Are you scared of “fermented” foods?

Twenty years ago, I learned about cultured, or fermented, probiotic-rich living foods. I was a total freak at the time. I was very alone. I knew a few older ladies who were “into” it, but I didn’t dare tell my peers what I was doing. Or my in-laws.

I was slowly becoming an alien life form—not immunizing my kids, making “rotten food” (not really, but that’s what they would have thought), blending up arugula in the blender…..so many habits foreign to a Cheetos-and-Diet-Pepsi-Processed-Food World.

Fortunately, some of these “advanced” concepts in nutrition, while most dietitians and nutritionists still aren’t embracing them, are becoming “mainstream” enough that health food stores are now selling raw, fermented food products. They’re outrageously expensive, though. I hope you make your own because doing so involves a small learning curve but the habits themselves are SO inexpensive.

Five years ago, I addressed this subject on my blog and posted an expanded version of the following content and YouTube video. I teach all about many cultured foods habits in living color in Step 8 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods.

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: I really like the idea of adding the Rejuvelac as my green smoothie base, but I’m honestly totally freaked out to leave something perishable on my counter top in an unsealed container for several days. What are the chances that “bad bacteria” get in there and make me sick? I really appreciate any feedback you have. It sounds like a great opportunity to make green smoothies do even more for me, but I can’t get over the initial concept. –Grace

Answer: Grace, I think it might help if I explain the concept a bit more. Fermented foods are part of your diet already if you eat yogurt or sauerkraut or even beer. The manufacturer had to let it sit at room temperature for a time to grow the cultures.

Also, before refrigeration, human beings had a stronger inner terrain and microbes rarely harmed them. Of course, now we have antibiotics that have seriously damaged most people’s balance of beneficial microorganisms colonizing the digestive tract. We also have refined foods weakening us, and few, if any, cultured foods strengthening us. We now seem to believe that killing a couple million of the billions of microscopic critters around us will somehow do the trick.

It’s a weird modern concept that everything we eat has to be sterilized—ancient peoples lived among billions of organisms very peacefully for thousands of years. So maybe our food is sterilized, fumigated, pasteurized, irradiated…..but there are billions of organisms everywhere ELSE (which makes the antibiotic wipes a pointless waste of money).

So, it feels unnatural to you but only because of our strange modern traditions, and the fact that we’ve gotten away from eating foods that nurture our gut’s need for healthy colonization. Just ONE course of antibiotics can change the gut’s internal terrain forever.

Every culture of the world eats cultured foods. Some chew up a food with their saliva, spit it into an earthen pot, and drink it a week later. (I won’t be teaching you those methods, don’t worry.) There are literally hundreds of types of cultured foods in the traditions of indigenous peoples and those who have not completely adopted processed diets.

My 12 Steps to Whole Foods program deals with this subject in an easily understood, condensed way in Ch. 8 and uses what I feel is a do-able, moderate amount of probiotic foods. My work focuses on culturing vegetables, optionally some raw, antibiotic- and hormone-free milk, or coconut liquid. In fact, I now culture my coconut liquid before using it in Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie, which is one of my most-loved recipes in the 12 Steps course where we shift to whole-foods breakfasts. Just put kefir grains (obtained online) in your coconut liquid topped with a vented lid on the counter. Each day, pour the fermented coconut liquid into your blender to make your breakfast, then put fresh coconut liquid into the jar with the same kefir grains. Every day, do the same and you will have a freshly cultured breakfast every morning for excellent digestive health.

Does it help you to know that I have had from a quart to a half-gallon of raw kefir, yogurt, coconut kefir, sprouts, Rejuvelac, or sauerkraut on my counter pretty much every day of my life for the past 17 years? We have had zero instances of infection and zero food poisoning, which people seem to fear is related to cultured foods.

It also helps if you understand the process of how food has historically been preserved. You can preserve foods a few ways. One, drying it to dramatically slow oxidation, which often involves lots of salt. Two, can it by killing all its life force (enzymes and vitamins) so that there’s very little to oxidize, and then sealing it against air and bacteria. Third, utilizing lactobacillus and other beneficial organisms and lactic acid to break down the proteins and preserve the food (fermenting).

The way I make sauerkraut (see Ch. 8 of 12 Steps) is that the unrefined salt preserves it for a few days while the (slower) lactic acid begins to take over. I have two-year old raw sauerkraut (that I preserved with whey from my yogurt/kefir) that has been unsealed (but covered tightly with a lid) that we are still eating. At this point, it’s too soft for my liking—it’s better, texture-wise, at six months old—but nevertheless it’s preserved and the healthy bacteria help my family stay healthy.

It might help to address the semantics. The word “fermented” has a negative connotation. (Although, beer drinkers who wouldn’t be caught dead eating fermented vegetables drink PLENTY of fermentation.) When you think of fermented, do you think of ROTTEN? We aren’t eating any rotten foods at my house. We could mentally replace that word with a much nicer one: cultured!

