Anyone watch How To Lose Weight Well last night on Channel 4? It got me thinking the best way to stay healthy and lose weight is to be in control of your food…
Human beings are complicated pieces of work. We’d like to think that we function out of our own sheer will-power, but not so! It’s easy to forget that there are trillions of microscopic things inside us that make us work and what’s more, one could even argue that it’s the stuff in our gut that’s responsible for the vast majority of it.
Probiotics are microscopic bacteria that are introduced into the body usually coming from fermented foods. Fermented foods are foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, plain yoghurt, pickles, lassi, (ok, that last one is a drink, but you get it) that have been through the process of lactofermentation. Lactofermentation is a process during which bacteria feed on the sugars/starches in these foods thus creating lactic acid. This makes the food easier to digest and restores the balance of your gut flora that can be offset by high consumption of refined sugars or having high levels of stress. Probiotics allows the good bacteria to flourish over the bad ones which keeps you healthy and level-headed.
Our gut bacteria is essential because they help with the absorption of essential nutrients, digestion, immune system function, and even affect our mood/behavior—“The gut is lined with neurons that can influence our emotions and feelings [so] research further suggests that as probiotic bacteria contribute to a healthy gut, they are also linked to a healthy mind,” (BBC Good Food). Did you know serotonin, which is an essential neurotransmitter linked to mood, is created in the gut? Because I surely didn’t!
My absolute favourite fermented food, and one that I consume on a regular basis, is kombucha. There is a lot of speculation and legend surrounding the origins of kombucha (Genghis Khan and his armies are rumored to have been into it), but in essence, kombucha is fermented tea and is mostly believed to have started in China a really long time ago. Also known as the “Tea of Immortality,” it slowly made its way throughout Europe and Russia via the Silk Road spreading its goodness wherever it went. It’s a delicious fizzy drink with a bit of a kick that will leave you feeling energized and satisfied.
I know what you’re thinking—“I gotta get my hands on this magical elixir before I make like Genghis and pillage the nearest village!” Yes, I too felt the same way upon first hearing about the wondrousness of this stuff. And I developed even stronger feelings for kombucha after my first taste despite the fact that I was now out of a fair chunk of change. Kombucha does not come cheap! Depending on which health food store you go to (Holland and Barrett, Earthy’s, your local independent oraganic shop) and the brand, a single bottle can cost you anywhere between £1.90 and £4.00. That might not seem like much on first glance, but if you get to love the stuff as much as I do, that’ll really add up.
Sad? Don’t be because I have the best solution ever: do it yourself! Kombucha is one of the easiest femented things to make. I’ve been brewing my own for a few months now and let me tell you there is nothing more satisfying than enjoying a delicious healthy thing you’ve made with your own two hands.
Now this will require a bit of equipment and, of course, time. Equipment is easily obtainable: you’ll need a gallon sized glass jar, tea towel, rubber band, a plethora of black tea bags, and sugar. But the most important thing is your SCOBY: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. This rubber looking disk is what makes kombucha what it is. Though you can get it online for about £6—7 pounds, I’d say ask around first to see if someone in your circle is making their own. You know the deal! Keep it local, sharing is caring, etc. and so forth.
As far as the process is concerned, there are myriad resources online. My favourite one and the guide I use the most can be found on YouTube—Beginners Guide to Fermentation: Kombucha Makings by the Brothers Green Eats. Very simple, easily understandable video that breaks it all down and gives you some great comprehensive info on how to make. You’ll be baffled at how easy this really is.
Kombucha is safe for daily consumption, I usually tend to drain half a bottle at a time. This drink is amazing because not only is it rich in probiotics (which as we now know are crucial for overall health) but also has plenty of great antioxidants, can improve cellular health, maintain cholesterol levels, improve digestion and boost immunity.
Be warned though! Drinking over-fermented or contaminated kombucha can get you seriously sick. It’s important to keep an eye on your SCOBY during the process—if it starts to get moldy definitely throw the whole thing out. It’s also important to leave your jar alone during the fermentation process. Manipulating the jar or placing it in a sunny spot will change PH levels which can screw the whole thing up. Ideally, PH levels should be between 2.5 and 3.5. The lower the PH the tarter the batch; the higher the PH the sweeter the batch. I haven’t officially tested my kombucha’s PH levels but for me, it’s all about taste—if I like how it tastes after 6 days, then I’m good. If not, I leave it in for another day and taste again. Kombucha also has the potential to contain up to 3% alcohol since it’s fermented, though since I’ve been consuming it, I have yet to get schwifty.
So there you have it! Everything you need to make your very own Elixir of Life and reap all the great benefits that come with it. Just keep an eye on it, trust your taste buds and use your nose and you’ll be all good. Happy fermenting!
by Mireille C. Crocco