One of the more common complaints I hear in my practice is the issue of eating well when you aren't at home. This is not an easy task, as most restaurants and convenience stores are stocked with foods that are highly processed, made with GMO and non-organic ingredients, and usually aren't that great anyway. The solution, then, is to plan ahead and bring food with you when you are on-the-go. Of course you can always bring some fresh or dried fruits like an apple or dried mango, or easy veggies like carrots, but when you are wanting something more substantial to get you through, you will need to plan and get more creative.
In general, I like to promote sitting down to eat in a calm environment, taking your time to chew properly and eat slowly, because when you eat in this way you digest your food better and absorb the nutrients more fully. But this is just not always possible. Sometimes we go on road trips, or are running around for work, or are going canoeing for the day and need to pack a lunch. In cases like these, it is totally possible to eat well, as long as you plan and take time to bring the right foods. Here are five of my favorite foods that are portable, easy to eat when you aren't sitting at a table, and are also nutrient-dense. All you may need is a pocket knife and some napkins taken from a gas station, and you are good to go.
1. Pastured Summer Sausage or Charcuterie
Bringing a good source of protein along when you are traveling helps to keep your energy up and your blood sugar regulated, which will not only keep you healthy, but also make you a better travel companion. Protein will also help keep you full so you are less tempted to fill up on road trip junk food.
For my quick protein, I like to bring meats that don't require cooking or much other preparation, so summer sausage or other cured meats are perfect. Besides summer sausage, other great choices to bring along are salami, prosciutto, or even smoked salmon/lox. For an easy organ meat boost, look for braunschweiger or liverwurst, which would go great with some cheese and mustard if you are putting together a nutrient-dense picnic. Of course, you could always go with classic beef jerky for an easy protein with no utensils required, other than a strong jaw. More convenience stores are even carrying "all-natural" jerky recently. While it may not be organic or pastured, it would satisfy your protein need in a pinch.
When you can, choose organic and/or pastured brands, or as natural as possible. Look for brands like Organic Prairie, Olli or La Quercia. In Southwest Wisconsin, we have Underground Meats which is an awesome source of ethically-sourced charcuterie, but you could look for local brands where you live that would also work.
2. Coconut Oil Chips and Pork Rinds
Are chips the healthiest food in the world? Probably not. But, they are easy to bring on the road and require no preparation, so they make this list. Not just any chips will do, however. Look for chips, either potato, sweet potato, or corn, that are cooked in healthy oils. These work perfectly for dipping into salsa, hummus or guacamole, or as-is alongside your protein snacks.
There are brands like Jackson's Honest that are cooked in coconut oil, and taste amazing, as well as brands that are cooked in avocado or olive oil. Be sure to avoid chips that are cooked in processed oils like canola, vegetable/soy, or safflower, or that have additives like yeast extract for the most healthful option.
For a low-carb crunchy snack that will work for dipping, look for pastured pork rinds from brands like Epic. These are so salty and delicious, and have the added bonus of providing collagen, since they are made from skin. Just be sure to avoid conventional rinds from the convenience store, as they are often fried in processed oils and have additives for flavoring. Seaweed snacks, made from toasted nori, would also fit into this category. Though they aren't as filling, they are a nice mineral-rich boost that is a nice salty snack that travels well.
3. Real Food Bars
In general, I am not a fan of snack bars. Most of them, especially many of the granola bars, are barely healthier than a candy bar, and provide little protein or other nutrition. But when you are traveling or eating on the run, a real food bar can be a life saver. Or at least a hunger saver and energy booster.
The best bars to bring along are ones that are made from real foods and don't have added sweeteners. Fruit and nut bars fit this bill, such as Larabars or Kit Bars (Organic and made by Clif Bars), that are only made with nuts and dried fruits. These are becoming easier to find at conventional stores and even gas stations, if you forget to grab a snack for your tip.
For bars that are more filling and provide higher amounts of protein, look for real food bars like Primal Kitchen that have collagen added (travel bone broth!) or Chapul and Exo bars that are made with cricket protein. Meat-based bars like the ones from Epic or Mighty Bars from Organic Prairie are also great for traveling. These will be more nutritious and have less added junk than your average protein bar and will keep you fuller for longer.
4. Crispy Nuts and Nut Butter Packs
Another protein-rich option that travels well are nuts. Not only do they provide protein, but also fat to keep you full, and plenty of minerals. I like to make "Cripsy Nuts" from the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which is essentially nuts that have been soaked and baked to remove phytic acid and improve their digestibility. This also makes them salty and crunchy, which I look for in a road trip snack for sure. Any nuts will work, but almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds are favorites of mine. If you forget or don't have time to prepare your nuts/seeds ahead of time, you can just bring some raw cashews or toasted pistachios that you find at a grocery store in a pinch.
Another easy nut option is the nut butter pack. Usually these are squeeze pouches, but there are other forms as well, filled with peanut, almond, or other nut butter. These are great for camping or flying when you don't want to bring big, open containers with you. Brands like Justin's, Artisana, and others are easy to find at most health food stores and even conventional stores like Target are now carrying these as an option.
5. Hard Boiled Eggs
Not the most glamorous snack, but it will fill you up and actually travels pretty well. This is a good option for protein if you aren't traveling for long or have a cooler with you on your trip. I also like these because you can peel them ahead of time to make it even easier to eat when you are on-the-go, and you need no utensils.
Other easy proteins and fats that would fit this bill are organic string cheese or even a big chunk of fancy cheese you could break apart at a picnic, a container of olives from an olive bar, creamy hummus, or an avocado (just not one that is too ripe!). All relatively easy to bring along and will keep you full and happy on your journey.
If you're like me, you have heard your whole life to "eat your vegetables." Unfortunately, in terms of eating healthfully, it is not that simple. Vegetables and other plant foods, including pulses, legumes, nuts, grains and even our beloved greens contain anti-nutrients, naturally-occurring chemicals within the plant that can actually be counterproductive to our health.
Now, I'm not saying that eating kale will kill you, or anything close to that. What I am saying is that, if you are striving for optimal health, finding ways to mitigate the anti-nutrient content of your plant foods is very important. There are various diets that tout simply not eating these foods, such as eliminating grains on the paleo diet. One of the reasons these diets eschew some of these foods is their anti-nutrient content. I worry about the popularity of vegan or “plant-based diets” that is growing all over the country, because people are consuming large amounts of vegetables and other plant foods that may be causing inflammation or other health issues, and may not be absorbing all of the nutrients they potentially could be from these foods.
