Recently a reader made a comment on this blog mentioning that she ferments some of her food and is quite healthy and fit. Ironically, it was just a few days prior to that comment that I was first exposed to food fermentation for nutritional purposes. Having heard of this process from a scientist/doctor that I highly respect, I knew I had to do more research on the topic. After all, I’m all about being as medically independent as possible. If there’s one more arrow in my quiver in favor of health that doesn’t rely on pills and surgery, I’m all for it. I enjoyed what I’ve learned and thought it merited sharing with all of you.
Up until about a week ago, the only “food” that I knew of being fermented was beer. Boy, were my eyes opened; never considering beer as a health food, it wasn’t exactly on my radar.
So…zymurgy is your new vocabulary word for the day folks. It’s what the science of fermenting foods is called. Now say it three times with me. “Zim-er-gee” Now don’t you feel all smart? Well, you might actually if you partook of this interesting nutrition angle. When proper foods are fermented and consumed, one of the effects is a sharpening of the senses—even to the point of rectifying dulled senses. Yeah—sorry—I can’t exactly say that applies if you’re drinking beer, ok? So don’t use the is article as an excuse for your purchase more stock in Budweiser or for you to go out and max out your credit cards in an attempt to have a year’s supply of beer. She’ll call me and complain about that one and you know it!
Zymurgy - Try Beans!
For starters, beans and grains are the most touted fermented foods—at least for nutritious purposes. For purposes of creating embarrassing photos for you later in life, stick with the barley angle which you may already know about. *grin* As it turns out, ancient civilizations have survived dire nutritional conditions as a result of food fermentation. In a nut shell, by consuming fermented foods we are actually replenishing our body with the good kinds of bacteria. In a world rife with anti-bacterial this and that, I’d say that’s a good thing. Is it just me or does anyone else think it’s ironic that letting something ferment actually provides good bacteria? Who knew? Turns out, the good bacteria isn’t just about keeping our immune system in check. It’s also critical in our bodies so that we can actually ABSORB the nutrients which we eat. Considering how vacant our food is nowadays due to soil depletion, GMO infiltration, and environmental pollutants, I’d say getting all the nutrition we can from our foods is something that I sure need to pay attention to.
Zymurgy - Try Beverages & Bread
While the fermentation of beverages made it’s way first on the food chain scene, it wasn’t because of the caveman frat parties. It was actually so that the food that was available, although it might be scarce, would actually be magnified nutritionally. Fermented grains, fruits, and vegetables are conducive to the fermenting process and readily available to consume without the labor of fires, cooking, or hunting. Fermented drinks also led to fermented bread. In fact the Maori tribes and the Aborigines are some of the originators of fermented bread.
Ok. I don’t mean to leave you hanging here, but my investigation of this topic led me into an amazing study by a by Dr. Weston Price in the early 1900’s, who lived among these and other tribes all over the world. I simply can’t talk about fermented foods without establishing the foundation for the difference it made on entire civilizations. So, tune in tomorrow for some of the “how” but for the rest of today, we’re going to talk about Dr. Price’s study which shows a very compelling “why.”
In Dr. Price’s book, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” there are some invaluable bits of information for any preparedness minded person. Dr. Price proved nutrition not only affected life span, but every aspect of the body—from how wide the maxiofacial bones were, how straight the teeth grew, the height and strength of the person, even their posture. Yeah, who knew? Good posture had nothing to do with nuns whacking a kid with a ruler.
The tribes which practiced using fermented foods as a regular part of their diet had some stark differences to their less healthy counterparts. In the healthy tribes, where processed or denatured foods were unheard of, tribe members regularly lived to centenarian age. Dr. Price also discovered that the nutrition practiced while the mother was pregnant had determined everything to do with the persons skeletal and muscle composition. Healthy persons had nice and round faces with plenty of room for all of their teeth—including their wisdom teeth. Not a single set of bad teeth among the tribes who practiced food fermentation. Pretty impressive when you consider Oral-B wasn’t available yet. The healthy females had round pelvic openings which made childbirth much easier. Organ functions were ideal and even the disposition of these tribes were positive, with people happily and eagerly engaged in their labors. Here’s another interesting bit of information. The state of their health had nothing to do with whether or not they were vegetarians. The fermentation of their food was key. Those who ate primarily fruits, grains and vegetables did so primarily in their fermented state. Those who ate animals—get this—primarily ate the ORGANS—where the food ingested by the animal would already be fermented—along with the fat. They would discard the lean meat—because it wasn’t full of the nutrients. Think about this for a minute folks. These folks didn’t have a newspaper or prime time broadcast to tell them that their instincts were wrong. This was determined by their innate wisdom of nutrition. In fact, they were even conscientious to leave plenty of fruit on the trees for the birds and other animals to eat so that they would get nice and fat and provide quality nutrition for them when consumed.
