Why You Should Be Eating Fermented Foods
Q & A with Gut “Guru” Sharon Juraszek
Dr. of Ayurvedic Medicine & Owner of Fermentlicious
All of us have probably seen those fermented foods on the shelves, heard the growing rumors of gut-healing benefits, and seen this trend move upward in the last several years... But what is it all really about?
Sauerkraut is essentially fermented cabbage, and it has reportedly been consumed for the past 4,000 years. The process of fermentation creates a world full of probiotics, healthy bacteria, vitamins A, C and K, magnesium and potassium, to name just a few.
It is now understood that a large part of our immune system resides in our digestive system; the human body is made up of 10x more bacterial cells than human cells. What does this tell us? Bacteria are important, and the ones we consume are even more so! Our physical and mental wellness depend greatly on this microbiome being balanced, healthy and diverse. We spoke with gut “guru” Sharon Juraszek, creator and owner to Fermentlicious, to get some answers on caring for this diverse system within us.
Q: Why exactly is sauerkraut so good for our digestive system?
A: Because of the amount of beneficial bacteria in such a small serving. We have more bacteria cells than actual human cells, and most of those bacteria cells reside in the gut. When we have a healthy gut microflora...it is like having healthy soil. When you have healthy soil, the tomato is going to taste better, it’s going to be juicier and the color more vibrant. Our soil, or our microbiome needs to be diverse. That bacteria, the lactobacillus in sauerkraut helps to populate that beneficial bacteria, which has been proven. The gut has an impact on the entire body, whether it is vascular or skeletal…. all of the systems.
Q: What are the benefits of having a healthy gut flora?
A: Well, all disease begins in the digestive system. If our digestion isn’t on track, then disease slowly starts to manifest in different ways. Starting with digestion whether it is gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation or IBS, it will help address that. Once you get the digestive system under control, then the immune system (because 70-90% of our immune system resides in our digestive system) slowly starts to become strong. Since I started making sauerkraut, I haven’t been sick once. I get scared saying that, you know when you put something out there, but it has really redefined my immune system. I was one of those people that, twice a year, I would be down with something. Once your gut flora is healthy, your skin is brighter, hair longer, nails healthier, you have more energy, better digestion…you just feel better!
Q: What makes your ferments so unique?
A: Firstly, everything is organic, and I would say that intention is my key ingredient. My intention is to heal myself, to heal others, to provide a product that is sustainable, tastes good and actually helps people. That is why the glass jars I use are specifically made in the USA and I compost all of my food waste so that I don’t add to my carbon footprint.
Each batch goes through a 3-stage, fermenting process for a minimum of 30 days. I make small 5-gallon batches in vats lined in clay. This 3-stage fermenting process goes through different levels of bacteria; by the 4th week, one 12-oz jar is equivalent to 8 bottles of probiotic pills—billions and billions of beneficial bacteria, it’s been tested. I don’t use water either, I do it the traditional way using only sea salt and massaging it into the cabbage to create the brine. To compare, most sauerkraut is fermented in 20-gallon plastic trash bags. By using pink Himalayan salt, it gives it a low sodium content too, only 55 mg, which is the lowest sodium content sauerkraut on the market. Most range from 280-400 mg.
Q: Where and how do you suggest we start adding sauerkraut into our daily routines?
A: Two forkfuls with a meal (or two!) every day. Whether it’s vegan pizza, a macro bowl, sandwiches or anything savory. I would suggest The Healer, which is currently my best seller, The Plain Jane (just bare bones sauerkraut) or The Golden Goddess.
Q: What is a bit of your story and your background Sharon?
A: I grew up thinking candy was a food group. I grew up on chemicals and sugar. Once you get those bacteria in the belly craving the sugar, that’s all I ever wanted. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s 9 years ago and was told I would have to be on medication indefinitely, I knew I needed to make some major changes. I went looking for raw, organic fermented foods and every brand that I tried I didn’t like. So that’s when I was like, okay if I have to eat this once a day, I should definitely enjoy what I’m eating. So, I decided to make it myself. By the 6th month my thyroid numbers started to regulate. I was feeling different, my skin changed, and my chronic long-term constipation was regulating and that was the most profound change for me. As my digestive system grew strong and my immune system was in check, within 14 months I no longer had Hashimoto’s. Two years into making my own sauerkraut I decided to make it a business.
Q: Tell us a little more about your Ayurvedic practice.
A: I realized that gut issues had become an epidemic because everybody I knew had digestive problems. While googling gut health I found a quote by the professor of the school I ended up going to that said “all disease begins in the digestive system.” When I saw that I thought oh this is where i need to go next. That’s what led me into Ayurveda because they really get to the root cause of digestion and how to heal the body from a root cause perspective. It took me 5 years and I am now a Dr. of Ayurvedic medicine. Ultimately, Ayurveda addresses the imbalances of the elements in the body and brings it back into balance with nature.
Sharon sells her ferments at CROP, the farmers market downtown and other stores in the surrounding area. You can find more facts and details about Fermentlicious at her website https://fermentlicious.com/