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Open your refrigerator and check the expiration dates on the jars way in the back. You might find a jar of pickles, jam or salad dressing that is getting ready to expire. You may remember buying some of that stuff months or maybe even a year or more ago, and here’s the scary part: you might actually eat it!
The Million Dollar Question
So here is my question: why doesn’t that stuff go bad? And should we be eating it? Remember, your body is made up of mostly microbes, similar to the kind that will mold your bread. In fact, the body is 90% microbes and only 10% human when you tally up all the human cells.
We have to start thinking of ways to feed not only the 10%, but perhaps more importantly, the 90% of us.
We all know that milk from a cow will go bad in two or three days, but ultra-pasteurized milk will last 3 weeks or more! Hmmm – if the bugs won’t eat it, should we?
Some of us remember buying bread from a bakery in the old days. If it wasn’t eaten in a day, it would get hard or grow some mold. Today, we have organic whole wheat bread that by all measures is sold as healthy bread, yet it will sit on the counter for a month and not go bad or grow mold. If the bugs won’t eat it, should we?
Think about the jars of condiments in your refrigerator that have been there for weeks, months and maybe years. Don’t you wonder why it can stay in the fridge for so long and not go bad? If the bugs won’t eat it, should we?
Open up your pantry and look at all the grains, pastas, cereals, crackers and flour that take years to expire. If we harvested our own wheat berries and ground them into fresh flour, how long do you think it would last on a shelf? If the bugs won’t eat it, should we?
As it turns out, according to research communities investigating our microbiome, it is quite difficult to repopulate the gut with new and beneficial microbes. Meanwhile, we have done a bang-up job of killing off many strains of microbes that are now recognized as being required for optimal health.
So logically, we should be eating foods that will feed your microbiology, since they are in fact the 90%. In general, they love good fats and fiber. Good bugs are not big on sugar and carbs, but the bad bugs love it.
One simple rule of thumb is: if it won’t go bad pretty quickly on the counter, the pantry, or in the fridge, then we have solid proof that the microbes – which are everywhere – won’t eat them. We can assume that when we are ingesting those foods, the good microbes in our gut won’t be feeding on those foods, either. The result: a starving population of good microbes.
Consider throwing out all those items in your fridge that are older than a month or two. That is a good start.
Of course, there are natural preservation methods such as lacto-fermentation, culturing dairy and sugar and salt methods that actually employ the good bugs to keep undesirable bacteria away from these foods. As a result, many of these foods, like miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, and some kinds of cheeses, will remain edible for a stretch. Adding a small amount of lacto-fermented foods to your daily diet is a great way to feed the good bugs in your gut.
Addendum: Additionally, dried grains and beans, as well as dense root and ground vegetables like cabbage and beets, can naturally keep for longer than a month. They are very dense veggies that take a whole season to grow and thus are naturally resistant to bugs, as are beans. Nature has its own ways to preserve foods for the winter that we have been unable to match.
When cleaning out your fridge and cabinets, these foods can be the exception.