Home made beet kvass, a probiotic drink

A few weeks ago my husband Hugo had to rush himself into hospital because a tiny splinter in his thumb had caused an infection that quickly turned into sepsis.

That was scary. Hallelujah for antibiotics! They probably saved his life.

He was on an antibiotic drip for two days and then on oral antibiotics for a week.

After that his sensitive digestion was off. He was bloated most of the day, had stomach pain and acid reflux. And he was tired.

You know, antibiotics didn’t just kill the bacteria in his thumb, but also disturbed the delicate balance of the bacteria in his gut.

He had already started taking probiotics in the hospital. And on top of that I made sure he ate homemade yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles and a small glass of beet kvass every single day. (by the way, if you want to learn how to make your own fermented foods, come to my Sauerkraut and Pickles workshop!)

Three weeks later he’s feeling fine again.

Kvass is a traditional eastern European beverage that was originally made from fermenting stale bread. Made with beetroot it’s a beautiful deep red drink with a great taste. Here’s how you make it:

The recipe

Ingredients

For a 1 litre jar:

  • 1 medium organic beetroot
  • Filtered water
  • 5-6 slices of ginger (you can leave the skin on if organic)
  • 1.5 teaspoon good quality sea salt (so not table salt)

Materials

I like to use a fermentation jar because it’s super easy and the kvass doesn’t get moldy. That’s because these jars have an airlock; when the fermentation process starts, the bacteria produce CO2. That pushes the oxygen out of the jar and because of the airlock no new oxygen can come in.

I use Kilner 1 litre jars with regular sized mouth and special fermentation lids.

See here for the lids, if you already have the jars and here for the lids and the jars. They also have them now for wide mouth jar, which is handy if you want to make sauerkraut and get your hand in there to push the sauerkraut down.

How to do it:

  • Brush the dirt off the beetroot, no need to peel
  • Chop the beetroot coarsely; pieces should be around dice size. Don’t grate or cut too finely; than it can turn into alcohol because the sugars are too available!
  • Cut 5-6 thin slices off a fresh ginger root
  • Pop beetroot and ginger into the jar and add the salt
  • Add water up until an inch under the lid. Shake a bit.
  • Put this on your kitchen top and wait for 4-6 days. Don’t open the lid in between
  • Strain out the beets and ginger and pour into a clean jar. Drink a small glass once or twice every day and store the rest in the fridge.
  • If you want a continuous supply, start a new jar every 4-6 days.
  • Adding a few tablespoons of the kvass of an earlier batch will start the process slightly quicker

Do you want to learn how to make your own probiotic food? Sign up for my Sauerkraut and Pickles workshop on Sunday afternoon 26th of May.

Back to the dining table!

We eat 60% of our meals in front of the TV, according to a survey in 2013. The telly – or Netflix – has become a daily companion at our meal times!

But how does that affect your digestion?

Last week I talked about how cooking your own meals can help your acid reflux and IBS symptoms. But if you sit down to eat your meal at the table it gets even better!

If you’re in a calm state your nervous system is in the parasympathetic state. You are in ‘rest and digest’ mode. Your body knows everything is safe, relaxes and focuses on sending more blood to our digestive organs.

However, when you are stressed your body thinks there’s danger. It can’t differentiate between the news on tv and running for a tiger! So it immediately turns the switch to the sympathetic state. It sends more blood to our muscles, heart and lungs because you need to be able to jump up and run away. In dangerous situations it doesn’t make sense to focus on digestion.

When you eat in a stressed state, your digestion only works on half it’s potential – or less!

So what happens if you eat when you’re stressed out, upset, have a difficult conversation or reply to some  work emails during your meal? You will not break down the nutrients very well. And feed unhelpful bacteria that like to produce a lot of gas. The gas can than push up your stomach and result in acid reflux, bloating, burping, stomach pain and the like.

The solution? Resist the urge to eat on the go. Don’t watch the tv or check emails while you eat. Set the table with a nice plate. Light a candle. Make this a time to connect with your partner or family. Or with yourself!

And when your meal is on your plate, take a few seconds to look at it, take some deep breaths and appreciate the food in front of you. It doesn’t take more than that to switch to the rest-and-digest mode. Your tummy will thank you for it.

Is your life very busy and do you struggle to eat healthily because of that?

I wrote down some handy tips that take you out of overwhelm. You can download my free ‘Healthy Eating on the Go’ guide by clicking here.

How cooking your meals can improve your acid reflux and IBS symptoms

Did you know that something simple like cooking your own meals can actually help your digestion?

Imagine this: you decide to make a stew. You start sauteing onions, adding spices, roasting some seeds for your salad, chopping vegetables, washing some greens…. Your kitchen starts filling up with lovely aromas.

What then happens in your body is that this thinking about food, the hands-on preparing and the mouth-watering aromas set off a cascade of processes. And they are key for proper digestion.

Let’s get a bit technical: the hypothalamus in your brain starts signaling to the medulla oblongata in the brainstem: there’s food coming! The medulla’s response is sending out nerve impulses, which travel down the big, wandering nerve – the vagus nerve – to your digestive organs saying: Hey, let’s prepare and be ready for some good food! Your salivary glands start producing more saliva. The cells in your stomach wall ramp up the secretion of stomach acid. Your pancreas and your liver also get the message: start make some enzymes and bile. Together, they help with optimal digestion.

Something else is of course that when you cook your own meals, you decide what’s going in. You’re probably not going to add sugar, low quality oils, emulsifiers and preservatives to your cooking pot. It will be more likely honest whole foods that your body loves and knows how to deal with.

