My interest in fermented food started in January, at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, where I had a theoretical idea: The pleasure we get from sour, umami, and complex flavors had the effect,Â when it evolved, of increasing bacteria intake. This suggests we need to consume plenty of bacteria to be healthy. Three things happened at that convention that supported these ideas: (a) Someone trying to make a high-end non-alcoholic drink said he found it impossible to get enough complexity without fermentation. (b) I remembered that after a trip to Japan, I had started eating lots of miso soup. Miso (fermented soy beans) is an unusually effective flavoring agent. (c) A Stonyfield Farms employee told me that her health improved a lot when she started eating yogurt every day two years ago. (Stonyfield Farms makes yogurt.)
Recently I learned more about the health improvement. She started eating more yogurt about two years ago because she changed jobs — from an architecture firm in Boston to Stonyfield, in New Hampshire, where the employee kitchen has a refrigerator full of free yogurt. In Boston, she ate yogurt about once/week; at Stonyfield, she eats it once/day (for breakfast).
When she moved to New Hampshire, she also changed her diet in other ways. She now eats more foods that are “natural and organic” and less fast food. She doesn’t eat anything with aspartame any more; she also avoids caffeine. She eats more fruits and vegetables. Maybe the biggest change is that she eats three good meals every day instead of one meal on the run. Other changes in her life include less stress, a different atmosphere, and more exposure to nature.
In Boston, she had lots of colds and sinus infections, maybe 3-4/year. When she got sick it took a long time — 2 weeks — to get better. She also felt sick to her stomach a lot. In Boston she got mononucleosis; it took six months to completely recover. In New Hampshire, she’s had only 1 cold in the past year and it only lasted 3-4 days. No other illnesses. Another change she’s happy about is that she gained weight. In Boston she weighed about 90 pounds; now she weighs about 110. (She’s 5′ 4″ and 30 years old.)
She’s noticed that Stonyfield employees are healthier than other places she’s worked (as this study suggests). Fewer people are sick and when they’re sick they aren’t sick as long. Everyone eats the free yogurt, except the lactose-intolerant. Stonyfield yogurt contains less than half the lactose of milk; for some lactose-intolerant people that’s low enough, for others it isn’t low enough. (Stonyfield makes a soy yogurt without lactose.)