Episode 032: Why Ferments Are Nourishing for A Healthy Gut with Wise Goat Organics

Episode 032: Why Ferments Are Nourishing for A Healthy Gut with Wise Goat Organics

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me post about my weekly visits to my local Farmers Market every Saturday morning.

One of the stands that I visit every Saturday is Wise Goat Organics. And on today’s show, I feel so fortunate to have the owner and founder of Wise Goats Organics, Mary Risavi.

Mary is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and a specialist in the GAPS diet and Functional Diagnostics. She applies her knowledge of fermentation to optimize the nutritional value and probiotic benefit of vegetables, which she offers through the foods she sells at Wise Goat Organics.

She named her company “Wise Goat Organics” after watching her baby goats graze in the pasture. She noticed they were very selective about what weeds, trees, and grasses they would eat.  They were even selective on the specific part of the plant they wanted. It seemed to vary with the time of day, season, age and any health problems they were facing. She thought this was very wise of them and feels that humans should do our best to follow this same approach with how we select the foods that we eat.

In this episode, Mary shares:

  • Why she started Wise Goat organics and why it isn’t just a ferment company

  • Why fermentation is good for us

  • Why it’s better to get probiotics from foods rather than supplements

  • How not everything at the Farmers Market is healthy and tips on shopping at the Farmers Market

  • How she takes care to prepare her foods non-toxically

  • How to introduce fermented foods into your diet

  • How to introduce fermented foods to kid

I'm so grateful to have been able to chat with Mary; I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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Naomi: If you follow me on Instagram, and if you're not, come on over and give me a follow, then you've probably seen me post about my weekly visits to my local farmer's market every Saturday morning. One of the stands that I visit faithfully every week is Wise Goat Organics. And on today's show, I feel so lucky to have the owner and founder of Wise Goat Organics, Mary Risavi.

Mary is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and an expert in the GAPS Diet, as well as in functional diagnostics. And she applies her knowledge of fermentation to optimize the nutritional value and probiotic benefits of vegetables, which she offers through the foods that she sells at her stand. Mary's currently pursuing a Master's in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) at Five Branches University in San Jose, California, and she continues to study functional medicine at the Kresser Institute.

I love this little story. Mary named her company Wise Goat Organics after watching baby goats graze in her pasture. She noticed that they were very selective in what weeds and trees and grasses that they would eat. And they were even selective on the part of the plant that they wanted. And it seemed to vary with the time of day, with the season, with their age, or with whatever health problems that they had. And she thought this is really wise of them, and as humans, we should do our very best to follow this same approach with how we select the foods that we eat.

In this episode, Mary shares a wealth of information:

  • Why she started Wise Goat Organics
  • Why it's not just a ferment company
  • Why fermentation is good for us
  • Why it's better to get probiotics from foods rather than supplements
  • How not everything at the farmer's market is healthy, and she even shares tips on how to shop at the farmer's market
  • How she takes great care to prepare her foods in a non-toxic way
  • How to introduce fermented foods into your diet
  • And how to introduce them into your kids' diet

Now, although I shop at her stand every week, I don't always get to see Mary because she is usually hard at work making her foods, because, she makes every single piece of food that her stand sells, so she often has her team staff her stand.

I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to chat with her for this episode.

As a side note, Mary doesn't have reliable internet service where she lives, so we connected for this interview by phone, so the quality of the audio may not quite be what you're used to, but the value of the message is second to none. So I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed chatting with Mary.

So for those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know that every Saturday I am posting what I find at the farmer's market, and every week you see me posting things from Wise Goat Organics. And I am so excited today to have the founder of Wise Goat Organics, Mary, with us. So, welcome, Mary. I'm so excited that we're finally able to connect and to have you on the show.

Mary: Absolutely, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited as well.

Naomi: So tell me, how did you come to create Wise Goat Organics?

Mary: It happened pretty naturally. Six years ago, I got certified as a nutritional therapist and I had clients, of course, that had pretty major gut issues.

And I was dealing with a lot of GAPS patients at the time, and I was recommending probiotics specifically in the form of food, rather than a supplement, because they're more effective.

It was hard for me to find any fermented foods that were fermented in non-plastic vessels. The majority of commercial production's done in buckets, five gallon buckets or the big companies do it in 50 gallon barrels. Supposedly it doesn't leach the plasticizers, but I didn't see any evidence in that.

And I was skeptical, so I started fermenting sauerkraut for my clients in two gallon glass containers and it grew organically from there. More and more people wanted it. People started asking for it at the Farmer's Market. I kept supplying.