So how does this help your acid reflux and IBS?

Well, when the body is prepared for eating, you will break down your nutrients much better. And you will be able to absorb those nutrients and use them to build tissues and make energy.

Undigested foods can cause an imbalance in the bacteria in your gut. Those critters can produce quite a lot of gas and the result is you feel the bloat and your stomach gets pushed up because of the pressure in your unhappy tummy. And that can result in acid reflux and IBS symptoms like pain, gas and constipation or diarrhea.

Also, for many people low stomach acid is the cause of their acid reflux. I know, that’s not how it feels! When you eat a ready meal or a quick bite on the go and your body is not in ‘digesting mode’, you will have less stomach acid and more chances of experiencing acid reflux.

Is your life very busy and do you struggle to eat healthily because of that?

I wrote down some handy tips that take you out of overwhelm. You can download my free ‘Healthy Eating on the Go’ guide by clicking here.

Healthy hot chocolate recipe

During the cold and dark winter months I have been enjoying a warming and nourishing drink: my healthy hot chocolate! And I’m happy to share my recipe.Healthy hot chocolate

The inspiration came around at a time where I decided to stop drinking caffeinated coffee because I wasn’t sleeping well. At the same time I was looking for a mid morning snack with a good amount of protein to keep me going without an energy dip. The idea was it would prevent a snack attack later in the day.

So this is what I came up with. I make my healthy hot chocolate with my homemade cashew nut milk, raw cacao, collagen powder, maca powder, a pinch of sea salt and a bit of maple syrup.

Raw cacao

In case you didn’t know yet, raw cacao powder is so much nicer that the regular stuff. It has a delicate chocolate taste. It is much less processed than cocoa powder or chocolate bars. Cacao is thought to be the highest source of antioxidants and of magnesium of all foods.

Collagen powder

Collagen powder has many health benefits. It improves the health of your skin and hair, reduces joint pain and degeneration.  And since it heals and seals the protective lining of your gut as well it helps to heal leaky gut.

Maca powder

One of the benefits of maca root is that it increases fertility in both men and women. It’s a hormone balancer,and a booster for the immune system.

Maca is considered an adaptogen, which means that it helps the body naturally adapt to stressors like a busy schedule, demanding job, or illness, for example.

I notice that when I consume maca it gives me energy, like coffee would do, but without the crash afterwards. It makes me feel more grounded and alive. It helps me with restoring my hormone balance and it elevates endorphins, the feel good hormone. On top of that maca is its relatively high in protein, fiber, calcium and magnesium!


Healthy hot chocolate Recipe:
Ingredients
  • Half a mug of nut milk or coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons of collagen powder
  • 1 teaspoon of maca powder
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or use a few drops of liquid stevia)
How to
  1. Pour the nut milk in your mug and then add water to top up.
  2. Pour this milk and water in a saucepan and add the powders and the salt.
  3. Heat it up, using a whisk to stir.
  4. Add the maple syrup and pour into your favourite mug when hot.
  5. Retreat into a quit place where no-one can find you and enjoy!

9 tips for gluten-free shopping


Have you seen the gluten free shelves in the supermarket expanding? Many people are aware of their gluten sensitivity or even have coeliac disease. And the gluten-free food industry is eagerly stepping in. Which doesn’t mean that gluten free products are necessarily healthy: they’re almost always highly processed and contain lots of sugar, soy and processed oils.

So what to do if you want or need to go an a healthy gluten free diet? Here are some tips to help you transition:

  1. Shop on the outside aisles of your supermarket. That’s where the healthy foods are usually located. So stock up on organic fruits and vegetables, lean meats and eggs among others.
  2. Read labels!  When you buy packaged foods, it’s important to understand what they contain.  Foods that include wheat, rye, spelt, barley, or kamut contain gluten. Also, look for words like “spices,” “flavoring,” “modified food starch,” “maltodextrin,” “glucose syrup,” and “citric acid.” These can all contain gluten.  Be sure to read the ingredients list and also the “contains” section of food labels.
  3. These are the grains you can eat: quinoa, teff, buckwheat, brown rice, millet and amaranth. If you want to try oats, look for the gluten free ones. They’re not more processed than the regular ones, just grown and rolled in a safe way.
  4. “Gluten-free” doesn’t necessarily mean ‘healthy‘. Especially stay away from gluten-free cakes, sweets and biscuits. They contain often loads of sugar and processed flours and are low in nutrients.
  5. Don’t buy any ready-made sauces and dressings. Make your own so you make sure they are healthy and without any gluten, sugar or processed ingredients.
  6. Go back to the kitchen and prepare your own meals. Chopping your veg and preparing your meal is a great way to unwind from a busy day. And it’s a lot cheaper as well!
  7. Find some great websites and blogs. Cooking healthy and delicious meals is so much easier now with all the inspiration you can find online. I love the Deliciouslyella blog. Her recipes are also dairy and refined sugar free. Mynewroots  is another great and very creative one. And if you love baking and sweet treats, have a look at Livia’s kitchen. Start with two or three easy meals at first.  Once you feel comfortable, move of to more challenging or time-consuming recipes.
  8. Get prepping. Make a big pot of soup and freeze it in portions. Make a batch of your favorite snacks with a friend. So that when you’re tired or uninspired you won’t be reaching for the not-so-good stuff. You’ll find more ideas in my free Healthy Eating on the Go guide.
  9. Know which alcohol to avoid. Gluten-free alcohol includes cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port and liqueurs, but remember that beer, lagers, stouts and ales contain varying amounts of gluten.

Over to you! What are your top tips for going gluten free?