Can we really avoid depression, Adhd, Alzheimers by eating probiotic food?
We are talking to Soki Choi, ranked among the top most powerful women in Sweden and her merit list is long and impressive; including both TEDtalks and being a guest researcher at Harvard.
Congratulations on your new book: Kimchi and Kombucha - The new science on how gut bacteria boosts your brain! We want to dig deep into this "new" area you are writing about, as we see a rising numbers of the young generation eating anti depressants - can it really be related to what we eat?
Photo: Stefan Tell.
Where did you grow up?
“I was born in Rinkeby, and grew up in Husby and Huddinge, Sweden. Today, these are so called "no-go zones", which have been referred as Sweden´s criminal war zone both by national and global media. However, I went to Adolf Fredrik's music school in the city from the age of nine. So, I feel more that I grew up in Vasastan (in Stockholm city).”
How did your connection with food start? Does it run in your family?
“Oh, I practically grew up in the kitchen sitting among my mom's boiling sauce pans, giant ceramic pots with fermented kimchi, steamed buns (yummy) and all sorts of delicious Korean food. And it definitely runs in my family! My mom never served less than eight home made dishes every dinner. She is my true food hero.”
Photo: Roland Persson.
Please tell us a bit about your new book Kimchi and Kombucha, what made you write about this specific topic?
“Well, I think I am actually a geek as I have always been interested in understanding all kinds of complex systems, such as the laws of our universe down to the laws of quantum physics. In particular I have literally been obsessed with our brain and consciousness for the last 25 years. So when I bumped into the latest science on the gut-brain axis, I got hooked. Realizing that fermented food such as kimchi was packed with good bacteria, was a mere bonus. So the book accidentally also became a personal praise to my favourite dish kimchi and the Korean kitchen.”
Photo: Roland Persson.
Tell us a bit about the important relationship between microbiota-gut-brain - can we really avoid depression, Adhd, Alzheimers by eating probiotic food?
“Mounting evidence reveal that brain-related diseases such as depression, autism and alzheimer seem to be intimately connected to the microbiota, that is your gut flora. And even if it is early days of research, a growing number of scientists believe that regulation of gut flora may be able to regulate brain conditions. In the future you will be able to scan your gut flora to treat diseases, with an exact set of bacteria customized for you. And nope, there is yet no evidence that kombucha can prevent or treat diseases. In fact kombucha contains "only" 1 million bacteria per ml , whereas kimchi contains up to 100 billion bacteria per gram. So if you want to invest in your future health, I would go for a daily bacteria dose of kimchi or sauerkraut. By the way, did you know that South Koreans are projected to live longer than everyone else? Scientist speculate whether South Koreans' enormous intake of up to 200 gram kimchi every day (equals 2 billion healthy bacteria per day) could be the secret behind their longevity? And hey, don't forget the fibers. Certain fibers (inulin, resistant starch etc) in veggies are food for your good bacteria. Without fibers, your bacterial friends will starve.”
“So, while waiting for more research, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't eat bacteria-rich food already as preventive life-style medicine. Especially, since age-related diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson start silently decades before the visible symptoms show up. Some researchers even think that Parkinson could start in the gut!”
How much does antibiotics affect our health in a negative way?
“As we all know, antibiotics could save lives if you're infected by a pathogenic bug. But antibiotics also effectively kill off our good bugs and make evil super bugs stronger and more resistant. So, if you can, do avoid antibiotics. But if you have to take it, do try to get targetted antibiotics and compensate the loss of good bacteria with lots of probiotic-rich food such as kimchi or yoghurt.”
Photo: Roland Persson. Book cover / Graphic design by Katy Kimbell.
Are you a vegetarian / vegan, if so why?
“I am a vegetarian in the sense that I don't eat anything from the animal kingdom: no meat, no poultry, no eggs and no dairy products. I eat fish now and then, mainly out of protein convenience. The reasons are many. Firstly, I find it discusting and non-acceptable how the industry is treating and handling animals. Also, I have hard time motivating myself eating "mammals with faces" when we - at least in the western world - have an abundance of alternative protein sources such as soy. The devastating impact that meat consumtion has on our climate is also an important reason for being a vegetarian. Finally, it is also a great health investment as unified research shows that eating too much red meat and saturated fat is devastating not only for your general health, but also for your brain.”
Photo: Roland Persson.
What do you think about climate change, have you seen any changes with your own eyes?
“For me it is clear that the collective acts of humans including massive over-consumption have fuelled climate change. No wonder, when government and companies for decades have done their utmost to stimulate consumption and exploit scarce resources to spur "economic growth". So, in my eyes our economic system is recklessly eating our earth for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And yes, this summer I could both see and feel that our poor earth definitely had unsound fever.”
What makes you happy?
“Nature in balance, my playful nieces and my mother's delicious food. My favourite comfort food is Kimchi Stew, that is made of tart ripen kimchi. Yummy!”
Besides being both tasty and healthy Kombucha is a great alternative to making alcohol free drinks!
1 tall glass:
10 fresh Mint leaves
1 Tbls cane sugar
1dl chilled kombucha
1 mint twig
Muddle mint leaves, lime slices and sugar in a high glass. Fill with crushed ice and kombucha, preferably flavoured with apple and mint. Sprinkle with some club soda. Garnish with mint twig and serve immediately.