Fermented Foods: One of the Secrets to a Long Life

SeAnne Safaii-Waite, PhD, RDN, LD

Many of your patients are interested in what they can do to not only live longer but improve the quality of their lives. Fermented foods are in the nutrition spotlight these days and well they should be for their probiotic contribution to the diet. Our interviews with centenarians around the world reinforced the notion that fermented foods should be part of our daily diet. But how can you help your patients add these stinky fermented foods to their daily diets?

Due to the probiotic content of fermented foods, some recent studies suggest that they may help alieve gut discomfort from ailments such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. Though more research is needed to find out which strains of probiotics work best for what conditions, current evidence still gives good reasons for us to consider getting a daily dose of probiotics from a fermented food source.

Some fermented foods that seem to be more accepted include yogurt, sauerkraut (homemade), and soy sauce. Many people already are eating these foods without the full knowledge of their health benefits. Here are some not so widely consumed fermented foods: kefir milk, kombucha tea, tempeh, kimchi, miso and fermented cheeses, like pecorino. Some of these foods may be an acquired taste, but they are relatively easy to incorporate into the diet. Even beer and wine fall into the fermented food category.

For extremely motivated patients suggest making their own fermented foods. For example, pickles and sauerkraut are some of the easiest foods to ferment. Here is a great website for fermenting both of these foods: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/food_nutrition/canning/tips/46_fermenting_vegetables.html

For a great resource on fermentation recipes and processes check out Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz and Sally Fallon.

Alzheimer’s Awareness and Brain Month

June is Alzheimer’s Awareness and Brain Month.  There are many brain healthy foods we should be including in our diets.  One of those foods is walnuts. Walnuts are loaded with healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids and extremely important as we grow older. A 2012 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report found that eating walnuts as part of a Mediterranean diet was associated with better memory and brain function. Eat a handful of walnuts everyday as part of your Alzheimers prevention diet.

Homemade Sugar Free Pudding

Homemade sugar-free pudding tastes just as delicious as its sugar-rich cousins. Make homemade sugar-free pudding with help from a professor at the University of Idaho in Coeur d’Alene and Boise, Idaho in this free video clip.



Rethinking Breakfast: It’s All in the Breakfast Bake

What image comes to mind when you hear the adage “Breakfast of Champions?” My husband’s reply was similar to many of our middle-aged friends: An amazing athlete eating a heaping bowl of flaked cereal.

The quintessential healthful breakfast is changing. While boxed cereals made their debut during World War II, dietitians and consumers alike are learning we’ve been missing the “antiaging boat” with our breakfast choices. Review of the literature and my own global longevity research supports a change to include dosing our protein throughout the day. Ingestion of approximately 25 to 30 g protein per meal maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis in older individuals and can reduce the risks of sarcopenia. Research shows that muscle protein synthesis decreases when less than 20 g protein per meal are consumed. Centenarians interviewed during my qualitative research project conducted last year in Italy, Singapore, Japan, and the United States confirmed the benefits of a life-long habit of eating substantial protein at breakfast.

Since a typical American breakfast usually is lower in protein, how do we teach our clients to consume 25 to 30 g at this meal? The answer may be in a breakfast bake. Clients can make it ahead of time, cut it into individual portions, bring it to Sunday brunch, or freeze and reheat it.

Consider these hearty protein additions when counseling clients, several of which are featured in the example recipe below:

  • beans (whole or refried);
  • tofu or tempeh;
  • wheat germ;
  • nuts and seeds;
  • fish (eg, salmon, tuna, or light flavored fish);
  • ground chicken, turkey, buffalo, or other lean meat
  • eggs and egg substitutes;
  • cheeses;
  • plain Greek yogurt;
  • nonfat dry milk powder;
  • whey protein;
  • cottage cheese;
  • seitan;
  • edamame; or
  • hummus.

Whether you’re counseling an Olympic gymnast or a casual walker, the breakfast of champions should include a hefty dose of protein. So, unlike my husband’s description, my 17-year-old daughter says the breakfast of champions is, “breakfast I should eat to do really well in soccer today—like eggs, Greek yogurt with berries, and peanut butter toast.” Maybe she is listening!

Mediterranean Breakfast Bake

1 cup cooked potatoes or thawed (not frozen hash browns)
1 cup cooked beans of choice (pinto, black, soybeans, fava)
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 cup chopped spinach or arugula
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (variety of color is nice)
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups Egg Beaters (or equivalent) or 10 large eggs
1 cup chopped tomatoes or canned drained stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped basil, rosemary, oregano, and thyme, or 1 T Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes, if desired
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly spray 9 X 9-in square baking dish. Add the potatoes and beans to the bottom and set aside.

2. Gently sauté onions and garlic in olive oil on stovetop. Add chopped greens, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms, and sauté for approximately 5 minutes or until they start to soften. Add vegetable mix to potatoes and beans.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, beat eggs. Add tomatoes, herbs or Italian seasoning, chili pepper flakes, wheat germ, Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese, and salt and pepper, and mix lightly. Pour mixture over vegetables and beans. Top with grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, and shredded cheese of choice. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Cut into six pieces and serve with fresh arugula, olives, or basil garnish.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 295; Total carbohydrate: 26 g; Total fat: 9 g; Protein: 27 g; Sodium varies based on products used and salt added.