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Covid Recovery (part 2) – Fermented foods

I have avoided antibiotics like plague and by God’s Grace I didn’t have the need to take them for many years, until now.  This is why I need to bring attention to the most important and yet the most ignored aspect of our health – gut health. I strongly believe that our overall health is directly proportional to our gut health. Modern medicine has ignored it for the longest time and is slowly realizing the counter-intuitive effects of most medicines now.

So, as inevitable as it was, I had to take a course of antibiotics and as a result, have to pay some serious attention to improving my gut health. Read part 1 here in case you haven’t.

Please note that this is purely based on my personal experience. I am not a doctor and this is strictly my individual opinion. Please read the disclaimer below.

As I navigate the post Covid recovery, I am finding myself more and more pulled towards choosing fermented foods to improve and increase my gut microbiome which got more or less wiped out due the antibiotics. Fermented foods were already a part of our everyday diet but I wanted to find many more.  And if you try to find anything on fermented food, all you will find is kombucha, kimchi, kefir and such. No problem with that but it made me wonder – “If I haven’t had these before then why would I want to introduce foreign foods now?”

And so the more I read about improving gut health, the more confusing it got. Some suggested, Eat This! and another said, Avoid It completely! And after a while I realized that what my understanding on this subject was pretty good and much more sensible and sustainable and therefore I would stick to that. Here’s my two cents –

As you might know by now that I always talk about local, seasonal and native food and therefore, my choice of fermented food also isn’t going to be any different. I don’t want just any fermented food, but more of my regional ones; the ones my ancestors had as part of their diet. My biology and physiology would definitely be more accepting and inviting of it for sure. My body ecology will appreciate it and my inner ecosystem will flourish as a result. That’s it! That’s the key!

You see, when we look for health food options we often start incorporating foods that’s being touted as superfoods by media and that’s how oats, olive oil etc came into our kitchens. It’s absolutely fine as an occasional indulgence but replacing our staple regional cereals, oils and food in general that were part of our ancestral diet is in our DNA; that food which our body is accustomed to and that which is grown locally has far more benefits than any research study can ever show or will ever reveal to you. The biggest mistake we make when it comes to our health is to jump on to the latest bandwagon of whatever is trending as “healthy” without so much as batting an eyelid.

The huge gap in nutrition is that, it is NOT a “one size fits all”. What’s healthy for someone living in a different subcontinent may not be good for you necessarily. And it has a lot to do with what your body is accustomed to and what food your ancestors had consumed.

Wondering why the food eaten by our ancestors matter? Because, believe it or not, we share our microbiome with our ancestors! Yes, we get ours from our mothers during child-birth (especially during normal vaginal deliveries) and she got it from hers and so on. See the connection there!

So what we eat is not just directed towards nutrition for our organs, but also for the trillions of beneficial bacteria that lives in our gut. And like I said earlier, a healthy microbiome equals a healthy immune system and a healthy body. Therefore, I believe that our food choices are very important and not just any food but our regional food, that which had been traditionally consumed. That right there is the missing link to one’s health. That’s the customization we miss out while assessing health foods. I hope you will look into your regional foods while you do your own research on health foods.

So coming to listing out my regional (my region being South of India, Tamil Nadu specifically) fermented food, I found the ones topping the list were none other than the most humble ones that had been called “poor man’s food” and pushed aside.

  1. pazhaya sadam (day old cooked rice, soaked overnight)
  2. Koozh (fermented Ragi porridge)
  3. Curd
  4. buttermilk
  5. Pickle

You might say that idly, dosa, uttapam, appam, fermented vadams etc. can also be added to the list. But I feel that even though they are made using fermented ingredients, once we cook it, the beneficial microbes get killed and therefore can’t impart the benefits. And that’s the reason I am not including it in my list of top fermented foods of my region.

Now, the one thing I would like to say to my readers is this. Though you might want to try all the exotic fermented foods out there, do consider incorporating your regional foods to the list. Whether you are from a different part of India or a different country, every region has its own amazing collection of ancient fermented foods that have been part of their tradition and eating culture. I suggest that you include them in your diet regularly to improve your gut health. Don’t get bogged down by the millions of views out there. It finally comes down to personalizing ‘your’ diet to suit ‘your’ body. That’s the reason why I am not giving you a huge list of all the fermented foods under the sun; because you should be the one deciding that.

A final thought – Whether you are recovering from Covid/any other infection or not, fermented foods are hands down the most important foods you must include in your diet.

We are slowly losing the art of fermentation in our increasingly busy world. Just a little bit of fore-thought and planning can help you enjoying some of these simple yet gut-heathy dishes.

Raising a toast to all these wonderful bacteria, the unsung heroes for imparting good health upon us!

Here’s to a healthy gut!

Disclaimer – I am NOT a medical doctor. These are not meant to be cure or alternative to medications. This is strictly based on my personal experiences. Please do your own research and use your own discretion. I am simply sharing my thoughts and opinions. If it doesn’t align with your situation or thought process, simply move on. You are most welcome to agree or disagree. Thank you for being a discerning reader.

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2 thoughts on “Covid Recovery (part 2) – Fermented foods”

    1. Hey Geetha, So nice to hear that. Regarding pickle the best thing I feel is to prepare our own with less salt, oil, chilli and of course with zero preservatives. That way we can control what goes into our pickle. Hope this helps.

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