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The nutritional aspect of health plays an integral role in our physical and emotional health. New research is confirming the relationship between what we eat and the health of our Mind-Body. An essential piece of this connection is the relationship between gut microbes and almost every chronic disease humans are dealing with. In recent years, the results from several studies demonstrate the connection between good gut bacteria and improved immune function and decreased anxiety and depression. The gut-brain connection is showing up as an essential piece of our big picture of health.
A recent study done by William and Mary College Psychology Professors, Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell and University of Maryland School of Social Work Assistant Professor, Jordan DeVylder, investigated the connection between fermented foods, which contain probiotics, and social anxiety. The results demonstrated that young adults who eat more fermented foods have fewer social anxiety symptoms. They found the strongest effect was among those subjects who had a genetic predisposition for social anxiety disorder as measured by neuroticism. The journal Psychiatry Research published the study in August 2015.
The above study is exciting as it looks at not only using isolated probiotics, but at the use of naturally fermented foods. Fermented foods, such as kefir, yogurt, tempeh and miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, sourdoughs and traditional bean dishes such as acaraje, and so many more. Fermented foods have been part of the human diet for centuries, though lost to many during the 20th Century with the introduction of refrigeration and processed foods. This is a cutting edge study regarding the mind-body connection, since previously, similar research was limited to the fields of microbiology and alternative medicine. Validating the mind-body connection through research in the area of psychology, has potential to bring the relationship between nutrition and mental health out of the closet and to the general population, which is grasping for the missing links to their chronic health issues. According to Matthew Hilimire, the above study is the first in a series planned to continue exploring the mind-gut connection. One area of planned research will include further examination of the original study data, to see if a correlation exists between fermented food consumption and autism symptoms.
What can you do on a daily basis to up the good bacteria in your gut? Fermentation is a creative, fun and delicious way to establish healthy gut bacteria.
There are some awesome fermentation educators who are sharing this long, lost art through wonderful books, blogs and workshops. My favorite book is, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. My son bought me the book a few years back and it is one of the best gifts I've ever received. Summer Bock, founder of OlyKraut in Olympia, WA. is a passionate fermentation educator. I participated in a 2-day fermentation workshop Summer taught four years ago, at The annual Breitenbush Herbal Conference at Breitenbush Hot Springs. I learned from Summer how to make amazingly delicious kraut and garlic dill pickles. Surf the web, find a book store or check out local classes on fermentation. Many cities now have their own fermented kraut businesses.
Yummy Happy Tummy Ginger-Garlic Kraut
Ingredients and Tools
1 large, dense cabbage or 2 smaller dense cabbages. (about 5 pounds)
1 large bulb garlic- mince all the cloves
2 large roots of fresh ginger- peeled and grated
Himalayan Sea Salt (about 2 teaspoons)
Fat, flat-ended wood rolling pin- the end of this should fit into a wide-mouthed canning jar with ease.
Wash, core and remove any outer funky cabbage leaves. Set aside a nice leaf to use in packing process. Slice cabbage into quarters or smaller. Next, slice cabbage thin as for a slaw.
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, grated ginger, minced garlic. Gradually add salt and stop when it tastes great to you. In her class, Summer Bock described this step by saying, "It's so good that you just can't eat one bite, you need to keep tasting and eating it (like potato chips)."
Next, massage the cabbage mixture with your hands until it begins to soften and break down and its mass reduces. When you have massaged it until soft and broken-down, you pack the kraut.
Cabbage varies in size. A very large cabbage usually fills a 3 liter jar plus an extra pint or a quart jar. A couple of medium size cabbages fill my 3 liter jar. Be prepared with a variety of jar sizes before you begin to pack the kraut.
Pack the kraut into either one large wide-mouthed 3 liter glass jar or into two wide-mouthed quart jars. Or, adjust jar size as needed, based on how much kraut you have. I love my Le Parfait 3 liter glass canning jar, with its detachable glass lid and it seems like the perfect size for a batch of kraut.
Begin scooping kraut with a half cup measure into jar. After about 3 scoops of kraut, pack it down with your flat-ended rolling pin. Continue this process until you are about a 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Make sure you are firmly pressing/pounding as needed to compact the kraut and remove air pockets inside the jar. When jar is fully packed and you press down with the rolling pin, you will notice liquid seeping to the top. That is good. Next, take the cabbage leaf you set aside earlier and cut it into circular pieces, a littler larger than the diameter of the mouth of jar. Place the cabbage on top to cover the diameter of jar opening and create a seal. Press it down over the packed cabbage and place the lid onto jar.
Place sealed jar(s) of kraut into a container with sides to prevent any messy leakage. Cover the jar(s) with a clean dish towel. Open and check the kraut in one week. You may notice bubbling or that the jar has leaked. That is fine. If there is any sign of mold on top of the kraut, do not panic. Scrape it off with a spoon and close jar, placing it back in pantry. In the summertime, I often put the jar in the fridge after 2-3 weeks. In the winter when my home is cooler, I let the kraut ferment for about 3 -4 weeks before refrigerating it. Check jars each week until refrigerated. In tropical climates, you may need to refrigerate the kraut within a week of making it. Kraut continues fermenting in the fridge.
I enjoy my kraut every day, whether it's my morning forkful of probiotic yum, topping my lunch salad or as a condiment to any meal.
Many Blessings, Sari