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Fun Ferments on the Food for Mood course!

This week on the Food for Mood course we have been following recipes, eating well and having some fun with cabbage and carrots.

I have been explaining the the gut/brain connection. The link between the millions of microbes living in our gut and our mental health.

People are, in fact, made up of more bacteria cells than human cells. We have bacterial communities living in several areas of our body but most of these trillions of microbes are found in the large intestine section of our gut.

Each of our gut microbiotas is totally unique having been influenced since birth – firstly by our mother’s microbiome and then our environment, age, health status, medication, exercise, sleep, stress, diet, smoking etc.…

Gut bacteria look after us by stimulating the immune system, breaking down toxic foods and manufacturing vitamins and hormones essential to our health.

Vitamins manufactured include vitamin K, several B vitamins and the enzymes needed to produce vitamin B12.

Hormones include glutamate, GABA, dopamine and 95% of the body's supply of serotonin, the neurotransmitter which influences both mood and digestion, influencing feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) are commonly prescribed medications which prevent serotonin from being taken out of circulation therefor increasing feeling of happiness. MDMA (ecstasy) has a similar effect!

We have two ways of looking after our microbiome with food.

  1. Prebiotics which are undigestible to us, but the gut microbes thrive on them. These fibrous carbohydrates are found in wholegrains, beans, fruit, and many veg, leeks, onions cabbage and carrots are all rich in prebiotics.

  2. Probiotics foods containing live bacteria and therefore introducing new varieties to the existing microbiota. Fermented foods such as live yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir, kombucha all contain a wonderful array of microbes. These are traditional foods used for preservation around the world. Fermentation occurs when bacteria and yeasts breakdown sugars in the food and produce by-products such as lactic acid. Many shop bought ferments will have been pasteurized to prolong shelf life, but will not offer the benefits to your microbiome, making your own is fun, a little bit messy and economical.

Nat-Nut simple and economical recipe for Sauerkraut


1 x white cabbage finely sliced or grated.

5 x carrots peeled and grated.

1 tablespoon of sea salt

The fun part: (put on latex gloves if you have them)

In a bowl squeeze and massage the ingredients together until the vegetables start to release their juices and the texture softens.

Pack into sterilized jars, press down to push air bubbles out.

(to sterilize jars - wash in boiling water then 45 seconds in the microwave)

Use a piece of the cabbage core to ensure the vegetables are submerged under the juice when you put the lid on.

Keep on the kitchen top sitting on a saucer and release the gas bubbles once a day. Some juice may expand and leak out, just pour them away.

After 2 weeks open the jar remove the cabbage core and taste the sauerkraut, it should be tangy and no longer salty.

Keep in the fridge for a month and eat a teaspoon full each day to feed your microbiome.

Alternative veg –Green or red cabbage, beetroot, cauliflower, kale, onion..

Added flavours - Garlic, ginger, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, chilli….

Ferments make foods more digestible, which increases your gut’s ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals they contain.

Probiotic supplements contain between 1–50 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per capsule, 1 gram of sauerkraut may contain 1,000–100 million CFU. Making it the winner for microbial diversity.

Sauerkraut promotes healthy gut flora which may increase the absorption of mood-regulating micronutrients from your diet.

Both of these effects help reduce stress and maintain brain health.

In just 2 hour the group of 10 produced this gut friendly lunch of red lentil dahl, brown basmati rice, bio-live yogurt raita, carrot and ginger salad, garnished with fresh coriander, mint and black and white toasted sesame seeds. Good Mood Food!!

References: Appleton, J. (2018), benefits-of-sauerkraut


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