Why Fermented Foods for Wellness

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Finished raw milk kefir, ready for the fridge.

You may or may not have heard all the fuss about fermented foods. And you may or may not have starting fermenting at your house. But either way, it’s something which you may want to follow.

Why? Because unlike many of the health fads, fermenting is…well, not a fad. It’s been around from the beginning of time, not just to break down waste into compost, but to break down FOOD into more absorbable, nutritious, and tasty eats. In every culture, you have mums intentionally fermenting foods and feeding it to young and old alike. Some may not call it fermenting, or may not know a thing about lactic acid or good bacteria, but they are doing it none-the-less: kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, salami, pickles, kombucha, yogurt, cheese, wine, tamari, miso, tempeh, natto, sourdough.

So you probably HAVE heard of probiotics. Good bacteria, normally found in the gut of every living mammal, which keep the immune system healthy but not over-reacting, stabilize mood, keep us regular, create vitamins like folate and B12, speak to the brain in many chemical ways to keep us thinking clearly, and detoxify a lot of nasty stuff, including some of the pesticides and chemicals and heavy metals we eat (oops). This is not an exhaustive list. There’s a TON of research done on these good little microbes. Like, upwards of 29,000 studies come up on PubMed just by searching “lactobacillus.”

We know that:

You can buy probiotics in many different combinations of strains, quantities, and delivery methods. Which I have done regularly for over a decade, and I’m grateful for the availability of these specific strains (because sometimes, it’s good to troubleshoot with specifics). But, I’ve found the most help over the years by the foods that are packed with good bacteria, so I’m cranking up my ferments. Raw milk kefir is an every-week staple here, but this week I’m excited to try a watermelon juice, a Daikon radish ferment, and a Jun variety of kombucha.

I’m following a fermenting expert I’m lucky enough to know as a friend: Jane Casey of Jane Casey’s Kitchen. She’s amazing, fun, and has an amazing true story of twin sons who were profoundly autistic, but now aren’t. At all. Because of ferments.

I’m learning a ton (like: using ingestable essential oils to promote fermentation…wha??). Best tip of the week: use folded fresh grape leaves to keep the veggies all submerged (this is like the main rule of fermenting veggies: keep them under the brine so they don’t mold). I will keep you posted, because we have a special project coming for these classes, live and local.

Do you ferment? What’s on your counter now?

And for those who want to geek out with me, here are a few interesting studies on the benefits of probiotics which I stumbled across on PubMed. Not that the other 29,000 aren’t interesting too…

This study links good gut bacteria (L. Reuteri in this case), with immune regulation and folate metabolism. So all you MTHFR people (I’m one too) can go crazy about that. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27353144

This study notes the protective effect of friendly bacteria against bladder infections in pre-and-post-menopausal women (different strains are more effective for pre- or post- menopausal). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27092529

Probiotics in critically ill children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27081478

This study showed that stressed mice had changes to their gut microflora, specifically reduced L. Reuteri. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25028050

 

What To Feed The Baby

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Question, via email:

I’m the one with Lucky baby that had such a hard time with formula [after a forced wean from breastmilk]. So he’s eating pretty much everything under the sun, except I don’t do any dairy. I tried some goats milk on him and he didn’t really seem to like it so just havent again. I’m confused on how to eat myself let alone make sure I’m giving him what his body needs at 13 months. Some sites say low protein high healthy fats, some say paleo for babies is best, etc. So I really like how healthy you and your family are, love following your blog and wondering if you could tell my what type of foods you fed your babies? I don’t know if they should be having coconut pancakes, rice flour, barely those type of grains. It seems like since I don’t know I feed him a lot of fruit and veggies.

My Answer: (I am not a licensed health care professional, and this is not health advice. Just my opinion.)

Hi friend! It can be confusing with so many opinions out there on diet and nutrition. I think coconut pancakes and fruits and veggies sound great, although you want to make sure he gets enough of the animal proteins/fats too since they are super-foods! He may disdain goats milk, but if you offered him raw cheese he may just love it!

There’s a lot to say on this subject; here are some principles I’ve used as guides for feeding my babies 10 months and up.

What’s good for you, is good for baby.

If you are pursuing a whole food, nutrient dense diet, then the foods which you haul in from the farmer, cook up in your crockpot, ferment on your counters, or bake in your oven are going to be excellent, nutrient dense choices for your child.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that baby food is something to be bought in small containers, have no resemblance to adult food, and be fed to a child at a different time of day than adults eat (although of course this happens occasionally). Someday (soon!) this tiny person will sit at the table with us and eat what we are eating, so why not get them used to the routine and the food while they are still in their high chair? Plus, the idea of cooking two different menus makes me want to cry.

