Breast cancer and your diet

Latest study links processed meat to increased risks of breast cancer.

Your diet and breast cancer
Breast cancer and your diet

Latest research confirms processed meat increases breast cancer risk

I generally have mixed feelings writing about lifestyle choices correlated with increased risks of cancer. I don’t think provoking people’s fear is usually beneficial and I don’t see my role as pushing people towards or away from things that I feel are important. Even as a vegetarian and now a non-strict vegan I have never found that scare tactics draw people into thinking about their own wellbeing or that of others. I do retain however a genuine sense of gratitude to the people that educated me about the relationship between diet, gut bacteria and mental and physical health. So if I highlight the latest research reviewing the dangers of eating processed meats it does reflect my own thoughts but I hope that it offers readers the opportunity to make an informed choice about what they eat.

An understanding of the health risks of eating animal products has been around for decades, and the scientific evidence of potential dangers linked to meat consumption increase week to week. The latest study to hit the media, reports that women who eat processed meat products such as bacon and sausages, have a 9% increased risk of breast cancer compared to women eating low levels of those products. This is not the first (nor the last I’ll bet) study that links meat with increased risks of developing cancer. But once you look into this issue further you realize that eating processed meat is a triple whammy! Firstly you have the statistically evidenced increased risk of breast cancer, secondly there are also greater risks of a wide range of other health problems. But also that while you’re eating potentially harmful animal products you are not consuming health supporting fresh fruit and vegetables.

As a society we know that the mass, unthinking consumption of animals and animal products isn’t helping us individually or benefiting the wider society. I’m an advocate of a healthy diet based primarily on plants, including fermented products. The indications are that even if you eat fresh fruit and vegetables alongside your processed meats, the benefits to your gut health are going to be limited. A final point to consider is that if we know that the type and quality of the food we eat affects our own health, what is the impact on us of the diet of the animals we consume? If animals are being reared in harsh unsanitary conditions, dependent on antibiotics for their survival and with poor quality fodder, should we be surprised if eating them increases our risks of poor health?

Beat obesity with lentils; a probiotic superfood?

Lentils appear to have an important role to play in human health and wellbeing., particularly obesity.

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Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

A simple message; loose weight and improve your health by eating lentils.

I’m not really an advocate of taking the pleasure out of eating food, people must choose to eat what they want, what they can afford and what suits their lifestyle. I am however disappointed with the lack of relevant health messages provided for consumers (it is in some regards why this blog was started). I think the humble lentil illustrates this point particularly well. Lentils (in general) have a number of qualities not widely known about or discussed in the mainstream, they are high in fibre, low in fat, good sources of protein, they are widely available, easy to grow and relatively inexpensive. It should also be mentioned that they are ingredients in some very popular dishes including soups, stews and daals. Lentils are good for us on so many levels that the government and the NHS should be funding extensive lentil related research and promotions. We also now know that lentils are an excellent prebiotic.

Intestine-diagramIn the context of food, prebiotics are fibre able to pass through the digestive system to the large bowel (colon), where they feed and thus encourage the growth of helpful bacteria.

At around 1% fat, lentils are a useful addition to the food cupboards of people striving to maintain a healthy body weight. There is also evidence that their prebiotic effects may also offer support in the fight against obesity. There is a growing body of scientific research suggesting that less calories and more prebiotics are correlated with lower levels of obesity. Prebiotics are now known to increase the quality and quantity of gut bacteria in the colon and lead to the augmentation in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA are linked to both increased efficiency in the use of calories and decreased obesity. Overall, the evidence suggests that eating lentils regularly is associated with reductions in levels of obesity. Lentils also tend to make you feel full, which has obvious implications for health and diet.

Another key issue to mention is that lentils are high in protein, up to 20g in a 100g serving. This is particular useful for vegans and vegetarians whom sometimes struggle to find enough protein in plant based food. As well as protein you can expect to receive significant proportions of wider nutritional needs in from lentils, such as around half your daily recommended intake of Thiamine (B1), VB6, Folate (B9), Iron, Phosphorus and Zinc.

It should be pointed out again that lentils are tasty and versatile, their consumption doesn’t have to be a chore. The take home point is that by eating lentils three or four times a week you might be able to significantly improve your health and wellbeing in a number of ways. Always interested in receiving and publishing your lentil recipes!

To fully explore the benefits of lentils would require a series of articles but if anyone is interested in the specific role lentils have in reducing obesity, take a look at the work by Dil Thavarajah , Pushparajah Thavarajah, Casey R. Johnson and Shiv Kumar here.

Make your own kefir: everything you need to know

Milk and water kefir, resources for anyone thinking of making their own at home.

