All Health Begins with the Soil: Choose Organic for Fermented Foods

Note: This article is being republished here from the OEFFA Winter News 2016.  

By now most of us have heard about how important probiotic foods are for enhancing the health of our immunity and digestion. Medical researchers are now saying up to 80 percent of our immune system—and hence our ability to avoid colds, flus, and viruses—is dependent on the abundance and quality of the microbes we have growing in our gut. Live-culture probiotic foods such as yogurt, miso, fermented vegetables, kefir, and kombucha are now accepted as essential for our overall health. Since the probiotics in fermented foods originate from microbes in the soil, choosing foods raised organically can enhance the health and probiotic content of fermented foods.

Growing Our Internal Microbe Garden

Our internal microbe garden contains thousands of microbe species, and new research indicates the right combinations can affect our health. Previous studies have revealed that in mice, changes in gut microbe colonies appear to ease feelings of anxiousness and help control the levels of cortisol—a potent stress hormone related to inflammation—from coursing through the body. In general, the more cortisol we have, the more stressed out and unhealthy we are. Conversely, the less cortisol we have, the more human growth hormone we produce—the “anti-aging/good mood” hormone attributed to longevity and disease-free living.

So what are the “right” combinations of microbes for human health? Medical researchers are inclined to say they are best found in regular consumption of high quality, non-pasteurized, probiotic fermented foods.

Looking to history, before we started eating mostly pasteurized and highly-processed foods, every culture had its own repertoire of fermented foods that contained healthy probiotics. Since Louis Pasteur discovered the connection between disease and microbes, we’ve attempted to end disease by killing microbes in our food and homes. And with the post-World War II agricultural view of the soil as just a dead growth medium requiring synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides for optimal yields, we lost much of our abundance and diversity of soil microbes, not to mention the quality of nutrients in our food supply.

Well, it is turning out our love affair with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, pasteurized foods, and antimicrobial soap may be doing us way more harm than good.

All Health Begins with the Soil

Probiotic microbes that make up the human microbiome all originate from soil microbes. These soil microbes remain on our foods even after harvesting and washing, and are the
starter-cultures for fermented foods.

Organic farmers depend on the natural immunity and healthy vigor of their crops to ward off infections and pests. And, of course, organic practices of increasing organic matter, keeping soils covered, adding necessary minerals to address deficiencies, and promoting ecosystem diversity all maintain and increase the diversity and abundance of soil microbes and other life. The nutrient-dense crops grown from these healthy soils directly correlates to the health and vigor of the animals and humans that consume them. Since soil microbes are the starter-cultures for fermenting foods, and thus inoculating our bodies with healthy probiotic microbiota, choosing certified organic dairy and vegetables for fermenting will increase the strength and variety of probiotics contained in any fermented foods.

As science and ancient wisdom combine to help lead us forward into a healthier future, we can begin to see how the connections between enhancing food quality, human health, and soil health go hand in hand. The ecological crises we now face may be addressed by simply looking to the soil as a microcosm, and promoting healthy soils as a path toward healing body and planet.

 

Probiotic Borscht

1/2 med. red cabbage
3-5 beets with greens
1 fennel bulb with greens
1 lg. turnip
3-5 carrots
1 lg. sweet onion
10 cloves of garlic
1 pint Fennel Beet Krazy Kraut
Sour cream
Beef soup bone (optional)
Sea salt
Agave nectar (optional)

In a large pot, boil 3-4 quarts of water. Add beef soup bone. Add cabbage, carrots,
turnip, beets, garlic, and onion chopped into half inch pieces. Add half a pint of
Fennel Beet Krazy Kraut. Return to boil and then simmer for one hour or more.
Remove soup bone and shake out marrow into soup. Chop and add beet greens
and fennel bulb.

Return to boil and let cool to below 113 degrees. Add salt and agave nectar to
taste. Add the rest of the Krazy Kraut. Blend entire pot until creamy. Serve with a
dollop of sour cream.

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