By Mark Davis, BHSc (TCM).
I have been making Kvass this week, it is basically lacto-fermented raw beetroot cubes with added water, the resulting deep red liquid is taken in small doses internally for its health benefits.
Beetroot is a powerhouse of nutrition packed full of vitamins and minerals, however it is higher in natural sugars than any other root vegetable, when fermented, enzymes and beneficial bacteria consume the sugars to make the nutrients more bioavailable. Beetroot is particularly good for heart health, blood production and it is even said to lower blood pressure; anecdotal evidence suggests that is especially beneficial for the Liver.
Taste-wise, the Kvass is a little sour, sweet and salty all at the same time. In Chinese Medicine, the sour taste directs foods to the Liver, the sweet taste to the Spleen and salty to the Kidneys. So you can see already that it is quite a well balanced tonic for all three organs.
Although it’s origins are not Chinese, as an integrated health practitioner, I prefer to mix the best from all traditional health concepts regardless of where they originate.
We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat,” and the famous quote by Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine.”
Asian countries have a long history of using fermented foods including miso, tempeh, kimchi, natto etc. In the West also, particularly Eastern European countries have traditions such as Sourdough, Kefir, Sauerkraut and Kvass.
Before refrigeration was available these processes were used to preserve staple foods so that they were available during the colder seasons when there was less produce, however as they have been shown to be a valuable resource nutritionally, the tradition continues today and the consumption seems to be gaining popularity.
Regular intake of fermented vegetables will improve digestion, resolve bloating and compliment intestinal health. Important research is currently exploring the associations between gut health and cognitive function.
In Chinese Medicine dietary guidelines, over-indulgence of fermented foods can result in ‘dampness,’ typically noticed as excess mucous, a heavy feeling, diarrhoea and sluggishness.
So these foods should be enjoyed in small doses, as an accompaniment to meals, on a daily basis.
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