Of course, eating a wide variety of foods from plants, in addition to animals, is essential to a well-rounded diet. I think consuming foods from both animals and plants are necessary for good health. One of the issues with the modern diet is that we do not take care to prepare our plant foods properly so that our bodies can digest them well and absorb the nutrients these foods provide. Here I'll tell you about some of the common anti-nutrients found in plant foods, why they are there, and how to reduce their content in your food, so you can get the most benefit from your plant foods.
First off, what is an "anti-nutrient"?
You have likely heard of all kinds of nutrients before: vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and more. But did you know there are substances that are essentially the opposite of all those good things in some of your groceries?
An anti-nutrient is a substance that opposes the action of other nutrients and can have an impact on health as a result. They all act in different ways in the body, such as binding minerals, preventing absorption, or creating inflammation. Some actually have beneficial effects in the body, such as tannins that act as an antioxidant, or oligosaccharides that are a prebiotic fiber, but when consumed in large amounts they impact nutrient absorption, and can end up doing more harm than good. This is something to especially watch for when discussing nutrient absorption and availability to those who say plant-based diets are the most healthful; this is simply not true.
These are naturally-occurring substances found in plant foods (yes vegans, even plants aren’t always perfect), and are in the plant as a survival mechanism, including defense against predators. Plants are not as passive as some may think; they have the genius of having a built-in defense system to increase their likelihood of survival or even decrease the health of whatever may try to eat it. Dr. Kaayla Daniel, PhD wrote a wonderful, ind-depth article entitled "Plants Bite Back" that you should definitely give a read if you are interested in learning more about anti-nutrients. It has so much good information and plenty of resources for further reading.
Here are some of the substances found in plants that we humans regularly consume and the health effects that they can cause. The modern diet that relies heavily on processed foods does not work to decrease the content of these anti-nutrients in foods. In fact, highly processed foods often increase the amounts of these compounds. Traditional diets had the wisdom to prepare their plant foods in ways that would eliminate or decrease the content of anti-nutrients so those who consumed them would be well-nourished and increase their health from eating them. When creating an optimal way of eating in today’s world, we must keep these compounds in mind, and do our best to prepare foods in traditional ways so that we, too, are well fed.
Phytates: Also known as phytic acid, this compound is found in beans, seeds, nuts and grains. They are present to help seeds store energy and nutrients, which are important to their survival during dormancy. But, when we eat these seeds instead of plant them, it makes many of the nutrients unavailable to us. Phytates inhibit mineral absorption, especially zinc, calcium, and iron, as well as digestive enzymes that help with breakdown of proteins. This is one of major offenders that make people eschew grains and legumes in paleo diets. However, they are still in high amounts in nuts and seeds that havne't been sprouted, so grain-free foods like almond and coconut flours should be consumed in moderation, just like un-soaked grains. Excessive phytate consumption can cause mineral deficiencies, bone loss, tooth decay, and impaired digestion. Here's a very in-depth look at phytates from the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Lectins: Found in beans, seeds, nuts, and grains, lectins are proteins that bind carbohydrates, which are necessary for the survival of these plants. However, they can harm digestion by damaging the lining of the intestines. Lectins have been linked to autoimmune disorders, "leaky" gut and disrupting the balance of flora in the digestive tract. Along with phytates, this is one that I recommend even healthy people be mindful of when thinking of how to best prepare their foods for nutrient absorption and the effect on the GI system. Mark's Daily Apple had a great post about lectins that has even more info on their effects.
Saponins: Another anti-nutrient with a link to autoimmune disorders and impaired digestion are saponins. These are found in nightshades, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and white potatoes. Saponins can cause enzyme inhibition and promote inflammation and leaky gut, especially for those who already have compromised digestion. For those without autoimmune or other inflammatory conditions, these are likely not a health issue.
Alkaloids: Nightshades are the group of foods highest in alkaloid content. In sensitive individuals, alkaloids can inhibit enzyme activity, create inflammation in the joints and GI tract. Though healthy individuals may not notice any effect, this may create problems for those who already have compromised immune or digestive functions, or experience a lot of inflammation.
Salicylates: Found in berries, citrus, nightshades, squash, and other fruits and vegetables, those sensitive to salicylates are those with disorders such as ADHD, autism, arthritis, asthma and more. For those with a salicylate sensitivity, eating foods high in salicylates can cause behavioral or emotional problems, headache, digestive upset, and other inflammatory conditions. Most healthy people, however, can tolerate this anti-nutrient without negative effects. This is a good chart from Everyday with ADHD for a comprehensive list of salicylate contents of various foods.
Goitrogens: Found in high amounts in soy products and brassicas (kale, broccoli, cabbage, etc.), these compounds inhibit thyroid function and hormone production. This is especially important for people who already suffer from thyroid disorders; people with healthy thyroid function do not seem to be affected by moderate amounts of goitrogens, as their thyroids can compensate for the small changes in hormone production. However, with the advent of the green smoothie, people are ingesting more goitrogens than may be healthful, so limiting large amounts of brassicas to a few times per week may be prudent to prevent issues with the thyroid.
Oxalates: Oxalates, also called oxalic acid, are found in lots of different plants, including soy, chocolate, dark, leafy greens, beets, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, and nuts. They can cause oxidation, leading to inflammation and damage to tissues, including the digestive tract. Those who suffer from kidney stones or other kidney issues are advised to avoid large amounts of foods high in oxalic acid, as they can promote formation and calcification of kidney stones. Also known as oxalic acid, this compound can bind minerals, and care should be taken to minimize their effect for those at risk for iron or calcium deficiencies. People with autism and autoimmune disorders are also often advised to follow a low oxalate diet due to oxalate's ability to disrupt the digestive system. William Shaw, PhD has a great article here with more info on oxalates and health, and Chris Masterjohn, PhD also has several articles regarding health effects of oxalates, including this one.