So, don’t eat fermented foods. Eat cultured ones!

If “bad” bacteria gets into your cultured foods and makes them “go bad,” you will know. They will taste bad and/or mold. I have almost never had this happen. Once it happened with a bottle of sauerkraut. Never with kefir or Rejuvelac.

My Rejuvelac ferments in a day in the summer. In the colder months, I let it culture for 2 days.

Here’s my video showing this easy, inexpensive habit that could help you get through the winter without viruses or infections!

11 thoughts on “Are you scared of “fermented” foods?

Leave a Comment
  1. Robyn, thank you so much for this! I had never heard of Rejuvelac. I’ve done sauerkraut for the very reasons you mentioned above, but it takes weeks to ferment and of course requires cabbage. This is so much simpler, and so economical! Perfect timing before we head into the colder months. Love the idea of adding it to smoothies also. I’ll make a batch of this ASAP and start using it.

    FWIW, one of our kids had to see a gastroenterologist for some allergy issues, and he said that naturally fermented foods are a FAR better source of probiotics than purchased supplements. He was actually excited to find out that I knew about them. 🙂

    1. Susie,

      In reality, having multiple sources of probiotics is key. Rejuvelac is a great way to make your green smoothies probiotic (plus I think it makes them taste a little better). Capsules typically aren’t a good source of probiotics because many of the probiotic strands are killed by your stomach acid.

      Kefir is my favorite type of probiotic – it has over 20 different probiotic strands, has almost no lactose once it is cultured, can be consumed as a meal, is very nutritious, and the probiotics are resistant to stomach acid, making it pound for pound the best probiotic I have consumed.

      Kombucha also has some probiotics as well as antioxidant properties that can detoxify the body. It takes several weeks to culture and does consume some sugar, but it’s a great alternative to drinking sodas that are packed with corn syrup and chemicals.

      Other foods that have been cultured such as kimchi, sour kraut, carrots, or even sourdough bread also have probiotics that are great for the body if they are prepared properly. I’ve read Robyn’s 12 step book and it brought my health, as well as probiotic intake, to a whole new level. I highly suggest you get a copy.

      In my opinion/experience, a combination of these cultures will give you the best results. Make sure to slowly ease into consuming a high amount of probiotics though – consume small amounts to see how your body reacts and then increase as you go.

      That’s my two cents. Hope this helps.

      1. Thor, Thanks for all the info! I do have Robyn’s book and have “tried” it off and on for a couple of years. We are now in a different situation where we are taking care of my mom who is NOT into trying new things. I struggle with making multiple meals, buying “our” food vs. “her” food. It adds quite a work load to my already busy day. I love the idea of Rejuvilac, though, so I will give that a try and add it to my smoothies.
        Blessings and great health to you!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. I used to make this all the time for my smoothies but stopped for some reason. What a great reminder I will have to start making it again.

  3. Great instructional video. I have been taught the value of probiotics in my Nutrition Certification course and wanted to learn how to do fermented drinks. Thanks!

  4. Robyn, I ran across your website a couple days ago and it’s very encouraging to see there’s hope for those who are going thru physical ailments. I’ve been dealing with gut problems, nerve issues, liver and kidney issues along with other aches and pain in the body. I’m doing my best to eat healthy by making smoothies and protein drinks for weight Gain. Once i can I’d like to purchase your products but as of right now we’re barley getting by, in the mean time I was wondering if you can give me some ideas to get my body back in order. It’s been a tough road for my husband and I, he’s had to stop working to take care of me. I’m now up, out of bed and so thankful. I just need some guidance to a healthy way of eating. I’m not expecting you to give me all this information but maybe just a little so help to get me started until I can afford your 12 step program.

    Blessings to you,
    Brenda Alarco

  5. Robyn, Thank you for sharing this! After coming attending your GSG seminar in 2012, I’ve been on and off again with consuming a veggie based diet and smoothies. Several different barriers have popped up making it more challenging to stick with the changes.
    Rejuvelac – I’ve made this in the past using the steps outlined in Ann Wigmore’s books. If she was alive today, she would be very proud of you.
    Your video has inspired me to start making Rejuvelac again.
    The first season of my “sprouting” life, I used the metal screens. After a few uses they started to rust. It is my opinion, the plastic canvas is the most cost effective way to go (can be purchased at any craft or fabric store in the needle point section for about $1).
    Please, please, continue to make videos like this. You’re a continued inspiration not only for myself, but others. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!!

  6. I just tried making the rejuvelac after sprouting quinoa. I blended the quinoa and alkaline water then poured the liquid into glass jars. They sat not he counter for 2 1/2 days and then I put what I hadn’t used in the fridge (but not with an air tight lid). Today is day 5 and I have mold in one of my jars. Can someone help me understand what I can do differently? Also do you just drink the clear liquid (once the grain settles to the bottom) or all of it together?

Leave a Reply