Kefir in a glass

Kefir resources to help you on the journey of fermentation

Why not make your own kefir, it’s good for you, cost effective and much simpler than you’d imagine. Kefir is really hot right now, it’s got a high visibility in the health and fermented food niche and shows signs that it could break out in the mainstream. I say this as a guy that never heard of kefir a few years ago, now I’m making my own at home. Although making kefir is pretty easy there are a few potential pitfalls, particularly to people new to fermentation, so I decided to share resources that I found useful.

For our own practical guide into home kefir production click here.

Keeping your kefir going, a practical video guide on how to keep the grains living whilst harvesting the product.

There is a BBC guide to the health benefits of kefir, it’s a little bit dated in approach, I guess you wouldn’t expect anything less from the BEEB.

Mad Millie Kefir Kit at Lakeland was our first experience of DIY kefir. The kit contains everything you need to get started and so is a useful first step for beginners. The Lakeland site also has a lot of items that fermenters might find useful including, Kilner jars, cheesecloth, wooden utensils.

A journal study exploring the microbial interactions in kefir, largely linked to the composition and health benefits of lactobacillus.

The Wikepedia kefir page is not the best DIY resource on the internet but it gives a good overview and links to a lot of the relevant research to anyone interested in the science.

The Cultures for Health guide to Kefir, useful information for new and experienced fermenters. Links to plenty of related articles including some water kefir insights.

For information on vegan kefir, visit the Nourished Kitchen website. All the ins and outs of  home productions, tips and recipes.

How to start home fermentation

Home fermentation, have you tried the Kilner fermentation set?

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Is a home fermentation kit necessary? For the occasional production of sauerkraut I’m not sure that special equipment is essential. Maggie has managed to keep us supplied with our fermented foods simply by using medium sized jam jars, and a range of normal kitchen utensils. The point she always stresses is that everything has to be clean. The fermentation vessel should be thought of as a bacterial incubator. If you incorporate harmful bacteria into the incubator it will inevitably grow quickly. You should throw any tainted product away , clean everything and start again. One of the many appealing aspects of home fermentation is the relatively low cost of fermenting produce. Consider that at current prices a liter of organic sauerkraut can be created for less than 50p (ten bob!).

I know that previous generation of home fermenters from Poland and Germany actually had a range of fermentation pots and tools that were accumulated through the course of married life (I don’t remember seeing any of these is the kitchen of my mother or grandmother).  In particular ceramic pots that were dedicated fermentation vessels. They had necks wide enough that a small plate or large saucer could be accommodated within to keep the  fermented product under the water level.

With the rising interest in home fermentation equipment has passed from specialist shops and online retailers into mainstream retail outlets. We purchased a Kilner fermentation kit at the weekend. Our primary motivation was to increase the volumes of our product. Not only has our own consumption increased but we are also sharing more with our own friends and family. It certainly seems that the public awareness of the benefits of fermentation is growing. The Kilner kit was fairly priced (£18) when compared to similar products and the fermenting jar was around the size we were looking for (3 liters). It all seems OK, we’ll report back when our first batch is ready (cabbage and carrot). We have no particular connection with Kilner, save that we use their 1liter fermentation jars already.

We’d be really interest in what other home fermenters use,  and any equipment related tips would be most welcome. Feel free to leave any suggestions, comments or feedback in the box below.

The role of temperature in producing sauerkraut

Is temperature linked to the quality of your sauerkraut?

idea temerature for fermentation
what is the best temperature for fermentation?

In the short time we have been running this blog we have been asked about the optimum temperature for the fermentation process to take place. We have successfully fermented a range of foodstuffs at room temperature,  let’s say from 18oC to 22o. There is no method in this, it is simply that Maggie was brought up to leave the fermenting vegetables in the kitchen or a heated utility room. As such we’ve never been tempted to leave them in the garage or garden shed. As different types of cabbage take different amounts of time to ferment into sauerkraut, it always seemed likely that temperature is a variable in the process.

I eventually became impatient not knowing, I was also intrigued by the idea that  the quality of our own sauerkraut fermentation could be qualitatively improved by allowing it to take place at a slightly lower or higher temperature. The first two science papers I found dealing with the issue didn’t offer explicit conclusions, however third time lucky! India is one of the world’s big producers of cabbage, the spoiling of the raw cabbage before it gets to the consumer is a significant problem. So Indian interest in fermentation is something that is culturally relevant but also has commercial implications. An article in the Indian Journal of Ecology from 2017,  Effect of Temperature on Fermentation and Quality of Sauerkraut provided a lot of useful data.

