Fermented!

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Adaptation of a caprese salad that includes sauerkraut (center). Photo by Andrea Stuart.

Living a metabolic balance® lifestyle means continually learning what the body needs. It’s an ongoing adventure. When I started the program I didn’t have a particular fondness for bread. Then, my plan came with fermented rye bread. I was hesitant, having lived much of my adult life avoiding gluten, but it didn’t take me long to love it.

The more I have learned about nutrition and the relationship between the human gut and the human spirit, the more I have understood that the methods used to make foods is essential for determining its viability.

For instance, I have always loved sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, yogurt, kefir, and soy, but only once I started learning more about fermented foods (I recommend Michael Pollan’s show Cooked) did I begin believing that perhaps my affinity for these foods is the result of a primal craving for “living” foods. What my brain didn’t understand, my body did.

Benefits of Fermented Foods

Here’s the skinny:

  • Beneficial enzymes and naturally occurring probiotics created in fermented foods provide gut and bowel relief and promote better absorption of nutrients.
  • B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids also present provide ample immune and nervous system support.

That means better sleep and internal stress management and fewer cravings for empty calories.

The Search for Fermented Breads

Once I moved into the maintenance phase of metabolic balance® my task became clear: seek out restaurants and chefs who are making dough with long fermentation processes, that is, not making breads with quick-rise yeast.

Why does it matter? Word on the street (or lab, as the case may be) is that we digest breads that are traditionally fermented better than breads that are not because dough that rises for 12-48 hours gives the yeast time to break down the gluten proteins (hello, sour dough bread!).

During my last visit to Bend, Oregon, I ate at Deschutes Brewery Pub House. Knowing that our friend is a sous-chef at the restaurant and a supporter of sustainable farming and the slow food movement, I asked him sheepishly, “Do you let your breads rise in the traditional method?” Half expecting him to raise an eyebrow, I saw a grin cross his face. He told me Deschutes proudly rises their dough for two days! I couldn’t order the Margherita pizza fast enough. The best part was, when I finished my meal, I felt content and healthy.

I have since made a habit of asking one or two questions when I eat at most restaurants: 1) Do you make your dough in-house? and 2) How long do you let the bread rise? The answer tells me whether or not I should order their bread products.

There are still many restaurants who serve quick-rise or manufactured breads, but the beautiful thing is that by asking these questions, I’m opening a dialogue with the chefs and letting them know there is an interest in employing these traditional methods.

My hope is that we will find more kitchens around the world—both in our homes and in restaurants—that go back to cooking’s roots in order to re-establish a healthy relationship with food: a relationship built on intimacy, nutrition, and communion.

Now, let’s break bread!

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