Review: Cultured: How Ancient Foods Can Feed Our Microbiome


By Katherine Harmon Courage

Probiotics and gut health have been at the forefront of nutrition and healthy eating news lately, and I have recently jumped on the probiotic supplement bandwagon. But what do I really know about the probiotic pills I am taking? This book, Cultured: How Ancient Foods Feed Our Microbiome by Katherine Courage, educated me on the whole system and did a really good job of outlining the history and origins of fermented foods, the importance of incorporating both probiotic and prebiotic foods into your diet and also explained how eating diversely can help support those microbes in your gut.

I appreciate how Courage laid out the case for fermented foods scientifically, and with a bit of wit and humor laced throughout the book, while not completely denigrating our current food safety processes. For example, she mentioned how important the pasteurization of milk is to preventing food-borne illness and names the killing of good bacteria as an unintended consequence. I feel that many books in this genre do a lot of finger pointing and for me, Courage safely walked the line between educating based on sound science while also naming issues or problems with our current system and diet without making unsupported claims.

I will admit that I was looking for a silver bullet. What foods can I easily incorporate into my family’s diet so that we can have a healthier gut? Without brewing my own kombocha tea or homemade yogurt, that question is not really answered in this book. However, her look at various cultures and their fermented foods is fascinating and she does include some recipes along the way.

Incorporating fermented foods into our stubbornly Western diet is tough. As for my family, we can at least focus on eating more prebiotic and diverse foods. And I might even try making some homemade yogurt or fermented pickles. THOSE my kids might actually eat?!

Do you eat any fermented foods? Do you buy them or make them yourself?

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