Phytoestrogens: Many people have heard about phytoestrogens, especially in relation to soy products. Phytoestrogens can have a negative impact on female fertility, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), menstrual regularity, thyroid function, and may even be linked to cancer formation. They resemble natural estrogen at the cellular level and can disrupt hormone balance and pituitary function in the body. Healthy people can tolerate moderate amounts of phytoestrogens; however, women who are already experiencing infertility, hormone imbalance, or PCOS can be very sensitive to their affects. Obviously high in soy, all beans and legumes contain some amount of phytoestrogens, including chick peas, as well as flax seeds and hops. Stefani over at Paleo For Women wrote a great post about phytoestrogens here.
Oligosaccharides: These are found in high amounts in beans and grains, these chains of carbohydrates cannot be digested or absorbed by the digestive tract, and can remain in the lower GI tract and ferment there. For people with healthy digestive tracts, this is actually a beneficial fiber, as it acts as a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in the gut and improves their populations. However, in those with digestive issues and a microbiome that is out of balance, this can end up creating digestive upset in the form of gas, bloating, pain, and impaired bowel movements. Those who suffer from conditions like IBS may be more sensitive to these, which is why they are advised to avoid these on a low FODMAP diet (the “O” is for oligosaccharides). For those people, removing these for a period of time and then re-introducing them when the microbial balance is restored can be beneficial.
Enzyme Inhibitors: These anti-nutrients are found in beans (very high in soybeans), grains, seeds, nuts, nightshades and other fruits and vegetables. They can damage the pancreas, and therefore the whole digestive process, by inhibiting formation of enzymes, such as protease and amylase, that break down proteins. This can have a negative impact on nutrient absorption, growth, immune function, and metabolism.
Tannins: Though they are known to have antioxidant properties, as they are polyphenols, tannins can also inhibit nutrient absorption in foods. Found in tea, chocolate, coffee, wine, berries, buckwheat and other various plant foods, these need not be avoided altogether, but limited. Because they do have beneficial properties, getting foods with tannins is still important. However, reducing the amount of tannins through cooking, soaking or fermenting may be beneficial to those who have compromised digestion or other health issues where nutrient absorption needs to be closely monitored.
But what can you do about all this? Never eat plants again? No way!
This post is NOT intended for anyone to become obsessed about food and taking every possibly offensive food out of their diet. My intention is just to educate you on what may be in our modern diet and how to increase the digestibility and nutrient content of the foods you love. Many of these components are really only issues for those who have health problems like IBS or autoimmune disease, and some of them, like phytic acid, should be watched even in healthy people. However, freaking out about every little anti-nutrient will be just as harmful to your health as the anti-nutrients themselves! As I said previously, I do not believe that containing anti-nutrients makes a food inherently “bad” and that it should be avoided. In my view, it is nature reminding us of the need for traditional food preparation to get the most of our foods.
Hope is not lost! Instead of cutting foods out altogether, take action to
properly prepare your plant foods.
Here are three easy ways to decrease the amount of anti-nutrient content of common foods:
Soaking/Sprouting/Souring: Soaking, sprouting or souring grains, nuts, seeds and beans can reduce the amounts of lectins, phytates and oligosaccharides in them, improving their digestibility and helping to prevent them from binding minerals. Phytates and lectins are especially reduced when moisture, warmth, and acidity are present. Soaking any grains or legumes before cooking, sprouting nuts, or making sourdough bread are ways to reduce the anti-nutrient content of these foods. My general guideline for eating grains, legumes and nuts is to always prepare them through soaking or souring, such as making sourdough breads or soaking oatmeal overnight for the most nutrients and least amount of inflammation. Some grains like white rice, or grasses like buckwheat are lower in phytic acid, so I don't always worry about soaking them as much, though I try to when I can. Check out Sally Fallon's timeless book, Nourishing Traditions, check out sourdough bread books like Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson or Sourdough by Sarah Owens, as well as Ramiel Nagel’s Cure Tooth Decay for tips and recipes regarding soaked and sprouted foods, as well as more info on the health effects of grains and legumes that are not properly prepared
Fermenting: The process of fermenting introduces lots of beneficial bacteria and enzymes into foods, therefore improving how well you can digest them, and even increasing their nutrient content in many cases. Fermentation also helps reduce anti-nutrients in the food, including goitrogens, saponins, lectins, phytates, oxalates, protease inhibitors, phytoestrogens, and oligosaccharides. For example, only eating soy that has been fermented, such as miso or tempeh, can limit your intake of many of these anti-nutrients. I recommend Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods by Jill Ciciarelli, and Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey for recipes and more info on fermenting.
Cooking: Raw is not always best, plain and simple. By adding heat to plant foods, such as steaming, baking, or boiling, you can reduce the anti-nutrient content by quite a bit. Not all compounds are affected by heat in the same way. Lectins and phytates are moderately destroyed by heat, but goitrogens, oxalates, alkaloids, protease inhibitors, and possibly saponins can be lessened by a large amount, just by cooking your vegetables before eating them. Vegetables like spinach, kale and cabbage should only be eaten raw on occasion; their nutrients are better absorbed when cooked…I’m looking at you, green smoothies! For nuts and seeds, I recommend always eating them soaked or sprouted and then cooked (toasted, baked, etc.) for the most nutrient absorption. For other vegetables like greens or tomatoes, eating a balance of raw and cooked vegetables will help protect from excessive amounts of anti-nutrients.
Though you need not obsess about every possible facet of the foods you are eating, being more mindful of how traditional cultures would have prepared foods will likely be beneficial to your health. If you have an autoimmune disorder, tooth decay, compromised digestion (leaky gut, gut dysbiosis, candida, etc.), or other inflammatory condition, you may want to limit your consumption of foods with these anti-nutrients in them, particularly when they have not been properly prepared through heat, fermenting, or soaking/souring. If that is your case, you will want to be more cautious when choosing and preparing your foods, especially if you go out to eat. I do not believe that a healthful, therapeutic diet necessarily means whole groups of foods need to be taken out, but seeing a qualified health care practitioner, such as a nutritionist or doctor can help you with these changes.
If you are generally healthy, it is still a good idea to properly prepare your plant foods and balance them with plenty of animal fats and proteins, along with adequate vitamin C and minerals. Also, choosing foods that are grown organically will also increase the nutrient content available in these foods in the first place. These strategies will help ensure that you are absorbing all you can from the foods you are eating and minimizing any inflammation or other ill effects from these anti-nutrients.
