The following article says it so well.
If you’d like some great recipes and info about how to make your own fermented (and dried) foods, check out www.preservetheseason.wordpress.com. My friend Lee Lee started this blog prior to our Lama Foundation Fermentation/Preservation/Traditional Food Prep day, where we taste tested and loved all of them.
Dr. Rubman on the Power of Pickles
Something is inherently funny about the word “pickle”… but the truth is, foods that are pickled (fermented) actually dish up serious health benefits. Specifically, they are really good for soothing digestive discomfort of all kinds. Counterintuitive as it may be, eating fermented foods — not only pickled cucumbers, but also peppers, tomatoes, chutney and sauerkraut, to name a few — is a simple and tasty way to resolve heartburn, bellyache and other intestinal distress.
In fact, Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, told me that in addition to being a way to create deliciously tart, appealing foods, pickling is an ancient preservation technique. British seamen ate sauerkraut to ward off scurvy… Bulgarians were believed to live longer because they drank fermented milk… and Koreans today eat more than 40 pounds per year of kimchi (a blend of cabbage, garlic, chilis and other ingredients) both for taste and to ease digestion. Interesting, isn’t it?
PICKLING PROMOTES DIGESTION
The fermentation of foods takes place through the breakdown of carbohydrates by live microorganisms such as bacteria (for instance, Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus), yeasts and molds. Kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut and the like act as probiotics, encouraging the growth of positive intestinal microbes. These fermented foods promote efficient digestion, support immune function and boost good nutrition overall. They support availability of B vitamins in certain foods and essential amino acids. They also serve to counteract the ill effects of antibiotics.
According to Dr. Rubman, fermented foods are far better than the over-the-counter antacids or the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) people routinely swallow to relieve heartburn and stomach upset, which end up causing more harm than good. While they may provide temporary relief, use of antacids or PPIs can backfire because you need acid to efficiently digest foods… and insufficient stomach acid can upset the proper environmental balance of intestinal flora. In contrast, fermented foods encourage the growth of good gut flora while also helping to neutralize the small amounts of stomach acid left in the system between meals, which is a common problem for people with gastritis and GERD.
PICK A PECK OF PICKLED PEPPERS
Eating fermented foods a few times a week can make a real difference in how well your digestive system functions. It’s easy enough to do — you can spice up stews with a dollop of chutney or a ¼ cup of kimchi, enjoy a bowl of miso soup, slice pickled cucumbers or peppers on sandwiches or spoon yogurt over fresh fruit. To find fermented foods, visit your local health or gourmet store or shop online…
- Order fermented foods from farms such as Wills Valley Farm Products (www.willsvalley.com) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which offers fermented vegetables including kimchi, red cabbage, red beets and ginger carrots. Other American picklers include ADAMAH in Falls Village, Connecticut… and Alexander Valley Gourmet in Healdsburg, California — and you can find many more online.
- Visit food festivals that celebrate pickling, such as New York City’s International Pickle Day (www.nyfoodmuseum.org). Also in New York City, classic lower East Side vendors Russ & Daughters (www.russanddaughters.com) and Pickle Guys (www.nycpickleguys.com) are great sources.
- Go international. Explore fermented foods from around the world, such as the pickled Asian plums known as umeboshi. In Japan, these have been used for thousands of years for their purported ability to counter nausea, stimulate the digestive system and promote the elimination of toxins. Find them in Asian and gourmet markets and on Web sites such as www.kushistore.com. To explore the extensive world of Indian chutney, check out recipes at Web sites such as www.epicurean.com and www.allrecipes.com.
- Choose carefully. Read labels and buy fermented products that are low in sugar and contain live or active cultures. Dr. Rubman warns that most brands of yogurt, in particular, are loaded with sugar and artificial flavoring, but he notes that Stonyfield Farm and Nancy’s are two brands that do contain live bacterial cultures.
In cases of active intestinal disturbances such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastritis, Dr. Rubman sometimes prescribes fermented foods and/or probiotics (supplements that you can take if you don’t enjoy the taste of fermented foods), but he does not recommend that you try this on your own. See a qualified and experienced naturopathic physician who can assess your condition and prescribe an appropriate dosage. But if you’re in good health, pile pickles on your plate… pucker up… and enjoy.
Andrew L. Rubman, ND, medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut. www.naturopath.org.