Excerpts from Dr. Mercola's article "Fermented Foods Contain 100 TIMES More Probiotics than a Supplement." Click here to read the full article.
The Importance of Fermented Foods
Did you know the number of bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by about 10 to 1? These bacteria in turn are comprised of both beneficial ones and harmful ones. The ideal balance is about 85 percent good bacteria and 15 percent bad. Maintaining this ideal ratio is what it's all about when we're talking about the importance of probiotics. It's important to understand though that probiotics are not a new concept. The only thing that's new is that you can take them in pill form. But historically, mankind has consumed large amounts of probiotics in the form of fermented and cultured foods, which were invented long before the advent of refrigeration and other forms of food preservation.
"Every traditional culture, when you look at their traditional diet, they ferment their foods. They fermented everything. You can ferment dairy, grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish. Everything can be fermented, and there were fermented beverages in every culture. When the cabbages were ripe in September, you made it a fermented cabbage. Perhaps for a month or two, you were eating fresh cabbage, but then for the rest of the year, 10 months of the year, you ate your cabbage in a fermented form. Quite a large percent of all the foods that people consume on a daily basis were fermented. And with every mouthful of these fermented foods you consume trillions of beneficial bacteria…"
Fermented foods not only give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, they also give you far more of them, so it's a much more cost effective alternative. Here's a case in point: It's unusual to find a probiotic supplement containing more than 10 billion colony-forming units. But when my team actually tested fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures, they had 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. Literally, one serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic! So clearly, you're far better off using fermented foods.
How the Fermentation Process Works
"Mother Nature is extremely wise and extremely kind. It populated all organic fruit and vegetables, the dust on our soils, and all plant matter with Lactobacilli. The fresh cabbage leaves, if it's organically grown (not the one from chemical farming), will be covered in Lactobacilli—lacto-fermenting bacteria. You don't need to add anything. You just chop it up. Add some salt in the initial stages. (The salt is added in the initial stage in order to stop putrefactive bacteria from multiplying.) Then as the Lactobacillus stop working and start multiplying, they produce lactic acid. That's why they're called Lactobacillus. That's just lactic acid.
If you look at the research in lactic acid, it is one of the most powerful antiseptics. It kills off lots and lots of bacteria.... So as the lactic acid starts producing, it will kill off all those putrefactive and pathogenic microbes and preserve the food. It's a great preservative... A good batch of sauerkraut can keep for five to six years without spoiling or rotting, as long as it is covered by its own juice."
For instructions on how to ferment your own vegetables, which is easier than you might think to do at home, please listen to my previous interview with Caroline Barringer:
This anaerobic process (fermentation) does more than just preserve the food, however. It also makes the nutrients inside the food more bioavailable. For example, according to Dr. McBride, the amount of bioavailable vitamin C in sauerkraut is 20 times higher than in the same helping of fresh cabbage!
"This is because in the fresh cabbage, vitamin C is bound in the cellulose structure and various other molecules, and our digestive system is just not able to cleave it off and absorb it. Lots of it goes undigested and come out right out of you. So despite the fact that cabbage may be very rich in vitamin C, a lot of it you will not be able to absorb. But if you fermented that cabbage and made sauerkraut, all the vitamin C becomes bioavailable," she explains.