Perhaps certain conditions or symptoms, such as leaky gut, would lead you to focus on eliminating some anti-nutrients over others, so you can focus your energy where it needs to go and reduce anxiety around food. Eliminating unfermented soy, which seems to be high in just about every anti-nutrient, is probably a good bet no matter your health status. Whatever you do, it is important to find out what works best for your body and makes you feel your best. Eating and feeling well does not have to be too complicated and with a little extra planning and preparation, it can be easy and delicious to keep your body nourished
Carrot cake is the ultimate spring dessert for me, so I am welcoming the new spring season by making a delicious grain-free carrot cake. I will be serving this for our Easter meal this upcoming weekend, so if you are looking for something to serve for the holiday, I highly recommend this cake. This is one of the recipes I make for family gatherings and share with friends who are wanting to bake something easy and grain-free. It wins people over every time, and they can never tell it is made without processed ingredients.
The cake is moist and full of carrot-y, nutty goodness, and it is topped with a slightly sweet cream cheese frosting. The frosting is lightly flavored with hints of maple syrup and fresh orange zest, which compliments the carrot cake perfectly. I sweeten my cake and frosting in this recipe with maple syrup, as it lends itself well to creating a moist cake, and I love the flavor. I also wanted to give a nod to the maple sugar season that we are in right now up here in Wisconsin. If you wanted to use honey to make this GAPS-friendly, that would work as well, just use an equal amount of honey as maple syrup called for in the recipe.
I made mine as a single-layer cake, but you could easily double the recipe to make a beautiful two-layer cake. You could also make the recipe into cupcakes as well. This will make about 9 cupcakes; just fill the cupcake liners to the top with frosting and reduce the baking time by about 15 minutes.
Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 1- 9" cake or ~9 cupcakes
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups almond flour, sifted
3 Tbs coconut flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground dried ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp baking soda
3 Tbs coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs orange zest (about 1/2 an orange worth)
3 Tbs orange juice (from ~1/2 an orange)
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 cups grated carrots, packed
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9" round cake pan or line a cupcake pan with liners.
In a large bowl, combine the almond and coconut flours, salt, spices and baking soda. Stir to combine.
Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, vanilla, orange zest and juice and maple syrup into the center and mix together. Stir to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients together until just mixed.
Add in the carrots, raisins, coconut and walnuts. Fold in to evenly distribute throughout the batter.
Pour cake batter into the prepared pan and spread to create an even surface.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. When the cake is done, it should be lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted should come out mostly clean. Be careful to not overcook the cake, or it will become dry.
Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting:
1- 8 oz. block full-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 Tbs sour cream
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs orange zest (from 1/2 an orange)
3 Tbs orange juice (from 1/2 an orange)
Cream together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy and smooth. Add in the sour cream, vanilla, maple syrup and orange zest and juice. Stir well until all the ingredients are well combined and the frosting is creamy.
Spread evenly on top of cooled cake. Garnish with extra chopped walnuts and serve.
Now that spring is officially here, I am starting to hear people complain about their seasonal allergies. Somehow, allergies to natural parts of our environment like pollen, grass and ragweed has become accepted as normal and part of many peoples' lives. Instead of being seen for what they are, an inappropriate immune response that can be remedied, allergies are viewed by the medical community and sufferers alike as life-long sentences for sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes and more. But this is not the truth. Seasonal allergies, and in the same vein, asthma, do not have to be seen as a forever diagnosis; there is a way to help improve your symptoms, or get rid of them altogether.
If you experience seasonal allergies, your body is having a histamine response to something, like pollen, that is not inherently harmful. This is due to an immune system that is not functioning properly. In order to get the histamine response and immune system to perform as it should, you must take a multi-faceted approach, as the immune system being out of balance is usually due to multiple factors. Here are 5 foods and other remedies that I recommend for people who suffer from seasonal allergies and asthma. These 5 recommendations are based on supporting a healthy immune response, which requires healing the gut and balancing the microbiome, getting the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis in balance and managing stress, promoting a normal histamine response and getting plenty of antioxidants.
The time to start protecting yourself from allergies is now. If you are prone to allergies, you no longer need to fear the beginning of spring, when you would rather be spending time outside picnicking, foraging, or hiking instead of sneezing. You can empower yourself by starting to incorporate these strategies before symptoms begin and get your immune system into balance so you can actually enjoy being outdoors during these beautiful spring days!
1. Fermented Foods
Allergies are, at their core, a microbiome issue. Adding in fermented foods is one of the best ways to increase the number of good bacteria in your digestive tract and, truly, the entire body. The sinuses and lungs are lined with mucous membranes that are home to beneficial bacteria as well, so adding fermented foods not only improves the gut, but also the microbiome in these areas that directly affect allergy symptoms. In addition to supporting a healthy immune response, a robust microbiome and healthy gut also leads to less inflammation, which also contributes to the allergy response.
My general guideline is to have something fermented at every meal, and to aim for a diversity of fermented foods. Choose from lacto-fermented sauerkraut, pickles, kim chi, yogurt, kefir, kvass, kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar or your favorite ferment. If allergies have been a chronic problem for you, consider adding in a probiotic supplement for extra microbiome support.
In addition to fermented foods, an overall diet that supports gut health and the microbiome is essential in battling allergies and asthma. Incorporate other foods that support the gut like bone broth, raw dairy, digestive bitters, and prebiotic fiber from sources like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and properly-prepared whole grains, which feeds the good bacteria and promotes their growth. Keep your inflammatory response healthy with ginger, turmeric, omega 3 fats from wild-caught fish, fat-soluble vitamins from places like organ meats, and limiting processed sugar and other foods.
2. Stinging Nettle
Nettle leaf is a traditional herbal remedy for seasonal allergies. Not only is it rich in minerals, which can support a healthy immune system and inflammatory response, but it acts as a natural anti-histamine. Because the nettle plan itself actually contains histamine, it promotes a healthy histamine response, unlike an over-the-counter drug that only treats symptoms. Nettle has been shown in clinical trials to improve allergic response, so science has finally proven what herbalists have always known--I love when that happens!
I like to have nettle tea regularly around the beginning of spring. Even though I don't experience seasonal allergies, I want to keep my histamine response on its toes and prevent getting allergies in the future. A nice allergy tea blend combines nettle leaf with peppermint, sage, and rosemary, which all have cooling, astringent effects that can help the sinuses, along with elderberry or elderflower, for their immune supporting properties. You can also eat young nettles once they pop up in the spring (harvest with gloves, of course), and add to stir-fries, soups, kraut, curries or sauces.
