Fermented foods are the foundation of a healthy immune system

Modern medicine is beginning to recognize that fermented foods and other elements of traditional Japanese cuisine promote a healthy gut flora and are beneficial to health. Farmer Yoshida Toshimichi grows organic vegetables and works with kindergartens and schools to help improve children’s immunity.

Yoshida Toshimiti is a fan of organic farming, using special microorganisms to fertilize the soil. “As an expert in agriculture, Yoshida was able to introduce the use of beneficial bacteria, which he affectionately calls”kin-chan”, Not only in agriculture, but also in kindergartens and primary schools. His pioneering work in pre-school education, pre-school education and nutritional culture is presented in the two-part documentary “Bon Appetit” (Itadakimas) directed by Ota Win, released in 2016 and 2020.

Development of a Culture of Use of Beneficial Microorganisms

Yoshida’s career began with a job as a rural development specialist in the Nagasaki prefecture government. He was responsible for improving the soil. At age 37, Yoshida retired from the county government to devote himself to sustainable organic farming based on the use of compost from recycled food waste. Yoshida firmly believed in the health and environmental benefits of this technique and began applying it to local kindergartens and schools. Dozens of kindergartens, including half kindergartens in Kurume City (Fukuoka Prefecture), have already started growing organic vegetables, according to Yoshida’s recommendations. Many institutions use organic vegetables, as well as fermented foods and dried fish, to prepare traditional Japanese foods for their children.


Yoshida Tosimichi (photo by Tazunoka Akihiro, Nagasaki Shimbun)

Mami Kindergarten in Sasebo, Nagasaki County, introduced the Yoshida method in 2006. Here they began growing organic vegetables using compost from processed foods. Harvest is used in the preparation of children’s dinners together with pasta misomarinades tsoukemono and other fermented products of traditional Japanese cuisine. Kindergarten students are actively involved in recycling, growing vegetables, making marinades and pasta miso. Two years after the start of the program, it turned out that the average number of days lost due to illness per year had dropped from 5.4 to 0.6 days.

According to Yoshida, the main reason for this phenomenon is the beneficial microorganisms, the importance of which he learned while working to improve the soil. Many years of experience have shown that soil fertilized with food waste fertilizer allows you to grow disease-resistant vegetables. Yoshida suggested that this principle also applies to humans.

The magical properties of fermented compost

There is a view that vegetables eaten by insects are an inevitable feature of growing pesticide-free vegetables. Yoshida believes this is not the case. From his experience, vegetables grown in fermented fertilizer are very resistant to insects. When he released the sketches on the field, the insects rushed to the weak and stopped heads of the cabbage, while the strong and healthy ones remained untouched. Take a look at the photos.

Organic cabbage without pesticides on Kin-chan farm
Organic cabbage without pesticides on Kin-chan farm

Weak, insect-eating cabbage in the same field, insects prefer weakened plants (@Yoshida Michifumi)
Weak, insect-eating cabbage in the same field, insects prefer weakened plants (@Yoshida Michifumi)

Why does fermented compost promote healthy, insect-resistant vegetables?

“Bacteria that ferment in compost improve the condition of the soil by releasing organic matter into the soil,” explains Yoshida. Plants grown in nutritious soil are saturated with phytochemicals that protect against disease and insects. Beneficial bacteria in compost create a hostile environment for harmful bacteria that cause disease. “On the other hand, soil may contain decaying bacteria that degrade its quality. “Repeated application of chemicals weakens the soil microflora and the plants lose their resistance to diseases and insect pests,” says Yoshida.

Yoshida talks about scientific studies showing that similar processes occur in the human body – if the number of pathogenic bacteria coming from food is small, the intestinal flora can deal with them successfully. In addition, scientists have discovered that the intestinal flora plays an important role in teaching the immune system to recognize hostile objects. 70% of the immune cells are located in the intestine, mainly in the mucosa of the colon. Bacteria are essential for boosting and regulating the immune response.

