Healthy Foods


Sauerkraut is perhaps the best-known style of fermented vegetable in our country and also happens to be one of the simplest to make at home. The ingredient list is short, the steps are simple, and the margin for error is extremely low. In fact, famed fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz points out that the large population of lactic acid bacteria present in the ferment handily outcompete any incidental pathogenic bacteria, and the acidity that rapidly develops in fermented vegetables destroys any remaining pathogens. Lactic acid bacteria are present on cabbages and all other raw vegetables and they’re largely responsible for the magical transformation that takes place when you pack cabbage and salt together into a jar. 

Our ability to use microbes — fungi (yeasts) and bacteria — as a method of food preservation dates back to the dawn of recorded history. Prior to refrigeration, it was the only way, short of sun-drying, to preserve food. It is a process that is inextricably linked to our culture as human beings. It is, in large part, responsible for our survival as human beings as it allowed our earliest ancestors to preserve and store food to get through long winters and periods of famine.

Fermentation also makes our food more nutritious, more flavorful, and easier to digest. Fermented foods deliver a healthy dose of living probiotic bacteria and enzymes to our overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of our gut microbiome. Even though the practice of fermentation has been around for centuries, we are just beginning to understand, from a scientific point of view, why fermented foods are so important for our health. The forty-odd trillion microbes that live on and in our bodies allow us to digest food and produce key minerals that nourish us and protect us from disease. They guide the development of our bodies, are key to the healthy functioning of our immune systems, and influence our behavior. They even modulate the expression of our genes, bind with and remove toxins from our bodies, prevent or lessen the effects of food allergies, and communicate with the nervous system using some of the same neurochemicals that relay messages to the brain (the Gut-Brain Axis). They secrete a profound number of chemicals, many of which are the same chemicals used by our neurons to regulate our mood and signal appetite clues like hunger and fullness.

Our weekly sale from April 21st – 27th celebrates foods that promote gut health, so what better time to try whipping up a batch of your very own probiotic-packed sauerkraut? 

Eating Healthy in 2018

What comes to mind when you think of healthy foods? If you asked a dozen people this question, you’d likely get a dozen different answers. In fact, the FDA is in the process of redefining “healthy foods” and recently needed to extend the public comment period on the use of the term “healthy” with regard to labeling of food products in response to the overwhelming volume of feedback. It seems that we have a lot to say on the subject and those of us looking for guidance on how to eat a healthier diet find our heads spinning with often contradictory information about what it means for foods to be healthy.

Because one of our Co-op Ends is to provide the community with healthy foods, it’s a topic that we spend a lot of time thinking about, so when we learned that Michael Pollan would be giving a lecture at Dartmouth College we jumped at the chance to send a few staff to hear what he had to say. When Pollan gives lectures, it’s standing room only. Food and diet book writers quote him constantly, Time Magazine named him one of the most influential figures, and he’s the subject of many a food-related conversation. His broad appeal is probably an indication of how confused we are about food, and how much we love it when people make it very clear to us what we should and shouldn’t eat. He has a way of making it all sound so simple:  eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.

Following Pollan’s simple food rules “could render fad diets irrelevant, positively impact the environment, champion local food producers, and bring the processed food industry to its knees” says Eve Adamson of NCG. So why aren’t we busy toppling the $60 billion diet & weight loss industry and tackling Big Food? Certainly not because we’re busy cooking. The average American spends just 27 minutes a day cooking or preparing food. That’s less than half of the time we spent cooking in 1965. The average adult spends more time watching, scrolling and reading about food on TV and social media than they do cooking their daily meals! In 2015 and 2016, we spent more money at restaurants and bars than at grocery stores. The rise of convenience foods and ready-to-make meal services like Blue Apron points to the notion that we simply feel too busy to shop for and cook healthy meals at home. But, as Pollan points out, this isn’t so much about a lack of time and more about the way we use our time these days. “The phenomenon of Americans working more than ever is a myth”, says Pollan but “the sense that we have less time is real”.

So, what is lost when we as a society decide we’re too busy to cook? We lose skills, we lose confidence, and we lose control of our health. We’re outsourcing food preparation to big businesses and their priorities when feeding us are very different from the priorities we’d set when preparing a meal for our family at home. They’re interested in producing food as cheaply as possible yielding the highest profit possible. They would like us to believe that it’s very complicated so that we’ll leave it up to them. They’re also interested in making you a repeat customer, spending millions of dollars in a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and cheap but, unfortunately, not so healthy.

So, what is a health-conscious shopper to do? Skip the powders, pills, food-like substances, and wacky diets. Resolve to eat real food, not too much, and mostly plants. Reclaim your kitchen and choose to think of cooking as an act of revolution! Also, remember that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition; even choosing to cook three meals a week at home can make a huge difference. Discard the narrative that you don’t have time, it isn’t fun, and you don’t know what you’re doing. Just keep it simple and enjoy every bite.