The pitfalls of convenience foods
Holistic Nutrition is all about traditional foods. But in our modern, space-travel-fast-paced world, convenience foods began to take over starting in the ’40s and exploding in the swinging ’60s. Marketed to housewives as the ‘time saver’ they so desperately needed, this advice was heeded and it hasn’t stopped growing since then. After the wars, we began growing food differently, on a bigger and more toxic scale, and using crops for animal feed and oils to preserve our “food products” instead of for actual food. This switch led us into the even speedier convenience foods of the 70s and 80s where many of the alternative foodie/farming and punk/hippie radical folks took a stand against multinational monocropping culture. They were fighting for real food and tradition and continued their fight and education, but by then our food system had radically shifted. We lost the simplicity of whole foods using traditional preparation. We lost our connection to traditional preservation practices, and we lost our connection to food in the home and the human connection to not only our food but where it came from - and who we enjoyed it with.
In the commune kitchens of the 1960s, the women knew that we needed more raw, living, and traditional foods in our diet. The new-fangled ‘astronaut’ diet of quick TV dinners, Tang and Cheez-Whiz would simply not do. When women moved from their assigned gender role of being “in the kitchen” to be out in the workforce, it made convenience foods seem even a necessity rather than a suggestion. Alongside fancy gizmo’s and kitchen gadgets meant to ‘save you time!’ all foods available became processed, canned, re-heated, frozen, microwaved, GMO’d, and otherwise dead inside.
Fermented foods are not dead inside. The opposite. These living raw foods offer our guts (and our tastebuds) immense benefit. Raw, fermented foods like kombucha. Traditional ginger ale. Milk kefir. Water kefir. Unpasteurized Sauerkraut. Raw Pickles. Kimchi. Miso. Mead. Raw pickled beets and carrots. These living foods have been part of cultures since the dawn of time (and just about every single group of humans worldwide has ‘their’ ferment they are known for) but with the way our modern world changed and how much humans move now, we have lost touch with that grounding security in traditional foods that our lands offered.
Fermented foods are not a new thing or a new trend. It’s a re-activated (it just keeps coming up every couple decades) necessity. It’s not new, we didn’t just discover it. It has been happening in basements and barns long before we (millennials) were walking the earth. Almost all cultures throughout the world intentionally introduce bacteria and/or yeast into their food to transform it into new food. Ferments are making a comeback. People care about where their food comes from, and how it is prepared. The ideology behind “slow food” is becoming normalized, and science is backing up the benefits of probiotics and the importance of gut health. Now with the research on our gut health and the trillions of bacteria that we are, we are starting to learn that we need to work with bacteria, instead of always trying to get rid of it.
Alternative health circles back then promoted the idea that these traditionally-prepared foods were good for our digestion. We know now that it is a fact that gut-friendly probiotic bacteria such as (but not limited to lactobacillus) are needed by our large intestines to maintain good function and for digestion so that nutrients can be best absorbed. Eating fermented food helps to create beneficial microflora in the intestines of people that eat them, which helps our body absorb nutrients from our food better, among many other benefits.
Holistic Nutritionists' and those in the traditional ferment world (so many women-run businesses!) are working to bring back the art & tradition of cultured foods and teaching the lost practice of fermenting your own foods. In the last 50 years, the government departments of agriculture, food, and health frowned upon traditional fermentation to the point that almost no publications instructed households on how to use these fermentation methods. Instead, we learned to “put up” vegetables by adding white vinegar (really only suitable for household cleaning) and processing with heat. By supporting local small-run ferment co.’s - you are not only improving your gut health (our lack of cultured foods accompanied by rampant use of antibiotics, and a high intake of chlorinated water, sugar, and other toxins has led to an imbalance of healthy bacteria in our intestines) but you are supporting traditional means of foodie culture. Back to the land.
"The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”
– Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions
A few more good reasons? Fermented foods are important for our food security. It is a method of food preservation that allows us to put fresh food away for the winter. This was the original storage technique before we had refrigeration. Fermented foods put us in more control, by processing and preserving our own local foods at home we decrease our dependence on unsustainable food systems and multinational corporations. It's a powerful movement to create your own foods, taking a stand against the system. Now, go forth and get back to your roots
About the author: Raina believes her vintage record collection has everything to do with nutrition. It features all the 60s’ greats, of course as well as the social movements, the radical feelings, the life-changing shifts, the self-growth, the evolution. It makes sense that now she helps clients on daily to create change in their lives using nutrition as a tool for personal self-development. She currently runs a private practice online and founded Experience Kombucha, the Okanagan’s original local, organic kombucha.