Three pillars of immunity

A rich and balanced gut microflora is a key factor for a healthy immune system. Lactobacilli and other beneficial microorganisms found in naturally fermented foods can promote a healthy gut environment just as they do in soil. “Microorganisms in foods such as miso and soy sauce strengthen and balance the intestinal flora,” notes Yoshida. For example, organic vegetables are a source of micronutrients and fiber, on which beneficial bacteria grow. In addition, the phytochemicals found in vegetables, especially fresh organic vegetables, protect against inflammation, which can lead to cancer and a number of chronic diseases.

The third element that is essential for maintaining a healthy intestinal flora and immune system is minerals. “Minerals are algae, small fish, raw cereals, raw vegetable oil (olive, flaxseed, perilla), soy mass tofu and black salt, “notes Yoshida.

Thus, according to Yoshida, the three main components of a strong immune system are fermented foods, high-fiber organic vegetables, and seafood and soy products rich in minerals and micronutrients. All this is part of the Japanese national cuisine. The advantages of the Yoshida technique have already been confirmed by the results.

In 2012, the Nio Elementary School in Mitoyo (Kagawa County) implemented a program to strengthen students’ resistance to viral infections through healthy eating. In addition to fermented foods and seasonal vegetables prepared in a way that maximizes their nutritional value, school portions include natural dressing with dried powdered fish (anchovies and flying fish), as well as seaweed and dried mushrooms. shiitake. Children and parents were taught the rules of healthy eating, including the need to chew each portion of food at least 30 times.

Among the clear results of this program is the increase in basal body temperature. A 2012 study showed that 30% of students have a body temperature below 36 ° C. In 2013, the percentage of children with this body temperature was less than 5%. Two years after the implementation of the program, the percentage of children with a basal temperature of at least 36.5 ° C exceeded 80%, while in 2012 this percentage was less than 30%. The total number of days lost during the year decreased from 764 (2012) to 172 in 2013 and in 2014 was only 66 days.

“The difference can be seen in just 4 weeks,” explains Yoshida. Parents report positive changes in hair and nail texture and stool consistency. Teachers and parents notice not only physical but also behavioral changes – children have a reduction in the level of inhibition, irritability, hyperactivity and irritability. This is supported by a growing body of research showing the effect of gut microflora on psycho-emotional and physical health.

Rules for maintaining a healthy immune system

Yoshida’s rules of healthy eating, as well as vegetable growing technologies, have their roots in Japanese traditions and are confirmed by modern science. In March 2020 at the online symposium “Parenting with Magical Results” (Kiseki o kosu kosodateYoshida proposed a technique for boosting and regulating the immune system with the help of the intestinal flora.

  • Drink a cup of soup every day misosiruwhich contains many vegetables and / or tofu. Add dried fish and seaweed as a source of minerals.
  • Carefully check food labels and choose natural fermented soy sauce and alcohol-free miso paste, preservatives, artificial colors or other chemical additives.
  • Chew each meal 30 times.
  • Finish your meal when you feel that your stomach is 80% full and lengthen your periods when your stomach is empty. Fasting is believed to stimulate the immune system.
  • Keep your belly warm. Do not eat too cold food and fruit at night.

Healthy eating and sustainable agriculture are as inseparable as two sides of the same coin, says Yoshida. “I am committed to creating sustainable agriculture to improve soil, vegetable and human health.”

According to Yoshida, food waste recycling and organic farming are one way to restore the spiritual connection between man and nature. This idea is reflected in the book “Super-Introduction to Healthy Vegetable Growing” (Genki yasai-zukuri chonyumon): “The experience of participating in the organic cycle of nature increases the feeling of comfort from connecting with the planet. It creates a sense of gratitude for the earth and the food we eat, and can even help us understand that everything in our world has a purpose.

Nowadays, when man and nature can not find a way out of the conflict, the meaning of Yoshida’s message is felt very strongly.

Photo banner: Yoshida Toshimichi at Kin-chan Farm, still from the documentary Bon Appetit: It’s Fermented Food Paradise, @Ihatawo Studios

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