Now I'm at a production big enough where I'm doing ten cases of cabbage a week and still having a hard time keeping up with it.

Naomi: That's amazing. Now you don't just make the sauerkraut, you make kimchi, and you also make some other really good stuff. You make some bone broth and matcha and soup. For those, maybe who aren't quite familiar with what are the benefits of those foods, what makes the fermented foods so nourishing? What's so great about them for gut health?

Mary: There's many reasons. First of all, the most well-known is the probiotic bacteria that grows with the lactic acid cultures when you ferment.

When you buy probiotics they do it by number of bacteria per billion, and usually probiotics that you buy in the supplement form are in the billions. Fermented foods done properly and long enough are actually in the trillions. So you get more bacterial cultures that way that are beneficial to your gut.

But also those bacteria when you ferment vegetables, those bacteria break down the vegetables. They basically pre-digest it. They break down the cell wall and make it easier for you to absorb the nutrients. They also transform some of the vitamins into more bio-available forms.

In Chinese medicine, they advise against eating raw foods, however, fermentation is kind of a pre-cooked form of food because those bacteria do a lot of the hard work for us.

So, it's easier to digest, and when you eat the food, the bacteria go in your gut and they stay in your gut and have long-term benefit versus probiotics. They go in, have benefit, and then they go out.

Naomi: I'm really glad you mention the part about how raw foods sometimes aren't the best for people, but that point she made about the fermentation process, because I know that causes a lot of confusion for people, and it did for me as well for a long time, too. So thank you so much for clarifying that.

Mary: Absolutely.

Naomi: Now what I love about your sauerkraut and all of your foods is that you have such creative flavors.

Mary: (laughs) Most of it was experimentation. I would go to the farmer's market, see what's in season, ferment it.

One of the experiments that I did recently was watermelon radishes, which are beautiful pink color. They came out really tasty, but the smell is very strong and offsetting. A lot of Americans who aren't use to stronger scents, especially like a radish or a pickled radish, they thought it was rancid.

A lot of my Asian customers are more used to those more pungent smells and they love it. One of my customers puts it in her sushi rolls, puts it in stir fry. A lot of my flavors are based on what was in season.

Another thing, it's kind of silly, but I was doing it based on colors. I wanted to have a nice variety, eat the rainbow. I wanted to have all the different colored ferments available from plastic green to super green, which is a brighter green color, to purple cabbage, to golden kraut, which as the turmeric in it. I try to keep it diverse.

Naomi: My favorite is your Borscht Kraut. That one is so good, but I did try the watermelon radish, and maybe it's because I'm Asian, the smell didn't offset me. I thought it was fantastic.

Mary: Awesome. That's good to hear.

Naomi: So how did you move also to include some of the other things that you make, because I have to tell you, your chicken and wild rice soup is my absolute favorite during the wintertime.

Mary: Oh, yay. Oh, that's great. I didn't want to be just a ferment company. There's a lot of companies out there that really kick butt at fermenting and that's what they're known for and that's what they specialize in.

For me, my focus was more on having healthy foods for people. It's hard, I'm sure you know, when you're on a specific diet, it's hard to go out and socialize or enjoy community events like a farmer's market with all of these limitations.

My goal is to have a stand that gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, but you can still enjoy a nice green tea matcha latte, or I do like during the summer I do a blueberry jello. I don't know if you've had that one yet.

Naomi: I did! I did try that last summer. And it has a little bit of lemon in it too, right?

Mary: Yes, and some soups and bone broth. So I wanted to make a stand that had a variety of foods that you could enjoy and still feel like you're part of experiencing the farmer's market.

Naomi: That's a good point, and maybe that's what drew me to your stand. Because, a lot of people think, oh farmer's market, kind of like when they go to Whole Foods, everything's healthy at the farmer's market, but it's not (laughs).

Mary: No, absolutely not. This might be a future podcast, but there's a lot of ...

There's a big difference between one stand to another at the farmer's market, and it takes a savvy shopper. I've worked the market for ten years now, and I still learn some cheats that people do to sell at the market. There's a lot of misleading information. You've got to be very savvy.

And the other thing is, I wanted to offer health food that I truly believed in, that I was, from start to finish, I choose the healthiest ingredients. I process them in the healthiest way possible. I don't use any aluminum cookware. I don't use any non-stick cookware. I don't use any plastic when it involves any heat, say for soups. All the way to the very end of packaging, I try to make everything very health conscious.

Naomi: And I love that, because in my own journey through this, I've learned that that kind of transparency matters. Because, you don't know if, let's be honest, in these days anything can say they're natural or organic, and everything will think well that means it's healthy. It's not. But even with the healthy things, the way something is created and packaged and all of that, it matters, because as the whole environmental toxin conversations comes more to light, which I feel like it is, people will say oh it's BPA free, but what about all the other, what about BPAF?

