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Pak Choi (Chinese Cabbage)

Feed Your Second Brain with Fermented Food

Fermented food is the key to strengthening the immune system, increasing antibodies, and regulating cravings for sugar and carbs.

Trust your gut feeling: eat fermented food. For years, I suffered from painful digestion which caused a range of complications. Openly sharing information regarding your intestinal health is not a common topic of conversation. I felt I did not understand what was good for my belly, let alone what to avoid. I was sure that my body was not cooperating while I was eating decent amounts of dairy, croissants, and raw beef tartares. (Don’t judge me! I was living in Europe.)

After years of testing what worked best for me and educating myself through Ayurveda and scientific readings, I decided to cut out dairy and increase vegetables and good fat. I also added probiotics and slowed down with the croissants. But more importantly, I added fermented food into my diet.

Table full of Korean dishes, including kimchiPhoto by Jakub Kapusnak

After all, scientists are discovering more and more connections between our immune system, mental and physical health, and the gut’s function. Michael Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, describes the gut as the second brain in his 1998 book The Second BrainWith more than 100 million neurons, the second brain is responsible for an important part of our immune system as well as our emotions.

Listening to my 96-year-old grandma, who always says to eat a little bit of everything, I explored the world of prebiotic and probiotic-fermented food one spoonful at a time. These foods nourish the bacterias in our intestines and help the body to more easily break down, extract, and absorb nutrients. The process creates beneficial enzymes and probiotics, which nourish the lining of the gut to better protect the body from pathogenic intruders such as Salmonella and E coli.

Fermented food is the key to strengthening the immune system, increasing antibodies, and regulating cravings for sugar and carbs. I started to add some sauerkraut to my salads,  and I fermented my own Kefir water and pickled veggies. My kitchen became a mad scientist lab with bubbly jars full of good bacterias. My skin cleared, my energy level increased, and I feel sharper and calmer.

My kitchen became a mad scientist lab with bubbly jars full of good bacterias.

Here are some of my favorite fermented foods:

Water Kefir

Kefir can be made out of water, milk and coconut water. It is good for the immune system, kills candida, and heals IBS. There are two types of Kefir starters: one feeding of fructose and glucose used for water Kefir and the other one for milk Kefir. Milk Kefir is similar to yogurt, with a sour taste and a more liquid consistency. You can buy your milk Kefir in many stores. I recommend brands using whole organic grass fed milk. 

Water Kefir is harder to find. You can buy your starter kit online and some markets in New York city sell them. For an easier option, Kevita is a good brand for water Kefir in organic stores.

Sauerkraut

Although you can find it in supermarkets, I prefer making my own version.  It usually comes out tastier and less salty! Sauerkraut is full of Vitamins A, C, K, and B as well as essential minerals like Manganese and Magnesium.

Kimberly Snyder, nutritionist, author of The Beauty Detox Solution, shares a very easy recipe for her version of fermented cabbage using miso.

For a spicier version, feel free to use some kimchi. This Korean pickled cabbage is so tasty and good for you!

Kombucha

This fermented tea is delicious as well as good for the belly. It helps to lose weight, detoxing the body as well as increasing energy. I choose a less processed, organic one with a low sugar content.

Pickles

My husband, a cocktail lover and barman extraordinaire, became passionate about pickling veggies and marrying savors and herbs. The base is half-vinegar, half-water. Add herbs and chopped veggies. Let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, it is ready to consume!

Because you keep the jar in the fridge, and there is a high vinegar content, there is no need to sterilize the jars.

His favorite recipes are beets with white rice vinegar, lemon zest and mint, radishes with red wine vinegar and thyme, and red carrots with lemon balm and ginger.

Yogurt

You probably know what yogurt is! Have you ever considered making your own with raw whole milk?

Just warm your milk to 110 degrees Fahrenheit and add 3 spoonfuls of an organic yogurt of your choice. Store your yogurt in sterilized jars. 

Remember to have fun and eat a wide variety of food to diversify the types of good bacteria.

Photo by Jodie Morgan

Anne-Sophie Devouassoux

Anne-Sophie is a French born adventurer who grew up skiing, dancing and cooking. She started making her own beauty products at age 17 and since then has been passionate about health, beauty and nature. She lives in New York City where she practices yoga and meditation and enjoys the eclectic restaurant scene of the city. As a teacher she is very curious and loves learning new skills.

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