In an experiment, Pran Krishna Thakur, Payel Panja and Jahangir Kabir tested the quality of sauerkraut produced at a low (15o-20o C), ambient (25o-30o C) and high (35o-40o C) temperatures. The paper is well written if you’d like to know more about yeast and bacterial profiles of sauerkraut fermentation at different temperatures follow the link. However the headline is that the sauerkraut was of a higher quality when fermented at the lower temperature (15o-20o C). This is in line with the general advice, however it’s worth noting that the experiment was undertaken with the shaan variety. I suspect that there may be some variability with different types of cabbage, but that’s a story for another day.

Simple homemade sauerkraut recipe

How to make simple sauerkraut, a traditional homemade fermentation recipe, suitable for beginners, inexpensive but very healthy.

cabbage
fermented cabbage for lifelong health and wellbeing

This a very simple recipe illustrating how easy it is to to make healthy fermented foods. Sauerkraut is a perfect starting point for your first fermentation project, it is quick, low cost and will provide plenty of gut friendly bacteria. Those little friends will work for you, supporting your immune and digestive systems, helping you to feel great physically and mentally. This is based on a traditional recipe from my family, quite literally passed on from mother to daughter for generations. If you are interested in a technical explanation of how fermentation and probiotics works, and what the evidence is for the health benefits, follow the link to resources at the foot of the page.

Ingredients:

  • around 1kg cabbage (finely sliced)
  • 1 medium carrot (grated)
  • salt (unprocessed, such as sea salt, do not use table or iodised) – proportion for cabbage to salt: 1kg of cabbage to 20 grams of salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 allspice berries

Preparation:

  1. make sure everything is perfectly clean, (the containers, utensils, work surfaces, chopping boards) as you want only good bacteria to grow
  2. take off first layer of leaves from your cabbage, also remove any damaged leaves
  3. finely cut or shred it
  4. grate the carrot
  5. mix it in a big bowl
  6. add salt and massage it in until cabbage starts release its juice then leave it for about 10 min
  7. you may wish to use a wooden vegetable stomper to squeeze more juice (different names for the same tool are pounder or tamper)
  8. put 1/3 of your mixture in a ceramic pot or you can use a glass jar, just make sure it is sterilised
  9. add 1 bay leave and 2 allspice berries
  10. add another 1/3 of the cabbage
  11. add 1 bay leave and 2 allspice berries
  12. squeeze it until brine covers all of the cabbage (it needs to stay submerged throughout the fermentation process)
  13. put the pot or jar on a plate just in case it spills out of the jar, the level will rise, if you use a glass jar don’t allow the product to make contact with a metal jar lid
  14. you can use a weight to keep the cabbage immerse or even a small (clean) plate
  15. Leave for 5-6 days and voila 😉

Remember:

Do not use a metal bowl or metal utensils as they will react with salt, sorry to be a bore but everything must be clean, any harmful bacteria you introduce may taint the product. Make your first batch small, then scale up. Remember with fermented vegetables you win in many ways you get the nutritional value of the ingredients plus the probiotic benefits.

Feedback:

Please leave feedback about this or your own fermented recipe in the comments section lower down the page.

Resources:

For the science behind fermentation visit the resources page, please see our disclaimer.

Fermented foods; improved health and wellbeing

Fermented food is linked to significantly improved physical and mental health

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Welcome to Gut Well Soon, a website committed to sharing knowledge about how fermented foods are able to dramatically improve health and wellbeing. For decades scientific research has supported the view that there is a strong correlation between the state of your gut bacteria and your physical and mental health. If this seems far fetched I encourage you to look into the scientific research in this area.

An essential component of a healthy gut is the balance and blend of living microorganisms in the digestive system. Fermented foods can have valuable levels of beneficial living microorganisms that meditate a range of beneficial processes.

Since the late 20th century, a number of factors have been linked with a decline in healthy gut bacteria, not least the use of powerful pharmaceutical products. Whilst drugs can kill significant amounts of harmful bacteria they may also reduce helpful, health promoting bacteria. Some fermented foodstuffs contain large numbers of these healthy microorganisms and have been directly related to a number of benefits.

Many traditional fermented foods are widely available and include pickled vegetables as well as yogurt based products. Humans have been eating fermented food for thousands of years. You may have many inexpensive fermented products in your own food cupboards right now. We are creating an extensive directory as well as some great recipes and instruction sheets.  If you are interested in fermented foods, two ideas that you should start with are:

  • foods labelled pasteurized are unlikely to contain healthy living bacteria
  • following simple instructions you can safely make delicious fermented foods in your own home

This is a growing movement so please share your thoughts and ideas. Use the comments boxes to tell us about any experiences good or bad feel. We welcome information about relevant products and services in the market.