Breastmilk is Best, as long as you can

I like to wait as long as possible before introducing food at all, and even water unless the weather turns hot. My babies have waited for their first bite of any food until between 8 and 10 months. I look for their cues on hunger/lip smacking/saliva. My last baby, a girl, was quite interested at 8 months, but my largest boy was barely interested at 10 months. Their hunger for food usually arrives about the time their first teeth do. There is some thought that waiting until this time to give foods can reduce allergic responses to food.

The first foods I give my babies are: egg yolk from a soft boiled/over easy egg, butter, liver pate (it’s cooked), cod liver oil, banana, avocado, as these are all soft and nutrient dense. After a few weeks of these foods, they are usually ready to try more flavors, so I begin to offer what we are eating.

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Egg yolk!

Waiting for molars. . . think soft foods

Dinner is our main meal, and there is nearly always something that baby can eat, and often she can eat all of it. I invested in a small baby food grinder years ago, the hand crank kind (portable!), which can be used to blend up soft foods like spaghetti with meat marinara, roasted chicken and broccoli, anything made in a crockpot, the chunky parts of soup (add back to broth), beans, rice, and most cooked veggies. It only takes a minute, and the child gets to experience those flavors which he has been smelling while dinner was cooking. He’s eating what mom and dad eat. He’s eating it fresh, and not frozen or canned. He’s eating food that tastes good, and if he rejects it on first or fifth try, you can be pretty confident that at some point he will love it like you do.

Some foods are hard for a baby to eat: salad, anything really chewy or crunchy. However, these foods are innately difficult to digest as well, so your diet should be filled with lots of other foods he is able to eat. That said, I will sometimes give baby a teeny tiny piece of lettuce with a homemade dressing on it. . . or the cranberry in the salad. . . or a feta crumble. I stick it right in their mouth and wait for the face. These are strong flavors, and I want the baby to experience them, along with some psychological coaching: “yum, yum, yum!” They are shocked, they spit, we all laugh.

If we are eating steak, I try to cook it medium rare, and then shave off very small pieces (no need for chewing) and feed them to baby. Yes, steak! My babies have loved this. I have also heard that indigenous mothers chew food for their babies, which begins to break down the foods with mom’s saliva enzymes, before transferring it to baby’s mouth.

We love taco salad; baby can eat the ground beef, beans, avocado, sour cream (if no reaction), tomatoes (if no reaction), cilantro, and lime.

Soups are messy, but we eat a lot of them in the winter, and if they have a bone broth base it’s awesome nutrition. We have a plastic pocket type bib which really helps contain the mess when spoon feeding baby, or the IKEA toddler smock which is full coverage for when baby feeds herself.

Good Fats = Good Brain

Brains, especially growing brains, need fat. Healthy, saturated fats. Besides water, that is what the brain is mostly comprised of, so it only makes sense that babies need a healthy dose of saturated fats daily for the significant growth of their gray matter.

Butter (grassfed/naturally yellow is best), avocado, egg yolk (soft boiled or over easy), coconut oil, nut butters, animal fats found with the meat, liver (organic animals) olive oil (cold pressed and uncooked), and heavy cream with or without the milk (raw from grassfed cows is best) are all great ways to feed baby’s developing brain, and keep baby satisfied for longer between meals (or at night!). Some of these are a meal or snack by themselves: egg yolk, liver, nut butter, avocado, ground meat. Others can be toppings for other foods: butter, coconut oil, olive oil.

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Butter!

Balancing Food Groups

We all need protein, and carbohydrates, and fats. Babies are no exception. I try to give my baby foods from each food group during a day, with a special emphasis on protein/fat at each meal. I personally feel better when I limit my sugars/starches, so my children’s diet roughly mimics my own, but they do eat more grains and fruits than I do.

In the US, toddler fare is universally offered as grain and sweets based. Look at any kids menu and you will see breads, pastas, crackers, fruit cups, sweetened dairy products, and downright candy as the leading act. Most foods marketed to/for kids fall into this category as well. Rather than rant about the lack of protein and fat, and the sugars that push kids toward addiction, set them up for diabetes or worse (OK, I just ranted), I’ll just advise: do not copy this diet in your home.

Do you feel better, have more energy and fewer ailments, sleep and perform exercise better, and feel more satisfied on mostly protein, mostly carbs, or somewhere in between? If you have never given this any thought, The Metabolic Typing Diet may help you (gives self-test checklists) to determine this for yourself. And have your spouse take the test too, as your child will likely pattern after one or both of you. Adoptive parents will have to watch carefully for mood/behavior in their baby following different meal ratios.

Depending on your metabolic type, you may feel better on more carbohydrates than I do in your diet, and your child is likely to do well with this diet as well. In this case, your healthy diet would contain more whole grain breads and porridge (soaked grains are best), starchy veggies like potato, yam, and corn, and fruits than mine does. But you should still be fighting the “goldfish at every snack” mentality for your child, since these are just not whole foods.