One more thing I want to share that I found amazing. In many cases, when families lived in covered homes, they didn’t have chimneys. This meant that the soot from their cooking accumulated on the ceiling of their homes. Almost reverently and with great care the people would scrape the soot off of their ceilings and use it for fertilization in their gardens. How’s that to contrary to how we’ve been programmed, huh? They had no lung cancer, no heart disease, and no mood disorders.
Ok. Now let’s look at the contrasting tribes. Chimneys on every house. Processed foods such as bleached flour. A lack of industriousness. Crooked and/or crowded teeth. Additional ear lobes. Narrow faces—which our society deems to be beautiful in today’s world. Learning disabilities which were clearly manifested in the lack of innovation in accomplishing required labors. Depression. Oval shaped pelvises which obviously meant hard labor, resulting in a significant increase in infant and mother fatalities. Poor eyesight and hearing. In other words, pretty much like what we’ve got today. There was also the presence of tuberculosis found in the unhealthy tribes. This contrast was consistent everywhere Dr. Price went—Africa, Hawaii, Indian tribes, and even the Swiss.
Here’s something else I found fascinating. Dr. Price discovered that in the healthy tribes there were very distinct body structures between men and women. In fact, there are some startling pictures in Dr. Weston’s studies which show an amazing contrast in the physique between the tribes which focused on nutrition and those who didn’t. The malnourished tribes had false gender behaviors and the sex of a person was not easily determined by a side or back view. He concluded that improper nutrition directly influences the presence of a homosexual nature. It’s amazing to see these pictures of his studies and see that there was not an effeminate looking male among them and not a single woman lacking in the telltale feminine curvatures—regardless of which angle you looked at them.
The contrast between healthy tribes and not so healthy all boiled down to the nutrition provide by the culture of food fermentation according to Dr. Weston. In the communities in which processed foods had been introduced, diseases of all kinds readily set upon the people, estrogen and testosterone were bent out of whack, growth and development of muscles were stunted and birth defects were common. Even more amazing to me, given the history of anxiety and severe depression in my previous family members, was the disposition of the well nourished folks. The fermented food tribes had an abundance of smiles, well-behaved children, intelligent and gregarious people. Whereas the communities where processed foods had been introduced demonstrated events of suicide, schizophrenia, and other serious emotional disorders. And yet not a ONE of these cases was to be found in the fermented food communities.
B-12 deficiencies were one of the most significant nutritional factors according to Dr. Price. He connected this deficiency to the existence of fatigue, depression, OCD behavior, sleep disorders, irrational anger, cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, anemia, dementia and Alzheimer’s. I mention this because B-12 is found primarily in animal products and it is destroyed by the pasteurization process which is so pervasive in our food production today. When the fermented food was ingested, not only did it provide good bacteria, but it was vital to the availability of key digestive enzymes. Dr. Price concluded that the enzymes in our body are vital to the proper metabolic process. And you know what that means, right? Yup. There was NO obesity in the food fermentation groups.
OK. So, either you’ve fallen asleep by now or your interest in fermented foods is perked. So next time I'll write more specifically about this process. If you just have to find out more right now do some research specifically on fermented grains and vegetables. I’d also recommend reading about the “Pottenger Cat Study” There’s also another great book by Sally Fallon called “Nourishing Traditions”. And there’s an abundance of information at a foundation based upon Dr. Price’s work here: http://www.westonaprice.org/ Hey, you can even subscribe to a magazine called “Zymurgy.” (And now you actually know what the heck it is!) I also enjoyed searching food fermentation and zymurgy on YouTube. So you’ll have plenty to do until our next article. And in the meantime perhaps you can mentally prepare yourself for a gradual change? I know I sure have. Gotta love enlightenment, eh?