Mary: It's a replacement.

Naomi: Because those are just marketing terms that people have used to try and appease certain consumers that care about that, but then they have ways of getting around it. I certainly appreciate your transparency, and can you guys tell that this is why I love her stand so much?

Mary: Thank you very much for appreciating it. I think some customers it doesn't draw them, because some people don't care as much about it. They just want cheap, good foods.

And for me, I wanted to keep my food local. I wanted my business small enough that I didn't have to mass-produce products and sacrifice my beliefs in what a healthy food item is. That is why I continue to stay at the farmer's market versus venturing out into the grocery stores or a larger outlet. Because, I think it's so important.

And I had a customer come a few weeks ago, actually to the San Mateo market, and say that she trusts us and she buys all her foods for her kids from us, because of our quality and that really resonated with me. It really reinforced why I'm doing my business the way I am.

Naomi: You know, it's the same for me, because I could go to Whole Foods and get all the fermented food that I want there, but I like that you're local, and like you just shared your whole process. I know what that process is. I don't know what the process is of something that's in the store. Not to say that they're not as good. I don't know.

Mary: Right.

Naomi: But I know you and I know your brand and I know what you stand for, and that matters to me.

Mary: Absolutely. I think there's a connection there as far as wherever you're at, buying locally from people you know. When you go to the farmer's market, meet the farmer. Ask some questions. Get to know who they are, the person. That says more about what they're producing versus any certification that you could buy.

There's some amazing farmers out there that put their heart and soul into the food they grow. They don't get the organic certification, because they don't think it's necessary, but their food has more nutrients from the soil that the Earthbound Organics who's a mass producer of certified organic.

The intention that I put into my food, right now I've been in business almost four years now, and I've made every single batch of kraut that I've ever sold with my own hands. I don't know if I can do that forever, especially with the new baby, but I put a lot of good intention and love into my food and share that with the local people in the community.

Naomi: You can definitely tell. So I always recommend trying to get more probiotics from foods with the clients that I work with, because I work with a lot of people that have the digestive issues or they suspect they have things like hormonal imbalances, though at that point they're not quite sure.

So, it is an acquired taste for those who aren't familiar with it. For someone who, maybe ... I grew up eating Kimchi, so that was a no brainer for me. It wasn't a problem for me. Sauerkraut took a little bit of getting use to just because I had preconceived notions in my head about it.

Mary: Right.

Naomi: But what recommendations do you have for someone to try and introduce it into their diet?

Mary: Sure, so first of all, start with small amounts, like a teaspoon per meal. Even one little bite, because you're introducing new bacterial cultures into your body, you don't want to shock anything.

That's with anything with health, you don't want to go all in. You want to gradually work yourself up to your threshold. So start with small amounts with every meal, see how you feel afterwards. If everything feels good, bowel movements are good, no stomach upset, no gas, do a little bit more the next meal. And work it up til you feel is an appropriate amount. Usually for me I do about three heaping tablespoons worth of kraut.

If you can listen to your body you'll start to crave the amount that you need for that meal. The other thing is sauerkraut's energetically more cold so you want to pair it with something more warm like breakfast eggs. Sauerkraut with any form of eggs, scrambled eggs, sunny side up, any type of eggs is amazing. Anything more warming.

People like to put kraut on their salad, which is fine, but for someone that's new to eating it, it's a little bit too cold for the stomach and harder to digest, so I definitely recommend putting kraut with something more warming. Even serving the kraut a little bit warm, having the food that you're serving warm up the kraut a little bit so it's not cold physically, can be easier to digest.

And then, of course, start out with the more mild flavors like a classic kraut and work your way up to the more flavorful ones like the borscht or the golden that have more herbs in it.

Naomi: My favorite thing to do is I will saute some ground beef with some veggies with some spinach and carrots and all these other veggies in it, and then right when it's done, I take a couple of tablespoons and I just mix it in together. So it's just one big bowl of food, and it's not a recipe to follow. I don't follow recipes when I cook. I just kind of throw things together. But that's my favorite way to enjoy some of the fermented foods.

Mary: Absolutely, and another thing you can do is just do the juice only. So skip a teaspoon of the juice first, just to get used to it. Once you know that your body's okay and resonates with you, then you can eat the more solid food.

And that's specifically for people on the GAPS diet, it's always good to start with the juice first and then for kids, same thing. Kids are more likely to accept the juice versus chewing down on the kraut.