3. Balance the HPA Axis
If you are looking to improve your allergy symptoms, then addressing stress and the adrenals (or more accurately, the HPA axis) is essential. A heightened stress response, where your body is releasing more cortisol than normal, will lead to increased inflammation and depressed immune function. Also, disruption in the HPA axis can lead to compromised gut health, which also affects allergy symptoms, so dysfunction in the stress response is a double whammy during the spring.
Balancing the hormones in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, along with the thyroid, can be challenging and complicated, depending on different life and health factors. However, there are some basic steps you can begin to take to start to improve your allergies. Stress management, which may include mindfulness and meditation practices, or even counseling, is essential. You also have to ensure lots of good sleep, moderate exercise without over-training, good hydration, and limiting stimulants like sugar and caffeine. Adequate nutrient intake, including unrefined sea salt, good fats, proper amounts of protein and appropriate amounts of carbs (this usually means not going low-carb), and keeping blood sugar balanced will help to meet your physical needs to lessen any stress on the body.
Using adaptogenic herbs can also be beneficial in nourishing your adrenal system. Ashwagandha is one of my favorite herbs to help create a healthy stress response, but I also like tulsi, licorice, astragalus, rhodiola, eleuthero and reishi as adaptogens when I need extra herbal support for stress, be it physical or mental/emotional.
4. Vitamin C and Quercetin
Keeping with the theme of immune support and promoting a healthy inflammation response, other ways to improve allergy symptoms are with vitamin C and quercetin. Quercetin is a bioflavanoid found in some fruits and vegetables, especially in the skins, that has been proven to improve allergy symptoms. This, along with vitamin C, act as potent antioxidants. These provide immune support and act as anti-inflammatories as well.
Getting adequate vitamin C during allergy season is critical, so upping your intake of vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, bell peppers and cabbage will help meet your needs. Supplementing with "superfoods" like acerola cherry, amla, rosehips and spirulina can also add extra vitamin C.
Quercetin can be found naturally in citrus, apples, onions, berries, and cruciferous vegetables. However, the amount found in foods is small, so if allergies are a real struggle for you every year, then supplementing with quercetin could be helpful in order to get a more therapeutic dose.
Along with vitamin C and quercetin, getting plenty of antioxidants from other sources can help with immune and inflammation responses as well. Zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, and selenium are all nutrients that act as antioxidants. Eating a well-rounded diet that includes organ meats, red meat, nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocados, fish and shellfish, and sprouted or soaked whole grains will ensure these nutrient needs are being met.
5. Raw Local Honey
The more I learn about raw honey, the more I think it may be magical. As far as treating allergies, raw honey has long been a folk remedy for these symptoms. It is thought to be beneficial because it contains pollen, since it is a product of bees, which may be part of why many find it helpful. It is important that the honey be local to where you live in order to help you with your seasonal allergies, as you are getting your body used to the allergens in your particular area. Studies on its use are limited, and much of the evidence supporting the use of raw honey for allergies is anecdotal, but it may be useful nonetheless, especially when used in conjunction with these other strategies above. Of course, if you have bee or honey allergies, then use the other strategies above and do not use honey for your allergies.
Aside from the potential pollen content, the reason raw honey is useful during allergy season is because of its immune-supporting antioxidant content. If you are prone to allergies, supporting your body's immune response with a small amount of raw, local honey daily may prove helpful to you. Drizzle it on your sourdough toast with pastured butter, use it in a switchel combined with ginger and raw ACV, or stir it into your nettle tea for a super allergy-fighting combination this spring.
Why Choose "Wild-Caught?"
In nearly all traditional foods diets, like those studied by Dr. Weston A. Price, animals and plants from the sea were extremely important food sources. Most of the people that Dr. Price studied ate a balance of foods from both land and sea, and he found that those who ate the most sea foods seemed to have the best overall health, including dental and reproductive health. Today, we are still told how good fish is for us, especially salmon, even in the mainstream health world. Unfortunately there is still a lot of confusion around which types of fish to eat, why to eat them, and whether or not they are safe. I am hoping to clear this up and emphasize the importance of wild-caught seafood.
Farmed Fish Fraud
First, I'll touch on the difference between wild caught and farmed fish. When I say "farmed," I am essentially talking about factory-farmed fish. The vast majority of fish found in supermarkets and restaurants comes from these farms. If you buy fish and it does not say "wild-caught" then it is almost certainly factory-farmed. In the media and conventional nutrition teachings, it is made to seem like fish is fish and it is all good for you, but that is not the truth.
Fish raised with these large-scale farming methods are grown in huge quantities, and much like chickens or cows, they do not have a lot of room to move around. This over-crowding leads to a lot of diseased fish, with various bacteria, viruses and pesticides that are not natural to the fish. Then, they are given antibiotics and pesticides--and all of that is going into the fish that will be eaten. Like feedlot livestock, they are fed genetically modified (GMO) feed, usually including corn. Obviously, corn is not a natural food to fish, so this eventually leads to other illnesses that need to be treated with antibiotics.
The high amount of pollution created by these huge fish farms is spreading to the surrounding natural waters and causing pollution problems for the wild fish and other life there. Also, their GMO feed is getting out of the nets and being eaten by the wild fish. Even scarier, GMO salmon now exist. Not only is this a problem for the consumer because these fish are not being labeled as genetically-modified on the shelves, but these fish can get out of their nets, breeding with the wild population, so even wild-caught fish may be compromised with GMO's. For farmed salmon, the majority of farmers are in Chile, Scotland, Norway and British Columbia, Canada and many are labeled "Atlantic Salmon," and may not necessarily be labeled as "farm-raised. " There is a common misconception that "Atlantic" means caught wild in the Atlantic ocean; however, this is almost always the opposite. Unless labeled "wild-caught," you should assume it is farmed. Clearly, being an informed consumer and food labeling advocate is important now more than ever.
These practices are not sustainable for the environment, nor are they good for the fish or the humans that eat them. This translates to a food that will not provide the nutrition that you are looking for when you go to buy fish that you've been told is "good for you." The pink color that wild salmon naturally have, which signifies their astaxanthin content, is added by dyes in factory fish. As the consumer, you would not be getting the benefit of this antioxidant, nor would you be getting the omega 3 fatty acids found in wild fish.
