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Probiotic Foods for Good Health: Yogurt, Sauerkraut, and Other Beneficial Fermented Foods

Probiotic Foods for Good Health - Beatrice Trum Hunter Comprehensive -- covers some of the traditional cultures that use cultured foods and also delves into some of the science/biochemistry. Yogurt – should be plain, unflavored yogurt made from whole milk (full fat). Look for the phrase “contains live and active cultures” on the container. Read the ingredient panel. It should list milk, the culturing bacteria and any added bacteria such as L. acidophilus, L. reuteri, L. bifidus, or L. casei, but nothing else. Reject any product that lists thickeners or stabilizers, such as starches and/or gelatin. You can add fruits and berries at home, but avoid jams, high amounts of sweeteners, etc. To use a yogurt-containing creamy salad dressing, simply blend plain yogurt with your usual choices of olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs. Kefir. Produced by adding the kefir grains to fresh milk, and allowing it to remain at room temperature from 12 hours to a few days, depending on the degree of desired tartness. Then the granules are strained out of the cultured kefir and transferred to a new batch of fresh milk. If the kefir is made at home, no special equipment is needed. The culture can be kept alive and active for years, without having to be discarded and replaced. A thriving culture will multiply, in which case, it can be divided and shared. Or it can be dried, and stored for future use, at which time it is reconstituted by soaking the granules in fresh milk. Or, the culture can be frozen by placing the grains in a small dark glass bottle, capped tightly, and stored in the freezer. The dark glass protects the culture from light, and the tight capping protects the culture from oxygen. Both light and oxygen are destructive. The frozen kefir grains are in a quiescent state, and can be revived and activated after being defrosted. The dual fermentation by the lactic acid bacteria and the yeasts results in a small amount of carbon dioxide being formed. It produces a mild carbonation in the kefir. Also a low level (0.01 to 0.10 grams per 100 grams) of alcohol is produced. The combination of carbonation and alcohol has earned kefir a reputation as “the champagne of milk.” P. 115-116Sauerkraut – can be made from a single head of cabbage and easily stored even in a compact urban kitchen. Cabbage can be green or red. The salt can be added at a very low level (about 2 T of salt (without whey) for each head of cabbage. The salt pulls the liquid out of the cabbage and helps prevent undesirable bacteria from growing. But the beneficial lactic acid-producing bacteria can still grow in the naturally occurring sugars present in the cabbage. They convert these sugars into acids, which give sauerkraut its agreeable tartness. The beneficial bacteria work faster at warm temperature, and slower at cooler ones. The cooler temperatures permit the bacteria to convert the sugars into acids slowly, and make the end product palatable. P.127-128Fermenting porridge at home. Although many traditional porridges were fermented for days to achieve strong tartness, the process can be shortened, with no perceptible tartness in the porridge, yet achieve the goals of reduced phytin and increased digestibility. If you plan to eat porridge for breakfast, begin preparation the night before. Soak a wholegrain such as brown rice, wild rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, teff, barley, undegerminated corn grits, steel-cut oatmeal or bulgur overnight in water (about one part grain to two parts water) with one or two teaspoonful of liquid whey from yogurt. Or, add a teaspoonful of plain powdered whey sold in health food stores. Allow the mixture to soak in the pot at room temperature. In the morning, cook the porridge in the soaking liquid. Cooking time varies, from about 10-20 minutes, depending on the type of grain. P. 146Conclusion “Fermentation has benefited humans in the past by providing a means of storing foods and beverages, increasing their nutrients, and improving their flavors. Fermentation has also benefited humans by providing a means of maintaining and restoring health. Unfortunately, the tradition of fermentation, appreciated by our ancestors, had all but disappeared in the industrialized world. The growing interest in probiotics makes fermentation more important than ever. Fermentation allows us to preserve foods safely without resorting to toxic substances (such as chemical preservatives) or to processings of dubious safety (such as the radiation-preservation of foods). Therapeutically, fermented foods such as yogurt act gently and effectively to alleviate health disorders such as chronic yeast infections or chronic constipation. The value of fermented foods to combat infectious agents is constant, whereas microbes learn to resist antibiotic drugs, and the drugs themselves become less and less effective. Also, eating fermented foods strengthens the immune system. Fermented foods become instruments of preventive medicine.” P. 151