Regardless of how much of each food your baby eats, it is difficult to get a child to eat much of anything if they start off a meal with fruits, since those sugars are absorbed into their bloodstream quickly and their hunger signal turns off. It usually works better for me to serve “courses” starting with the protein/fat portion of the meal, and finishing with a few fruit pieces.

Allergies and Introductions: Every One is Unique

My husband and I have few allergies, but the few things which I am sensitive to (chicken eggs, cow dairy as a toddler) I have been wary of introducing too early to my children. I am also gluten intolerant, and after two of my children have tested positive as well, we have assumed it is hereditary and have put all our children on a gluten free diet.

Since every one is unique, watch for reactions when introducing the “common allergens” and acidic foods like tomato and some fruits. I’ve found that a baby may need to avoid a food, but a few months later they will be able to eat it without reaction. The most common reactions are loose stools and rashes at mouth or bottom. Vomiting, constipation, eczema, or histamine responses (swollen eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing) are more severe reactions to a food, in which case it may be much longer before a child can handle that food again, if ever. You should contact your child’s doctor with a severe reaction, as follow-up testing may be advised.

One largely overlooked component to allergies is imbalance of intestinal flora. Babies usually have flora similar to mom’s, since they acquired their first dose from her in the birth canal and received daily probiotics in her milk. If you question your own gut health, or you/baby have a history of yeast or antibiotics, your baby may need some supplemental probiotics. I have used the Klaire Labs brand of Infant Formula probiotics. Homemade sauerkraut juice or yogurt are other ways to support baby’s intestinal flora.

Quality is Key

Eating an organic diet is expensive . . . but so is illness. Avoiding unnecessary chemicals on our foods is always a good idea, but even more crucial for the developing bodies of our children. Choose organic and grassfed whenever you find it and can budget it. Here is my prioritized list of foods to source organically, starting with oils and fats, and all animal products. Fruits and veggies are further down the list; you can download a free guide to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” on Enviromental Working Group’s site, or download a free app to your smart phone which will allow you to look up produce item by item while at the market.

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Roasted Veggies!

Meal Ideas: These are all foods my babies and toddlers actually eat.

Breakfast

  • Scrambled eggs with butter (can season with homemade sauerkraut juice), blueberries (this is a meal they can feed themselves)
  • Unsweetened goat yogurt (or drizzled with honey after 12 months), or kefir smoothie, whole grain bread with almond butter
  • Soaked oatmeal/honey/butter/raisins with finely sliced natural breakfast sausage on the side
  • Sweet Oven Souffle, cut into squares, grapefruit wedges
  • Protein waffles, butter (syrup is just too messy for babies!)

Lunch

  • Veggie soup made with bone broth, avocado and/or Creme Fraiche (whipping cream cultured with yogurt starter for 24 hours) on top, can add sauerkraut juice after it has cooled a little in the bowl (home fermented or Bubbies brand are alive with probiotics)
  • Grassfed hot dog link, finely sliced, small pear pieces, cooked carrot medalions (another self-feed meal)
  • Hummus with olive oil, dabs of liver pate or avocado, applesauce or pumpkin souflee
  • Canned tuna/salmon/chicken with homemade mayo and raisins, thawed or cooked peas on the side
  • Dinner leftovers

Add a large salad to any of the above, and you’ve answered what to feed yourself for lunch as well.

Snack

  • Slices of raw cheese and a few raisins or apple slices (portable)
  • Goat yogurt with honey drizzle
  • Glass of raw milk (goat best for many babies) and a homemade muffin with butter (whole grain or almond/coconut flour, can have carrots, zucchini, or fruit in it) (also somewhat portable)
  • Banana and almond butter (peanut butter if no reaction)

Dinner

  • What you are eating!

Diet Makeover Wrap Up

If you’ve been following this Diet Makeover since the beginning, you may have wondered whatever happened at the end of the week. Sorry for the delay in blogging; I’ve been traveling and returning my own family into a normal schedule and wasn’t able to write.

I left my sister’s house on Saturday morning, after a few last hugs all around and a snuggle with Baby Mac. It’s always hard to hold him as I’m afraid he’ll “break” in my arms, although his parents assure me that won’t happen and I should just hold him like any other baby. Here he is with me (left) and his mom.

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I ask Mrs. Mom to weigh Baby Mac on Saturday morning to see if there was any change with the daily bone broth/butter oil supplementation. He has really struggled to gain weight, as healing from surgery requires so many additional calories. On Thursday he also had to fast for 12 hours for an MRI, (which just seems wrong and Mrs.Mom has decided to fight on the next go around), so we were holding our breath that he had retained his 4.5 ounce gain between Sunday and Tuesday. But low and behold, his weight had risen another 2.5 ounces to 14 lbs!! Good job Mac! Keep it up!

