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One of the most essential elements of an anti-cancer diet is making sure we eat to feed and balance our gut microbiome. Beneficial bacteria are every person’s own insurance policy to ensuring that our immune system is supported at every level.

I remember going into my German grandmother’s musty smelling basement in her over 500 year old house and watching her retrieve a jar of home-made sauerkraut. Making your own fermented foods was a necessary food preservation method in those days. I had no idea then that I would one day be teaching cancer patients about the potent health food contained in that jar.

Today most of us are familiar with store-bought probiotics that can cost you quite a bit if you wish to get a quality product. There is an easier way of obtaining a healthy dose of a variety of lactobacilli bacteria – ferment your own veggies! When you ferment vegetables, the bacteria that are naturally present on the surface of vegetables undergo a process of lacto-fermentation, converting the natural sugars present into lactic acid, one of the most natural preservatives you can find.

Fermented foods are a cancer warrior’s best friend! They provide you with a variety of different strains of beneficial lactobacilli bacteria that:

  • strengthen your immune system
  • act as a natural anti-oxidant
  • improve digestion
  • help with nutrient absorption
  • aid in toxin elimination
  • provide raw enzymes
  • keep sugar cravings at bay
  • balance your acid-alkaline ratio

While you may think making your own ferments is a complicated process, think again! All you need to get started is:

  1. 2-3 glass mason jars
  2. Something to press down the fermented vegetables inside the jar, like a meat tenderizer mallet
  3. 3. Water (if any)
  4. 2 tablespoons Salt (fine celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt are both excellent choices)
  5. 1 head of white cabbage (or red cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, daikon radish, kale, the sky’s the limit!)
  6. A sharp knife or grater
  7. Time!
  8. Optional spices: caraway seeds, freshly grated ginger, fresh herbs such as dill, rosemary, thyme)

The process is easy!

  • Chop or grate the cabbage finely into a large bowl and mix with the salt and spices.
  • Pound and massage to release natural juices, then press into a wide-mouthed mason jar.
  • Pack the cabbage in very tightly, using a meat mallet or something else that can press the veggies into the jar until their own juices rise up and above the level of the veggies. You can add filtered water should there not be sufficient juice. It is important that all veggies are completely covered by juice/water.
  • Leave about 1 ½ inches of space between the top of the jar and the juice-covered veggies as they expand during fermentation.
  • Close the jars very tightly, as oxygen is the enemy of successful fermentation

Keep the jars at room temperature for the first few days, ideally around 70 degrees F for 2-4 days. More time is required if the temperature is cooler, and less time if the room is warmer. Burp daily to release excess pressure, visible with the bulging lid. A sour smell is normal.

Then place the jars on the top shelf of your fridge. They will keep for a few months. The tart, slightly sour flavor increases with time, but the veggies can be eaten immediately. Use them as a daily condiment, not a side dish, in other words eat small quantities. If the veggies get bubbly or display little foamy spots on top, just scoop them off with a clean spoon, this is normal.

REFERENCES

Fallon, Sally, “Nourishing Traditions” (2001) New Trends Publishing

Gates, Donna, “The Body Ecology Diet” (2011), Hay House Publishing

Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond, Marco ML, Heeney D, Binda S, Cifelli CJ, Cotter PD, Foligné B, Gänzle M, Kort R, Pasin G, Pihlanto A, Smid EJ, Hutkins R. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2016 Dec 17;44:94-102. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2016.11.010.

Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food, Park KY, Jeong JK, Lee YE, Daily JW 3rd, J Med Food. 2014 Jan;17(1):6-20. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2013.3083.

Functional properties of Lactobacillus strains isolated from kimchi, Lee H, Yoon H, Ji Y, Kim H, Park H, Lee J, Shin H, Holzapfel W., Int J Food Microbiol. 2011 Jan 31;145(1):155-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2010.12.003.

 

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