There are exceptions to this farming rule, however. Sustainable and organic aquaculture is emerging, which has the potential to create a larger supply of fish--which is needed for the health of our huge population--without creating such harm in the environment. This is meant to be a supplement, not a replacement for wild-caught fish, but it could help to get more people eating the fish they need without harming the planet.
What about wild caught?
Responsibly-managed fisheries are the key to keeping wild-caught fish sustainable. Biologists and other scientists manage and oversee operations, including wild salmon runs, to ensure that over-fishing is not happening. Not all fisheries are responsible in this way, however, and it is important to know where your fish is coming from before you purchase it, just like with all of your other food. There are many organizations that monitor and rate fisheries for their sustainability practices, including the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Because of fisheries following these practices, the industry is actually improving in many areas and fish populations are increasing when well-managed fisheries are doing their jobs. As consumer demand for sustainably-caught fish increases, the fisheries are stepping up their game to meet this growing need.
When fish are allowed to live in their natural habitat, they are going to be healthier, and therefore provide more nutrition to you when you eat them. This is win-win for everyone, including the fisheries that are doing things right.
It is becoming more widely known that fish is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. But this is not just any fish; as I have tried to emphasize, wild-caught fish are the source of all this incredible nutrition, or fish from sustainable, organic aquaculture operations when available. The famous omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, are best found in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. These fats have been linked to numerous health benefits, including better joints, mental health, and even healthy pregnancies. They are crucial for brain development, so wild-caught fish is an essential for pregnant women so their babies have healthy brains.
Wild-caught salmon and shrimp are also a sources of astaxanthin, an powerful antioxidant that has been shown to support eye, skin and heart health. You can see this phytochemical in the pink pigment of their flesh. The omega 3 content of seafoods provide anti-inflammatory benefits, which has shown to contribute to better digestive health and overall disease prevention.
Fish are also a source of the fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin D. Tribes, such as the Inuit, that lived at an extremely high latitude without much sun exposure ate a huge amount of fish, and therefore were not vitamin D deficient. This is why cod liver oil is such an important supplement to those in Northern latitude during the colder months. When sunshine doesn't provide you with vitamin D, cod liver oil and vitamin D-rich seafoods take its place in meeting your needs.
Salt-water fish, shellfish and crustaceans are, of course, also great sources of many minerals. Iodine, selenium, choline, iron, zinc and calcium are all rich in wild seafoods. Oysters are one of the richest sources of zinc available. An especially good source of calcium is in the fish bones. When you have canned salmon or sardines where the bones are left in, they are edible and are a great way to get your calcium in! This calcium content, along with the trace minerals and fat-soluble vitamins, are crucial in good dental health, as well as having healthy pregnancies and nourishing growing children. Fish skin and bones can also be made into a broth that is rich in collagen, gelatin and glycine, as well as these other minerals. Fish that are wild-caught from fresh water, not from the sea, are also extremely nutrient-dense. So, if you are concerned with eating locally and don't live anywhere near the ocean, like myself, choosing fresh water fish such as walleye, smelt or trout can be a nutritious and sustainable option for you as well. To obtain as many of the nutritional benefits as possible from fish and other seafoods, eating a variety of different fish, balanced with shellfish like oysters, crustaceans like shrimp, and including the skin and bones when possible is the best strategy.
What about mercury? Pollution?
All foods from the sea contain at least trace amounts of mercury. This varies in the species and age of the fish, and increases as you get higher in the food chain. But it is in all of them in some amounts, and always has been. Some studies that have sampled mercury contents of the ocean have shown that it has not really changed over the last 100 years, when pollution has obviously skyrocketed. Most of the mercury found in fish is in the form of methyl mercury, which is coming from the volcanic soil in the sea, that has been there since the seas were formed. This article from Science Daily does a pretty good job of explaining where most of the ocean's mercury has come from.
So, the Inuit, Aborigines and all of the other tribes that relied heavily on fish and sea foods for their health were consuming at least some amount of methyl mercury. Why am I not overly alarmed about this?
The main reason that I don't believe the amount of mercury in fish is cause for much alarm is because of the incredible nutrition in the fish itself. Selenium, a mineral abundant in wild fish, helps to protect your body from mercury, by binding with it and then helping the body to excrete it in waste. Nature created a perfect food in fish--if it had to be grown in water that had mercury from previous volcanic activity, then it would be rich in a nutrient that would protect us against that mercury. I love when nature does that.
Mercury from pollution and environmental contaminants is a problem for everyone, not just for people eating wild fish. Even lake fish, because of pollution, are shown to have high mercury levels in some areas. Wild fish is not the only concern. It seems that by consuming fish and other foods rich in selenium, such as Brazil nuts, you are protecting yourself not only from potential methyl mercury from the sea, but also other forms of mercury all over the planet. If mercury is a big concern for you, you would do well to check on the mercury in your mouth (amalgam fillings) and other sources such as air pollution and municipal water, to help you and your family avoid large amounts of mercury. These are much bigger concerns that require attention, and are a bigger threat to health than wild-caught fish. The Food and Water Watch published this article about the connection between farmed fish and mercury--obviously farmed fish is not the solution, it is the nutrition of the wild-caught fish.
As far as pollution is concerned, this is another area where it is important to know where the fish is coming from. Much of the pollution in coastal waters is actually from factory fish farms, which are on the coast, and are putting their pollution into the water. Fish that is caught in deeper waters is much safer and has less chance of being polluted by this source. If you are still wanting to eat fish but avoid large amounts of pollutants in your food, you are much better off to eat wild-caught fish or fish grown at an organic fishery. You will be exposed to fewer toxins in wild-caught fish than most factory farmed fish because of the way in which they are raised. Also, choosing smaller fish that are lower down the food chain can help minimize the amount of mercury and other toxins consumed from wild-caught fish. Larger fish that are higher up the chain such as swordfish and some kinds of tuna will store, and therefore contain, more mercury and other pollutants than smaller fish like sardines or anchovies.