I can’t wait to see the results as he transitions even more to the broth/liver formula (Weston A. Price) which Mrs. Mom is making this week.

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Mr. Dad commented that his seasonal allergies had been better all week, except for right after indulging at Chic Fil’A, and that he hadn’t therefore needed his allergy medicine all week, which he normally took daily. The SCD diet makes no claim to restore immune health so quickly; it’s the long term nourishment and cleansing that truly bolsters the immune system, however wheat, sugar, and milk are all common allergies, and removing them from his diet may have helped Mr. Dad feel better so quickly.

In prep for the coming week, I gave Mrs.Mom an electronic version of my 2 week meal plan, which I’ve printed off and keep in my purse so I can quickly reference it while grocery shopping each week. She will need to revise it with some of their favorite meals (like Aeggekage) and delete some they don’t like or which have ingredients which they react to.

We plan to FaceTime this week so I can walk her through making a pizza crust with almond flour (yes, it can be done).

Some other menu ideas:
Curry Crockpot Chicken over diced apples and shredded cabbage
Tuscan white bean soup with sausage and kale
Grassfed beef hamburgers with cheese buns
Burrito bowls
Steak and roasted veggies

Have you enjoyed this Diet Makeover? What changes have you made to support a healthier lifestyle?

Day Four [Diet Makeover pt. 11]

Kids woke happy and ate up their muffins and yogurt in a flash. Here’s a happy face and empty bowl (sorry for the harsh lighting).

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Breakfast:
Ripe banana
Homemade 24 hour yogurt with berries and honey
Banana muffins [almond flour] with butter
Frittata with sauteed bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and sliced apple sausage, topped with cheddar (for Moms)

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Mr.Dad had to leave early for an appointment a few hours away, so he ate muffins and yogurt before the frittata was ready. Taking a lesson from yesterday’s Chic Fil-A incident, we discussed food options for him while on the road. The top ideas:

Restaurant Meal Ideas

A salad with grilled chicken, hold the dressing and croutons (a drivethru option, but it would be boring without dressing, and the chicken may be injected with sugar/corn syrup)

An omelette with veggies, meat, and aged cheese (cheddar, Swiss, etc.) if he could lunch at a breakfast place

A meat entree with veggies on the side, such as steak and asparagus, half a roasted chicken and green beans, etc. This is obviously an option for a nicer sit-down restaurant.

A burrito bowl, hold the rice and corn chips (this is what he chose at Baja Fresh)

Lunch:
Apple sausages, mandarins (kids)
Fajita leftovers as lettuce wraps (Moms) Yummy!

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Mrs.Mom and I made dinner together, converting one of her favorite recipes; a Danish Souffle. (We substituted kefir for milk and almond flour for wheat flour.)

Dinner:
Aeggekage, with honey caramel sauce
Chicken apple sausages

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SCD Aeggekage
9 large eggs
2 cups 24 hour kefir
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup liquid honey
1/2 tsp salt
Melt 1 stick of butter in a glass 9×13 pan in a 500 degree oven. Whisk ingredients together until foamy, carefully pour into hot pan, and bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Honey Caramel
1 stick butter
1/2 cup honey
Heat in saucepan over medium flame, stirring until boiling for about 5 minutes thickens sauce.

Also today I made 3 zucchini lasagnas for the freezer. Wash and thinly slice 1.5 lbs zucchini, dehydrate for about 2 hours on parchment lined pans in a 200 degree oven.

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Fry up 2 lbs of Italian sausage. I used a mixture of Trader Joes Sicilian chicken sausage (it has no sugar) and organic ground beef with Italian spices and garlic added.

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Add 2 jars of prepared marinara. (Wholefoods brand 365Everyday in no fat variety has no sugar or bad oils (soy and canola being the common bad oils) and is organic.)

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Assemble the lasagnas with meat sauce, then layer of zucchini, then cheese (using Trader Joes Quatro Formaggio which is an Italian blend).

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Then a layer of homemade ricotta: yogurt strained through a cheesecloth. You’ll need about a quart of yogurt drained through flour sack into a glass bowl for about 6 hours. Yield is 1 cup ricotta and 3 cups whey liquid (we are saving the whey as an ingredient in homemade baby formula).

For the lasagna ricotta, add one egg and some basil and nutmeg. Smear into a layer as well as you can, then repeat layers of meat sauce, zucchini, meat sauce, and top with cheese. These will make easy freezer meals in the coming weeks.

Task list:
Move yogurt, Creme Fraiche, and kefir to fridge, start new batches if desired
Make and serve above meals
Make and freeze lasagnas

Here’s a picture of me straining the yogurt ricotta from the whey. The lasagna pictures were taken by my eight year old daughter; thanks sweetie!

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