Are you ready for cold and flu season?

This morning I woke up to a crisp 28F outside. There is snow on the hills. Hats,mittens and scarfs are coming out of the closet . The smell of burning wood is in the air. Our beautiful Colorado fall is turning into winter.
I think it's time to get ready for cold and flu season. For most people this means stopping by their local Walgreen and getting a flu shot. For my family this means stocking up on some essential foods and making use of the herbs we so carefully picked all summer.
 I wanted to share some of the thing we do to keep healthy during the long winter months. Sure , we get the occasional sniffles sometimes, but we have not seen the flu in this household for years.None of us has ever had a flu shot and we don't ever plan on getting one. And here is our little secret : prevention.
It has nothing to do with expensive supplements. It has everything to do with food and spending a few extra minutes in the kitchen.
Our ancestors did not have the abundance of fresh foods we have during the winter months. Ironically they were a lot healthier than we are today. The secret was that since they used natural methods of preserving their crops , that actually increased the nutritional value of their food and helped them stay healthy during months of unfavorable weather conditions and inactivity.
Here are some of the staples in my great grandparents diet  that I still use today to keep my family healthy and strong:
  • Lacto- fermented vegetables
Lacto-fermentation is a process through which you capture naturally occurring bacteria in the air and on the vegetables themselves, and create the perfect environment for them to transform your healthy vegetables to a miracle food. A lot of people are terrified of the word "bacteria" but we are talking about the good guys here - probiotics. Pro-life. The process of fermentation produces lactic acid, which kills all putrefying bacteria.It also increases the vitamin levels of the food and its digestibility. 
The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables also produces numerous enzymes and different antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances.
Traditional lacto-fermented foods include sauerkraut,pickled cucumbers, fermented carrot sticks, kim chi, fermented beets, fermented vegetables like cauliflower,peppers, and celery, and fermented garlic. I like to use a mix of cabbage and carrots ( any of the beautiful colors nature creates and your heart desires) and I also make lacto-fermented carrot sticks with garlic. Yum!
After all this praise, I really have to warn you, pickles and sauerkraut from the store will not work. First of all , they are pasteurized, which kills anything living and allows for a long shelf live without refrigeration.Second, they are not even fermented, they are pickled, a process which uses vinegar and modern canning techniques , which do not produce the same results as lacto-fermentation. So you have to roll your sleeves and maybe get the kids to help you, but the process of making lacto - fermented veggies is easy and fun. I really recommend getting a book like " Nourishing Traditions " by Sally Fallon or "Real Food Fermentation" by Alex Lewin. They are full of delicious recipes and describe the process of fermentation and its benefits. 
 Deliciousness aside, here are some of the benefits of  eating lacto-fermented foods:
  • A teaspoon of sauerkraut juice gives you a dose of probiotics  higher than any expensive supplement available on the market today.
  • Sauerkraut has 4 times higher anti cancer nutrient levels than regular, non- fermented, cabbage.
  • If you follow the Standard American Diet ( SAD) , you most probably have some kind of gut imbalances and discomforts.Fermented vegetables will help re-populate your gut with beneficial bacteria , which in turn strengthens your immune system and keeps your body healthy. 
  • The high levels of probiotics in fermented foods will jump start the detoxification of your body which in term will improve immune function, reduce any chronic inflammation and will make you less susceptible to infection.

  • Eat Cultured Dairy
Normally, if you are prone to sinus and ear infections, I would recommend you stay away from dairy. The kind of dairy that produces mucous in the body is the highly processed stuff, that has been high temperature pasteurized and homogenized. What I recommend instead is another living food, cultured dairy. Cultured dairy includes yogurt, milk kefir, raw cheeses, cultured cream, buttermilk, and cultured butter. When high quality milk, preferably from pastured cows or goats, is inoculated with different bacteria , it produces another healthy living food
The benefits of cultured dairy are similar to those of fermented veggies. They improve gut function and can be a great way to enjoy dairy if you have any intolerance to regular milk. The process of fermentation actually produces the enzyme lactase, which is destroyed during pasteurization, and which allows our bodies to process cassein, one of the most difficult proteins to digest.
Fermented dairy also contains enzymes which help the body absorb calcium and other minerals. It lowers cholesterol levels and protects against bone loss.In many traditional societies, cultured dairy is often given to the sick , the elderly , and nursing mothers, since it improves digestion and the absorption of nutrients from food. This brings nourishment and healing to the body.

  • Consume healthy fats
Forget the low fat diets. Your body needs healthy fats in order to absorb many minerals and vitamins. Without healthy saturated fats like coconut oil and grass fed butter we cannot properly utilize essential fatty acids like omega-3. They are also important for brain function and support the immune system. 
The healthy fats I have in mind is extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter, ghee. You can also incorporate raw nuts, seeds, nut butter and avocados in your diet.
Here is what Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions discovered about saturated fats in our diet:
  •  Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of all cell membranes
  •  Healthy saturated fats help our bodies to properly incorporate calcium into the skeletal structure
  •  Saturated fats help protect the liver from toxins
  •  Saturated fats enhance the immune system.
Eating healthy fats also keeps you satisfied longer after a meal and it keeps you away from sugary snacks that can lower the immune system. It does not require a lot of effort to feed your body healthy fats. Skip the nasty artificial stuff like margarine next time you do your grocery shopping. Fry your eggs in a little bit of butter in the morning, add coconut oil to your muffins and avocado to your salads. Building a healthy body can be this easy ... and delicious!

 It is so simple! Give your taste buds a tour and discover a world of forgotten miracle foods! I wish you many inspirational moments in the kitchen and good health to you and your family!



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