Sunday, 29 December 2013

Fermented Vegetables

I've blogged about my gut issues before so won't go into details again, but it's an ongoing challenge, and any help I can get I'm grateful for. So when I was recommended the GAPS book by Natalie Campbell Mcbride I ordered it right away.

As soon as I started to read it it was like it had been written just for me...she described me and my gut to a tee, and the practical dietary advice is second to none. 

One of the things she advocates is eating lots of fermented foods; yes I know it sounds pretty yuk, but really it's not, and I figured that if it's going to help me I'll try anything. I've never been into fermented anything other than the odd miso soup, which is really good for us by the way, so it's completely new territory for me - how exciting!! 

Before I jumped up and started chopping vegetables madly, I wanted to know abit more about why they are so good for us, so I researched as much as I could on the internet. I already have a book called Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and she also advocates fermented foods, but I'd just never got round to trying it.

Now I'm so focused on getting my gut sorted; fermenting here I come!

We all know, or should know by now, that good health starts in the gut and obviously all the food and drink we put into our mouths has only one way to go and that's through the gastro intestinal tract. The more good stuff we eat the better the health of this long long tube of tissue, which is vital to our well being.

So what did I find out about fermented food :

Us humans have been fermenting for hundreds of years , and there's me thinking it was a new thing!

They can improve out digestion 

They are rich in enzymes

They help us to absorb more nutrients

They help with the good/bad bacteria balance

They increase the flavour of food

They are rich in enzymes

They increase the vitamin content of our food

They are a wonderful healing remedy for the whole of the digestive tract

They stimulate stomach acid production, when eaten before a meal -good one for me as I currently drink Swedish bitters to do this, and I hate the taste of it!

They , cheaply, add probiotics to the diet

They preserve food so it lasts so much longer, not only that but the food gets more nutritious and not less! 

Helps to kill off the bad bugs in the gut that we don't need, by introducing the good bugs

So that sounded like a lot of plus points to me, and it's pretty easy to do too. The fermenting process needs just salt adding to the food, and a bit of water. How easy is that? 

And some time to let it ferment. To have it ready to eat you need to make it several days in advance. It's a bit fiddly but hopefully worth it. 

So here's what you do : 

Take a medium cabbage, red, and shred it. Take 2 tbsp sea salt or Himalayan salt, and water if necessary.
Mix all the ingredients and squeeze in the hands for ten minutes until the juices are released. Spoon into a jar, and press down until juice comes to the top of the cabbage. The cabbage needs to be under the liquid! Cover tightly and store for three days - then put in the fridge. Check daily and add water if you need to.

Eating this can be an acquired taste! I have two tablespoons with my lunch and dinner. It's done wonders to my gut.
Worth a try... Rx

Monday, 9 December 2013

Let's hear it for (RAW) honey...

Bob, the honey man, as I've named him, kept me going yesterday at Wetherby's Dickensian Christmas market. I shared a stall with him and his wife, and his wit and repartee made him very entertaining. Not only that though, I learnt a lot about honey...

 I only came across RAW honey two years ago when I had to drastically change my diet due to a digestive health issue. I was told to take all refined sugars and carbohydrates out of my diet to help my gut, and after my initial panic started looking for alternative sweeteners. RAW honey soon became top of my list and is now number one sweetener for my Sweet Enough recipes.

Processed/filtered honey is generally what we buy on supermarket shelves and it's very different to the RAW stuff. Processed honey has been heated and even sometimes watered down! Not only does this remove the pollen and the propolis, but it can also remove the phytonutrients. 

RAW honey hasn't been treated or heated. It's straight from the hive and is as nature intended. It can help sleep, it's calming, it relieves anxiety and does wonders for a sore throat along with hot water and lemon. It can help wounds to heal, it can help decrease LDL cholesterol, it's rich in enzymes and vitamins, it's antiviral, anti fungal, antibacterial and anti carcinogenic. It's also anti inflammatory and boosts immunity ... So an all round boost to the health.

Please don't confuse RAW  honey with the refined variety which contains very little health giving properties, and can be likened to refined sugar in that the body reacts to it in the same way... negatively. I'm not going to go into detail here on the negatives involved in eating too much refined sugars, as this post is to promote RAW honey, but I have written several other blogs on the sugar subject; in fact it's probably the subject I 'bang on about' more than any other!! has some great info and some videos on the subject of RAW honey versus processed honey, and there's also a great book if you'd like to read more on the subject called Seven Health Secrets From The Hive by Charles H Robson.

If you're into experimenting there are lots of tests you can do to check whether the honey you've bought is 'real' or 'artificial' :

1. Thumb Test 
Drop some honey on to the end of your thumb. If it spreads around right away or spills, it's not pure. If it stays intact it is.

2. Shelf Life Test
Pure honey crystallises over time, artificial honey does not

3. Water Test
Add a tbsp of honey to a glass so water. Pure honey will lump and settle at the bottom of the glass. Artificial honey will start to dissolve.

4. Light A Fire
If you put some honey on the end of a match and strike it , real honey will light, artificial honey will not because of the moisture in it.

Have a go with what you've got in your cupboard! And if it's not real bear in mind it will not be health giving.

If you know a local beekeeper ask them to sell you some honey straight from the hive and check out the difference, it's so much more full of flavour. Just be a little cautious if you suffer from allergies, as there are more allergens left in the honey; propolis, pollen ... Even bits of bee! 

Failing that, most health food shops stock RAW honey, you can buy it online, Amazon have a great variety, and now Waitrose stock RAW honey, and I think it's manuka.

I eat it straight from the spoon if I need an emergency energy boost: it's beautiful , and works really well in energy balls and truffles with nut butters, coconut oil and cacao butter/powder.

Happy Monday... Here's to a healthier week.