Radiation is a big concern for people eating wild-caught fish, more than probably any other pollutant. There is no doubt that some wild fish have at least a small level of radiation in them, from a variety of different irresponsible companies that pollute the ocean, including the incident in Fukushima. The best news here is that fish, as well as seaweed, are extremely rich in iodine. Iodine has been shown to protect the body against the effects of radiation--another situation where fish is kind of a miracle food. The amount of radiation and pollutants in seafood is likely no higher than in many other foods in our industrialized food system, including drinking water. Eating fish a few times per week and seaweed about once a week for their iodine contents may actually offer protection not only from potential contaminants in the fish itself, but also other environmental and food contaminants as well. I, too, worry about this more than any other issue of contamination in the water. However, similar to mercury and other pollution concerns, I feel that the health benefits are important enough to a nutrient-diet that they are worth including, and outweighs concern. If this is a barrier for you, though, you could simply limit your intake of foods from the sea, especially the Pacific Ocean, and make most of your fish intake come from freshwater sources. Again, checking with the Marine Stewardship Council before selecting your fish can be a good place to start and give you peace of mind.
Overall, it is clear that wild-caught fish are nutritionally superior and when done responsibly, are better for the environment as well. The risks of possible contaminants when eating wild sea foods are greatly outweighed by the benefits. As a consumer, knowing where your seafood--and all food--is your responsibility. Read labels, and check for certifications from organizations like the MSC, and even fish for your own food. Fisheries like Vital Choice Seafood and Sitka Salmon are doing it right, and even have a huge amount of information about the safety and nutrition of their products on their websites. They will even ship to you, saving a trip to the store. If we increase the demand for sustainable, healthy seafood it will become more widely available and the fishers who are taking care to work in a sustainable way will be compensated. Maybe someday, your choice will be just between wild-caught and organically farmed, not factory farmed at all, but I am not optimistic yet.
For further reading on the importance of fish in our diet, check out The Queen of Fats by Susan Allport, The Omega 3 Effect by Dr. William Sears, M.D., Four Fish by Paul Greenberg, Know Your Fats by Dr. Mary Enig, PhD, and of course, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morrell. There is much to be learned, and many fish to be eaten.
So just how much seafood do we need? I recommend at least 2 servings of fish or other animals from the sea per week. A can of sardines or oysters can be the protein source in a quick and easy lunch, or enjoy some smoked salmon for a delicious snack. Also, supplementing with cod liver oil during the colder months can also be beneficial for getting adequate vitamin D when the sun seems to be a stranger. Along with CLO, starting with 2 servings a week is a great way to begin to meet your nutrient needs, including vitamin D, minerals like iodine and zinc, protein, omega 3 fats, antioxidants and, in some cases, collagen. Below are some examples of some of my favorite, and nutrient-dense, fish and seafood choices. Pick from these lists when planning your meals, consume a wide variety, and start to enjoy the many benefits of wild-caught fish--including incredible flavor and the possibility of new meal ideas.
Wild Fish from the Sea
Sardines--I love canned sardines for a quick protein option at lunch
Shellfish, Crustaceans, etc.
Oysters--raw or smoked and canned, these are such a treat
Fresh Water Fish
Toasted Nori--I eat these about once a week as seaweed snacks, and they are so good
Make Your Own Water Kefir
When people ask me about getting into fermentation, I like to point them towards water kefir as a beginner DIY project. This fermented beverage is not only easy to prepare but is also dairy-free and requires no special equipment. It tends to be a simpler first fermented beverage to try at home, as opposed to kombucha that can be a little trickier to master for some.
Kefir, like kombucha, is make from a starter culture that contains a SCOBY, an acronym for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” If you’re familiar with a kombucha SCOBY, sometimes called a “mother” culture, you will notice some differences between it and the culture that makes up water kefir. While kombucha is generally one larger, flat culture that forms in layers, the colonies of bacteria and yeast that make up water kefir are in many pieces, forming small, gelatinous balls. These are commonly referred to as kefir grains, which are not grains at all, but are called this due to their appearance. The grains that make water kefir are clear, whereas milk kefir grains are an opaque white, almost resembling cottage cheese curds.
What makes kefir different from kombucha, and why the starter cultures themselves look so different, is that they are comprised of different strains of bacteria and yeast. The microbial makeup is different and therefore it is made with a different process and will have different flavors. I like to incorporate as many different fermented foods and beverages as possible into my diet, as diversity in the beneficial bacteria and yeast introduced can have a positive effect on the microbiome, so I like to drink both kombucha and kefir to mix it up.
Water kefir takes little time to ferment, which can be nice if you are wanting to get started drinking your product sooner than the 10-14 days it can take to ferment kombucha. Some people prefer water kefir over kombucha because kefir is not made with tea, and those sensitive to caffeine sometimes find kombucha contains too much for them. Water kefir is also great for dairy-free folks who are looking to add more ferments to their life, but can’t eat yogurt or milk kefir. Again, I love and drink lots of kombucha as well as kefir, so I am not saying kefir is superior somehow, but this can be a nice alternative fermented beverage if you find kombucha doesn’t work for you.
Because it is made from a SCOBY culture, the trickiest part in making kefir is obtaining the starter “grains.” I find the best way to do this is to get them from a friend or someone in your community who is already making their own. If you can’t think of anyone, maybe throw it out there on social media or on your work bulletin board that you are looking for kefir grains and see if anyone has any to share. Alternately, you can buy them online through the Kombucha Kamp website or Cultures for Health. Once you find some and start making your own kefir, the SCOBY grains will start to grow and reproduce, giving you more than you will need for one batch. You can then divide them up and make multiple batches or share with someone else, storing in the refrigerator in a small amount of prepared kefir until ready to use.
Just like when I make kombucha, I like to ferment water kefir with a two-step fermentation process. The first ferment is culturing the sugar-water mixture with the kefir SCOBY, and the second ferment is adding a flavoring and allowing it to carbonate under pressure with the SCOBY removed. For flavors to add during the second fermentation, you can try any juice, fruit puree, or herbs that you like. Favorites at my house are concord grape (made with juice), pineapple-thyme, and ginger-lime. Experiment and see which are your favorites.
If you are unsure if you like water kefir and want to try it before getting into making it at home, there are brands available at grocery stores, such as health food stores and co-ops. The brand Kevita makes water kefir, which is most of their products, unless labeled specifically “kombucha.” There are also smaller-scale local brands making water kefir, depending where you live, that would be great to try as well. Of course, I always want to encourage folks to make their own at home if they can!