(Oh, and a special shout out to Steffanie England for teaching such an interesting class)
See my next article on Zymurgy - Fermentation by clicking here:
Got Culture? Discover Fermentation
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I had wanted to introduce you to Dr. Price's work as a possible solution to some of your medical problems, but with all the processed food you store, I figured you'd have no interest in it!
"The state of their health had nothing to do with whether or not they were vegetarians. The fermentation of their food was key."
I've studied Dr. Price's work for years, and while I agree that fermentation is *essential* for a good diet, I don't think it can be said that was the key to their health. His conclusions were geared more toward the 'wholeness' of their foods and the presence of animal foods in their diets -- he did not find any vegetarian communities (out of the healthy communities unaffected by Western foods).
Wow. That was surprisingly rude, Katie--especially since you clearly do not know me.
Regardless, the value of fermented food impacted their culture to the point of them discarding what we now consider to be "the meat". I'd say that's significant--perhaps even worth of using the word "key." However, I too appreciated the whole food aspect of Dr. Price's study, which is why I reference "no processed or denatured products" in my article.
Oh, any by the way, if you read more from the organization that was founded in honor of Dr. Price, you will see that he did indeed find vegetarian persons within the communities. This fact was also reinforced by a lecture that I went to on the topic of Dr. Price's study just 3 weeks ago. You see, I like to get many sources of information on any particular topic.
Sorry! I did not mean to be rude! I feel like I know you pretty well from your blog posts. You posted pictures of products WAPF would consider 'junk' and said "I don't see any junk food here!", so that's why I thought you would not be interested in what they have to offer.
I've actually been playing with this a little bit in making bread but so far have not had good success so am very interested in this. I've heard that soaking your flour and then making your bread will help with digestion and I'm hoping it will help with blood sugars rising even with eating whole grains sparingly! Thanks for the information.
Another good book: "Wild Fermentation: bySandor Ellix Katz
Linda, don't feel bad, learning dough takes some time and practice. I've baked bread on and off for at least 30 years and I'm still learning. I've made bread loaves that could have been used as building materials, You would not have eaten it as dense as a brick without the flavor. One nice thing is it is great for the compost pile if it doesn't work out toss it and you learn what not to do next time. I've got yeast bread types down fairly well and still fight with biscuits and short breads. It takes time and practice to make a good set of biscuits. But once you get a feel of the dough and keep trying you'll get it.
Mine is tortillas, and biscuit to some extent. Their edible, actully not bad in all, but they could be better. So time to practice some more.
I'm looking into fermenting and always on preserving. If you don't like it you may go to another site. funny I did not think Monsanto had such a big shop! Well I suppose if you are well paid you will say anything.
Well lets say I have heirlooms and I don't need monsanto. I've got seeds. Funny I can give them away at any time in the next few years. So can many gardeners Will you arrest us all? will it be a felony to raise food in the back yard. Will Michelle obama be the 1st to go? She told us we needed to raise gardens.
AWESOME!! I have been trying to find more info on home fermented foods. BUT living in the NW of the country it is very moist here and mold grows fast! I would love to ferment on my own, not beer :) BUT I am afraid the food will mold instead of ferment, and I want to do it the Old way by not using vinegar from the store, even if it is Bragg's.
Thanks for a great post. I will be linking to it off my blog :)
Kellene...I just discovered this info on fermentation this past weekend when I was researching to teach a class on whole grains. I literally stumbled upon a great site about the value of soaking grains and then it led me to Weston Price. I was so shocked to this as your latest post. Amazing how we are led to things!
Kellene ... Thank you for this article as well as all the other wonderful information you share with us. After reading this article I quickly acquired Dr. Weston's book and the book on Fermentation and food Safety. As I was reading Dr. Weston's book I kept noticing the beautiful round faces of all the healthy people all over the world. And it reminded me of what people would say, when I was a child, about how skinny children needed to put some meat on their bones. I think then people recognized skinny as unhealthy and not something aspire to, as it is today. Of course these children were not anorexic at that time period. I'm a little bit older than most of the folks on here. My Grandfather was born in 1873 and my oldest Son will soon be 50, so maybe I'm just old fashioned about some things.
Thank you again for helping us to have a better world to live in and the life to enjoy it.
I found a recipe for dry salami. It's based on fermentation I have a couple of other fermenting recipes to try out. I'm trying some homade hams and bacon, a bit of canned chicken and hamburger and I'm set. Yummy it's going to be a great fall.