Naomi: Right. Those are great tips. Now, earlier you mentioned Chinese medicine, and I know you've studied Chinese medicine, haven't you?

Mary: Yes. I'm actually just finishing up my last semester at Five Branches with my master's in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.

Naomi: That is wonderful.

Mary: Yeah.

Naomi: I have always been fascinated, and I haven't done a whole lot of studying myself. I have a little bit, but I love knowing about the different seasons and the traditional Chinese medicine's approach to the seasons, because I know that every season has different organs of the body associated with it.

There's different foods to eat for the seasons, and there's also different emotions that come up. So I'm wondering, could you enlighten us on Spring being that it's our first week of Spring when we're recording this.

Mary: Sure. So that's a huge subject of the dietetics in Chinese medicine. And there's so much to learn from so I'll give you the basics and then you can decide if you want to delve further.

Springtime, it also depends where you live. For us in California, obviously, we have a lot more options. I always recommend going to the farmer's market and just seeing what's in season that year, because not everything goes into season every year at the same time. So we can't make a broad generalization.

A lot of the vegetables that grow more quickly like bamboo and asparagus are spring time foods, because they grow quickly. Those are very good to eat during the Spring, unless you have any type of growth, like cancer, or something where you don't want the cells to have rapid growth, then you wouldn't want to eat those foods.

We can start eating more of the cooling foods. In wintertime, you want to eat more of the warm, nourishing meals. During the springtime, you want to eat more of the cool fruits and you can eat more raw. You don't have to eat everything as cooked.

And then another thing with Chinese medicine, they recommend treating the opposite season during that season. So, during springtime you actually want to start treating for Fall conditions. And in Fall, it's a drying time of year, so right now in our season, you want to start doing more foods that replenish fluids in the body. You can do that with aloe or cactus or okra. Thing like that.

Naomi: Interesting. I didn't know that. That's really interesting. I knew that, is it the liver and the gall bladder that is important for the spring?

Mary: Yes. That's the springtime, so liver, the energetics of the liver is very outward. It spreads out, it needs to reach out. So more dispersing foods like spicy foods to let it reach out and expand outwards. Sour stretches and pulls and so you don't want to as many sour foods right now. Bitter foods can be a little bit beneficial. They're more draining so if you have any type of heat symptoms, you can do more bitter.

It's really interesting how the food nourishes us during the seasons. For example with nettles. Nettles are well known for allergies, and nettle season's now. Right now when allergies are about to go into bloom. I love how the Earth knows what we need and provides. It's just our ability to recognize it, right?

Naomi: I love that so much. I'm actually visiting the Pacific Northwest right now, and last weekend, I went to a herbal shop in Portland called Fettle. I had a conversation with the staff that works there about nettles specifically, and they were like, "Well, this is the season for nettles. It's all coming out now."

And I just love learning about that stuff. I love learning about how the Earth really does know what we need. Nature knows what we need, and we just have to align ourselves to the season.

Mary: Right, absolutely. Harder now, because everything is so global. You can buy asparagus year round. When it comes to meeting the farmer and asking them the questions and making sure that they grow it locally to where you live, and if it's possible to grow there, and it's more of a native food.

Native foods are pretty important, although that's kind of hard to find now. Just educating yourself on those different aspects can really help to find what to eat at that time of year.

Naomi: Absolutely, and I always advocate eating locally, but I noticed I have a lot of clients on the East Coast. And obviously, they were in winter, and they had a pretty bad winter. They weren't able to find a lot of, say, the fermented foods like you make. So, you do ship nationwide, don't you?

Mary: We do. Yes. Just visit our website, Wise Goat Organics.com, you can order there. The packages we ship out in hold three jars, and it's a flat rate per package. It's most beneficial to order three jars.

Just know that when it arrives, because it's a live culture food, some of the fermentation might have occurred during shipping, and pressure builds under the lid, so always open the product over the .... (laughs).

Sometimes, we can't control what bacteria grows and how active it is, so sometimes we'll package crab and it will be perfectly fine. Other times we package it, and it's super active. You open a jar and it sprays juice out everywhere. A lot of people assume that it's gone bad, and that's not the case. It's just a very active bacteria doing their job.

Naomi: Awesome, that's a good tip, to share. Because, I think that's happened to me before. (laughs)

Well I will link to your website in the show notes so people can visit you and see everything that you offer, and hopefully try some for themselves. Your bottles say nourishing, and I think nutrient-dense. And that's really what your products are and I love them so much.

Mary: Wonderful, thank you so much for enjoying and appreciating the products. It was so nice to talk to you.

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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.