Blending ancestral kitchen traditions and new scientific research will allow fermentation to change our diet — and our planet.

In a TEDx Talk, Mara King, co-founder of fermented food store Ozukè, shares why she is proudly releasing trillions of good bacteria into the population. Her food philosophy rubs against everything the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments practice. While government agencies enforce strict sanitation standards in the name of protecting American’s food, King preaches that it’s wiping out good bacteria and dumping more toxins into the environment.

When King and co-founder Willow King (no relation) opened their Colorado-based food business, a food scientist from the Denver office of the Health & Human Services Department performed a safety inspection. The food expert was confused by Ozukè’s live, fermented pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. King: “He said ‘Your product is so weird. We follow all these FDA guidelines in food manufacturing in order to diminish bacteria and here you are making it on purpose.’”

“The food we make is actually super, super, super safe, unlike mots processed packaged fresh foods,” King says. “The reason this food is so safe is not because I’m better at this antimicrobial Macarena than anybody else. It’s because the bacteria are doing the work of making the fermented foods pretty much bomb proof.”

Though numerous cultures have been fermenting for generations (“It’s how humans have been eating raw, crunchy vegetables all through hard winters.”), King notes it’s only in the last 10 years that scientists have been able to map the complex fermentation process. By letting bacteria thrive in its own ecosystem, it “creates a food that’s no longer harmful to humans” and makes a more nutritious product.

“Nature does not operate in a vacuum and neither should we,” King says. “We need to understand the complexity of the world in which we live, then we can start to come up with solutions that do honor our heritage.”

King, who great up in Hong Kong, says older Chinese women store an impressive knowledge of food and medicine. Merging ancient tradition with new science is what will create the living solutions needed to continue living on our planet.

“In fermentation, we have a little trick that we use which is called using a started culture or a mother. I believe that our starter culture…is our human cultural history,” King says. “Once we start tapping this information…we’ll start to come up with amazing solutions, solutions that grow, solutions that rot, solutions that breath.”

Today Ozuke (which means “the best pickled things” in Japanese) still makes pickled veggies, but also teaches fermentation workshops. For more information, visit their webpage.

Microbiologists in Canada developed a formula that makes commercial kefir healthier. Traditional, old-world kefir is packed with health benefits, decreasing weight gain by 40% and cholesterol levels by 50%. Commercial kefir, though, does not contain bacteria-loving yeast used in traditional kefir. That variation in the fermentation process means commercial kefir is not as healthy. The Canadian microbiologist’s formula can be added to milk in commercial vats and is currently in the patent process.

Read more (Folio)

Consider marketing fermented food and drink products as not just good for the gut but good for the skin. The New York Times calls the gut “the secret to complexion perfection,” and highlights the beauty benefits of a diet full of fermented foods. Though probiotics marketed specifically for skin health are selling out, doctors say supplements alone won’t help — diet is key. Carla Oates, known as the Beauty Chef, wrote a cookbook encouraging what she calls “gut weeding and seeding and feeding,” praising a diet of fermented foods like carob and sauerkraut.

Read more (New York Times)

Kimchi: the Fermented Flu Vaccine

Kimchi is a scientifically proven safeguard against the flu. New research proves, with fall flu season around the corner, we should stock up on kimchi. The fermented Korean food has an antiviral effect that stops the growth of the influenza virus. Flu-infected mice that ate kimchi had a higher survival rate and lost less weight. The study also referenced the 2003 SARS pandemic in Hong Kong and China — Korea was the only place where few people were infected with the virus, attributed to Korean’s love of kimchi. Study results were published in the Journal of Microbiology.

Read more (PR Newswire)

Fermented, probiotic-rich foods are key to a flat belly and glowing skin, shares Elle magazine. But “Biofermentation is the next wave in the beauty industry,” adds the founder and CEO of Orveda. Fermented skincare products blend bacteria with fermented botanicals to work with the skin’s natural microflora. The magazine concludes: “a clean, calm gut will ensure your skin is lit from within and a fermented-rich routine will guarantee the glow won’t go.”

Read more (Elle Magazine)

In the next decade, the British Medical Journal predicts we will see more government support of fermented foods. The BMJ’s latest research says the gov needs to fund the research and innovation of fermented products, prebiotics and probiotics. Food industry and consumer demands are shifting to healthier foods, so the BMJ says it’s critical for public leadership to also promote a healthy diet. The government can give tax incentives and push fiscal policies that promote “research, development and marketing of healthier foods in the food industry,” encourages the BMJ, and penalize companies that market sugar-laden drinks and junk food.

Read more (British Medical Journal) (Photo: Foodies Feed)

Boston wine guru Lauren Friel says, to fix the local restaurant industry, health codes need to be revised. Friel says food regulations restrict chefs from using ferments and cured meats, making it especially difficult to serve authentic Chinese or European food.

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Sourdough bread is trending. As consumers seek preservative-free bread, more food retailers are adding sourdough loaves. Made with just flour, water and salt, sourdough is a clean food with a tangy taste due to the fermentation process.

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Great news for kimchi producers wanting to expand to vegan products. A new study from researchers at Brown University found that vegan kimchi made with miso paste instead of fish sauce or brined shrimp produces the same final healthy bacteria as traditional kimchi. This is because of “the selective pressure of the fermentation environment” which is so powerful that a new ingredient doesn’t impact the bacterial community.

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