet, I ask them about the consumption of these 3 crucial nutrition groups!!!

1) Cultured foods.
2) Enzyme rich foods (ok, cultured foods go in this category too!)
3) Greens, greens, greens.

I will talk more about this in future posts, but if people will increase their consumption of these, it is likely that their fatigue or digestive problems will decrease. Many natural medicine practitioners will do a knee-jerk reaction of telling their raw food patient that they just need to "eat meat". I think there are other places to search for the remedy for deficiencies in energy and the 3 groups above are important pieces of the puzzle!!!

Cultured foods are delicious...your body will tell you to have more!
Enjoy cultured foods like Coconut Yogurt, Kombucha or raw sauerkraut and much more. The benefits that you are receiving from your raw food diet will increase dramatically. Enjoy and let me know your favorite vegan yogurt or kefir recipe!!!


Kelly said...

Could you please give us a few more examples of cultured foods? Most raw foodists don't eat dairy, either, so yogurt is not an option... I am just not sure what types of foods I should be consuming?

Unknown said...

Kelly - your point is awesome - Andrea's video is about coconut yogurt with NO dairy products! There is also almond yogurt as well. You can culture almost ANY food. Check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz for abundant choices!!!