Makes 1 quart
Time: 10 minutes, 3-5 days for fermentation
1 quart filtered water
¼ cup organic cane sugar
10-12 raisins, or 2-3 figs or prunes--the dried fruit is to add some minerals for the SCOBY, which will help it to thrive and grow better, leading to better fermentation and carbonation…kefir grains love minerals
2 Tbs water kefir grains
For 2nd fermentation: 2-4 Tbs fruit juice, fruit puree/pieces, or other herb such as ginger or turmeric
Tahini Yogurt Sauce
Middle Eastern food may just be my favorite variety of "ethnic" cuisine. Bold flavors like lamb, olives, feta, lemon and garlic are what I crave on the regular. This Tahini Yogurt sauce is a result of a major tahini craving, which is nice because it comes together so quickly. I love this drizzled on roasted sweet potatoes then topped with fresh parsley, or for dipping crudite and pieces of warm pita. Make this as thin or thick as you like, depending on how you will use it, by adjusting the amount of water added. If adding extra water, be sure to add a pinch of extra salt so it still keeps its flavor and saltiness. Also, bonus points for probiotic yogurt! Our guts thank us for this sauce, as do our tongues.
Tahini Yogurt Sauce
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced, or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
2-4 Tbs water as needed
Whisk ingredients together in a medium bowl until well combined. Add water as needed to thin to desired consistency. If you want a thinner sauce for drizzling, use more water, or less water for a thicker sauce for dipping.
Refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep about 1 week in the fridge.
You may be well-acquainted with kombucha, the fermented tea drink that has been sweeping the nation for the past few years. It is nearly impossible to go to a health food store or even a conventional grocery store, without spotting at least one brand of kombucha. For those unfamiliar, kombucha is a non-alcoholic fermented beverage made with black tea and cane sugar, which is fermented with a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) and enjoyed for its positive health benefits. People especially flock to it because of certain bacteria, enzymes and organic acids, making it a wonderful tonic to aid in digestion and boost immune function.
While you might have heard of kombucha, there is a similar but lesser-known tonic made by fermentation with a SCOBY, but with slightly different ingredients. That's right: kombucha has a cool cousin, and it's called Jun. Instead of black tea, jun is made with green tea, and is sweetened with honey instead of cane sugar. This gives it a milder flavor, with a slightly floral taste compared to its kombucha counterpart. It also has a different make up of bacteria and yeasts, so it is a great thing to incorporate if you are working on increasing the diversity of fermented foods into your diet to improve your microbiome.
It is important to use raw, unprocessed honey in your jun, as it is full of naturally-occurring vitamins and enzymes, and will enhance the nutritional value of your tea. Also, processed honey may not be pure, 100% honey. Some commercial supermarket "honey" can be cut with high fructose corn syrup without being labeled as such. So, as always, local, unprocessed raw honey is the best choice.
According to the Kombucha Kamp website (a mecca for all things kombucha), jun thrives at a slightly lower temperature than the warm-loving kombucha, 68-77 F instead of 78-85 F. This makes jun a wonderful beverage to brew in the colder months, as your kitchen is likely quite a bit cooler now than in the summer months--I know mine is! This can also be nice in the summer if your kitchen is air conditioned and stays a little cooler. For this, I envy you. Jun can turn out to be quite fizzy, so this is a nice drink to have instead of pop or alcohol.
To obtain a mother culture to make your own jun at home, you can try to find a friend or someone in your community who is already brewing some, or you can purchase a SCOBY on websites like Kombucha Kamp that will ship them to you along with some starter liquid to get things going. A small investment up front, but it is delicious and totally worth it. You can also check out this post from the Nourished Kitchen and this article by Kombucha Brooklyn for more on the history of jun tea and more fun tidbits!
Continuous Brew Jun Tea
Makes 1 gallon
1 jun SCOBY (aka "mother" or starter culture), see above link for a good source
1 cup prepared jun, for the starter liquid
4 tsp loose leaf green tea-- use a good quality tea here!
3/4 cup raw honey, local if possible
1 gallon filtered water
Flavorings for the second ferment:
~3/4 cup organic juice or fruit puree
~1/4 cup herbs or fresh ginger (rose hips and elderberries are nice!)
Bring 1 quart of the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the loose leaf green tea. Cover and let brew for 4-6 minutes. Be careful not to let sit too long or it can become bitter.
While the tea is steeping, add the raw honey to a gallon-sized glass jar. You can use one with a spout for easier dispensing, but any glass jar will do.
Once steeped, strain the tea into the jar with the honey. Stir well to dissolve the honey and combine with the tea. Add the rest of the filtered water and fill almost to the top, leaving a few inches of space for the SCOBY and starter liquid.
When the tea is cooled to room temperature, add the SCOBY and the jun starter liquid. Cover the jar with a cloth to keep out dust and bugs, then secure in place with a rubber band or string.
Let the jun sit for 3-5 days for the first phase of fermentation. This is fewer days than with kombucha, as these cultures tend to ferment more quickly.
You will see strands of yeast forming and all sorts of fun stuff growing in the jun, and it is beautiful!
To prepare for the second fermentation, remove the SCOBY. and set aside. Take out 1 cup of prepared jun as the starter for your next batch--it's continuous!
If a second SCOBY has formed, you can remove that, along with another cup of fermented jun, and place them in a jar to give away or start another gallon on jun. If it hasn't just take out the one cup of jun and proceed to the second fermentation.
At this point, you would start your next batch of jun tea to replace what you will be decanting into the bottles, starting the whole process over. Thus, the continuous brew method.
For the second fermentation:
Prepare approximately 6 bottles for filling; I use 16 oz. flip-top amber glass bottles, but you could also use leftover kombucha bottles. Add flavorings to your liking, or omit for a simple jun tea. My favorite jun flavor additions are organic grape juice, lemon/ginger, rose hip/elderberry and pureed berries. Divide the juice, fruit or other herbal flavorings amongst the bottles evenly, using about 2 Tbs juice or puree, or 1-2 tsp herbs, per bottle.
Dispense the prepared jun into the bottles, filling almost to the top. Add the caps or swing tops to close.
Let sit 2-3 more days to allow for carbonation. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Once you grow some new jun SCOBYs of your own, be sure to give them to friends so they can make their own home brews and spread the deliciousness of jun tea!
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.