Nutrition research can be incredibly confusing. It seems like the media is coming out with new suggestions every month. Is butter good or bad for you? Does meat cause cancer? Can I have a cup of coffee without it being bad for me? Even as a doctor, I totally get the frustration. Trust me, it’s not much better on our end either! Peer-reviewed research is still subject to faulty methods and even researcher bias. In 2016, the NY Times published an article detailing how the sugar industry deliberately paid researchers to design studies that would show that dietary fat was the culprit for obesity. Of course we now know that it’s actually sugar (surprise) that is responsible for fat storage in the body.
So how can you come away from this muddled mess of science and actually start eating right? That’s a loaded question but I’ll tell you the best thing you can start doing this week: Ferment your own vegetables! The benefits of fermented foods are unanimously agreed upon by scientists. Primarily, they are just about the most reliable source of probiotics you can eat. Most probiotic supplements only get about 1% of the probiotic bacteria to your colon, where they work their magic. Probiotics from fermented foods are equipped with prebiotics (food for probiotics) as well so you can be sure the bacteria will thrive in your colon.
Probiotics regulate your gut function, which is host to over 80% of your immune system so a regular diet of fermented foods will likely have you getting sick less often. In addition, their regulation of your gut can actually enhance your mood! There is a growing body of literature that supports the connection between your gut (digestive system) and your brain. Just google “gut-brain connection” and you will get PLENTY of reputable sources on this issue. And if we’re talking gut, there is no better gut medicine than reliable probiotics.
In my opinion, leeks are the best vegetable to ferment because leeks are root vegetables, which are naturally rich in prebiotic fiber. Roots function as prebiotics for good bacteria in soil, so those properties apply to the bacteria that form during fermentation as well Fermentation is actually a very easy process, there are plenty of great videos with recipes (including one by yours truly). But here is a quick guide to your first fermentation!
- Your choice of jars is CRUCIAL. I recommend you go with “Fido” or clamp-down jars. They are designed to release pressure gradually without having to check on it every day. The reason for pressure is that a build-up of gas is a natural byproduct of bacterial fermentation. Closed jar + gas buildup= explosion!
- After thoroughly washing and cutting up the leeks, massage them with salt and let them sit in a covered pan for 30-60 minutes. This releases the juices in the leeks and makes for a better batch!
- A seasoning I HIGHLY recommend is turmeric powder. Turmeric alone has incredible immune and anti-inflammatory benefits. Adding raw garlic and turmeric powder to this already healthy superfood seems like the logical choice.
- After you place all the contents in the jar, you want to push down the leeks as much as you can. This will allow water to fully submerge the leeks and make for fewer air pockets. Once that’s done, just clamp the jar and leave it in a dark, cool environment for 7-10 days (I usually do 7).
- Waiting is the hardest part! But give it time and enjoy this food as medicine!