Archive for April 19th, 2012

Fermenting Lentils

I wrote it before, and I will write it once more: The (proper) dairy is my No1 point of disagreement with mainline Paleo, with lentils being the No2. Lentils have too much iron, manganese, and folate, nutrients that are sorely missed when going too-low carb. They are essentially the best kinds of legumes in terms of nutrition. Unfortunately, they also have a lot of anti-nutrients: loads of lectins, to be exact.

In the olden days, beans would only be eaten while they’ve been previously fermented (soy too). But in the fast-pacing modern days we live in, convenience rules, so people stopped fermenting foods. According to an experiment carried out by researchers, a 24 to 36 hours fermentation of lentils gets rid of most of the lectins! At the end of the fermentation, the lectins and anti-nutrients surviving are not more than the ones found on a carrot or spinach. So in my opinion, Paleo fanatics who are adamant about the no-legumes rule, need to ease up. Just like with dairy, there are exceptions to the rule.


Lentils and Peas by Photobunny Earl. Licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0.

So, how to ferment lentils? There are two ways to do this, either via pickling, or via lacto-fermentation (preferred).

Common Steps (for 1 cup of lentils):

A. Lentils are usually cross-contaminated with grains (since they grow in grass fields), so you must go through your raw lentils and remove anything that doesn’t look like a lentil.

B. Wash the lentils thoroughly using your palms, and sift-strain them.

Acidity Fermentation:

1. Place in a bowl, and add double the amount of water than that of lentils. The water must be slightly warm, around 30 C. For this type of fermentation, any kind of water will do, but filtered is best.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of raw vinegar, or the juice of a small lemon into the water. Stir, and cover (but not air-tight).

3. After 12 hours, strain the water away, and repeat steps 1 & 2 (every 12 hours). Ferment for 24 to 36 hours.

Lacto-fermentation:

1. Place in a bowl, and add double the amount of water than that of lentils. The water must be slightly warm, but no more than 25-30 C. For this type of fermentation, non-tap water must be used. Use either filtered, or bottled water. The good bacteria we will use to ferment, can’t survive on tap water.

2. Add 1.5 tablespoons of plain yogurt, or preferably, 1/4 cup of home-made goat kefir. Stir, and cover (but not air-tight).

3. After 12 hours, strain the water away, and repeat steps 1 & 2 (every 12 hours). Ferment for 24 to 36 hours.

Drain and wash them again, then cook your lentils according to your recipe (although probably they will require less cooking time).

A word about Kefir

When that fateful day of September 3rd 2011 I dropped grains completely and found back my health, I did it originally through the SCD diet (similar to Paleo), that also embraces the healing of the gut via home-made, lactose-free, probiotic yogurt. I’ve since moved to Paleo/Primal (which is a more complete diet than SCD in my opinion), but I kept SCD’s yogurt regimen, specifically from goat milk, which is more tolerable than cow dairy (goats have A2 casein, instead of the human-incompatible A1 found in most cows).

Six months passed, and with the additional help of ketosis, most of my ailments are completely vanished. I’d still get an occasional IBS breakout, no more than what would be considered “normal” though by most people.

For a month now, I don’t do yogurt anymore, I’ve moved to home-made goat kefir (fermented for 24-36 hours). Kefir contains up to 40 types of bacteria & yeasts, while yogurt usually contains 3 to 10 strains of bacteria. It also contains up to 5 trillion of these organisms, while yogurt usually goes up to 1-2 trillion per cup (a probiotic pill usually has up to 15 billion, most of them already dead by the time they’re bottled). Even people with lactose intolerance can tolerate kefir better than other dairy. Most importantly, the kinds of bacteria/yeasts that consist kefir, actually colonize the human gut, while yogurt’s strains only pass through, and are active in the gut for a short period of time. In other words, kefir is way more potent than yogurt.

Kefir is the stated reason why Caucasus people used to live up to 150 years old, before the modern cuisine caught up with them too. Kefir doesn’t only have internal healing and anti-cancer properties, but it can also heal external wounds. Its bacteria/yeasts strains work together in (visible by the human eye) colonies called “grains”, and attack any foreign microbe that is not part of their pack. E.Coli doesn’t stand a chance if it has the bad luck to fall into a cup (or a gut) of kefir.


My kefir, fermenting goat milk

Since I started having kefir, I haven’t had a single breakout of IBS, even when I stopped my Paleo-ketogenic diet and went plain Paleo (devouring quite a few carbs per day). Under “normal” circumstances, that would give me IBS symptoms at least once a week, but not while drinking kefir, no. In my mind, there’s no going back to yogurt, other than as the occasional treat: kefir is here to stay. It’s easier to make than yogurt too!

So why does kefir works so well? It’s for the same reason why some times fecal transplants from family members work for the treatment of IBS, SIBO, or C-Diff and other super-bugs: because you repopulate the gut with healthy strains that are compatible with the human gut. Kefir was probably “invented” by mistake. In the olden days, people would use the tripe of goats/sheep as a flask, to store milk or water. It probably only took one “bad” home-maker woman to not properly sterilize the tripe with hot water, before turning it into a flask. So the surviving bacteria from the tripe of these animals, fermented the milk. The poor husband, high up in the mountains of Caucasus taking care of his animals, had the choice of either drinking this weird sour milk/water, or go thirsty for the rest of the day. He drank it, he didn’t get sick by it, and so the story of kefir started. That was 2000 years ago, and while it’s just an assumption on my part on how it all started, it feels natural that it probably started this way. In contrast today, probiotic pills and yogurt strains are extracted from bovine tripe, but again, cows are incompatible with the human physiology, so these strains don’t stick in our gut. Goat/sheep’s strains do, so kefir became a superfood.

One word of caution though: to get these great benefits of kefir, you MUST make it yourself. The store-bought kefir products only have the limited effect of yogurt has, but not the extended properties of kefir. You see, you can’t bottle kefir with active yeasts in it: the alcohol produced by the yeasts would create pressure into the bottle, exploding it by the time it reaches the grocery store! Plus, the USDA is strict about some organisms that they haven’t fully researched yet, so kefir manufacturers in the US are forced to use the few well-known yogurt strains to make kefir. So if you want to get it right, you have to make goat kefir yourself. Buy the kefir grains from Amazon or elsewhere (make sure these are NOT kefir “starters”, but actual grains), and grow them according to instructions. Let them multiply and be happy & merry!

And as always, PubMed is your friend. The proof is in research too, not just anecdotal reports.