Kind of a pickle

When you’re searching for a fitness and health expert you can trust, you need a few shortcuts to determine if the guy or gal is actually competent.

So here’s one timesaver: if he or she ever says that pickles are a source of fermented foods, keep scrolling.

Fermented foods should be part of a high performance, high health diet. These foods contain probiotic organisms that are responsible for a healthy gut microbiome, and accordingly, systemic health. Gut health gets you a working digestive tract, a strong immune system, and a properly functioning metabolism.

In any event, pickles are not fermented unless they are prepared by the same process all fermented foods undergo. Fermentation of vegetables works by sprinkling them with salt and allowing them to sit at room temperature in an anerobic (sealed/submerged) environment. Fermentation occurs when lactic acid-producing bacteria change the sugars in the food into acid. Food is preserved because the lactic acid produced by the bacteria destroys all spoilage organisms.

The typical pickles you find on grocery store shelves have not been prepared this way. Instead, they are pickled: a vegetable is submerged in hot vinegary brine and heat processed to be shelf stable. If you see vinegar listed as an ingredient on your pickle jar, it’s not fermented.

People have known about preserving food through fermentation for 6,000 years. With these kinds of bio-hacks, however, I’m always curious how the original nutrient became part of our evolutionary journey dating back over two million years.

Well, the answers to these questions are often gross, but fascinating nonetheless. Humans evolved for optimal health in a particular environment. Per usual, if you don’t like the principles of human biology, don’t shoot the messenger. Instead, you should take it up with the manufacturer. 

Here’s an excerpt from a remarkable article about the spectacularly healthy Native American hunter-gatherer, and their subsistence on buffalo:

“In the old days we used to eat the guts of the buffalo, making a contest of it, two fellows getting hold of a long piece of intestines from opposite ends, starting chewing toward the middle, seeing who can get there first; that’s eating. Those buffalo guts, full of half-fermented, half-digested grass and herbs, you didn’t need any pills and vitamins when you swallowed those.”

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