Sexy Food Culture Club

The Sexy Food Story


Meet the people who’re rediscovering what ancient fermented foods can do for gut health – and your body as a whole.

“When I was 17 I was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer,” says James Kuiper, who is now 30 and the founder of Sexy Food. “Aggressive chemotherapy put the cancer into remission, but four years later I still felt terrible. I got sick all the time and I found it impossible to recapture the old me. I could feel the cancer coming back, my heartburn was agonizing, my insides felt inflamed and acid and I knew I couldn’t go through another round of chemotherapy.”

“I actually see getting cancer as a blessing,” he continues, “as it made me re-evaluate everything. Western medicine is fixated with treating symptoms, but it does very little to tackle the root cause of the problem.” James soon realised he was allergic to loads of processed foodspasteurised dairy, refined flours and sugars, iodated salt, and just about anything that was chemically preserved and sprayed  – and he started to modify his diet. “I felt a bit better,” he reflects, “But going on a removal diet was not enough. I realised I had to put good stuff into my system too…”

James spent a year as an apprentice on a sprout and microgreen farm and, using the knowledge he gained, developed a vegetarian burger patty which became legendary at various Cape Town markets. This put him in contact with loads of people in the alternative health scene who opened his eyes to the wonders of fermented food.

“The fermentation process is like having another stomach outside of your body.” During fermentation, food is exposed to bacteria and yeasts, either through an added 'culture' or naturally through the air. Fermentation pre-digests food and makes nutrients more bio-available; producing beneficial microorganisms that aid digestion, strengthen the immune system and prevent bacterial infection. About 80% of our immune system is found in our gut and fermented foods do wonders for digestive health.

“After introducing fermented food into my diet, within months I was feeling much healthier and happier. Now, four years down the line – I’m a completely different person.”


Years of experience


One of the people James met was Karen Rose who, together with her husband Bogdan and 10 children, manufactures her own kimchi, kraut, water kefir and kombucha using homegrown organic produce on their farm near Greyton. “Bogdan’s family comes from Germany and Ukraine, so they’ve been culturing for generations,” explains Karin, “I started when we got married in 1984, and have been experimenting ever since.”

Little by little Karin discovered that cultured products can be both delectable and extremely good for you, and she felt it was a shame to keep this revelation to herself. “People say that fermented foods are the next big thing,” she laughs, “But really they’re as old as the hills. Before we had freezers and canned food everyone had to do this.”

“Kimchi is incredible…you start off with cabbage but you end up with so much more,” says Karin. “I feed it to my dogs and my kids and I find eating it eliminates my own sugar cravings. I make delicious cultured dressings out of the kimchi and kraut juices, the umami flavours created through fermentation are so complex and unique, it really is a whole new world of fun. I just got a letter from a client who reversed her colon condition by eating two jars of kimchi every day!”


Ask the experts


Dr Yesheen Singh is a qualified medical doctor with a special interest in plant-based medicine and nutrition. “Unfortunately there’s very little clinical research on fermented foods,” says Dr Singh, “But when I look at the history of fermented foods in ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and combine this with their positive impact on the digestive health of some of my patients, I am left in little doubt that we could all benefit from eating fermented foods.”

“Fermented foods contain lots of healthy bacteria and nutritious ‘waste materials’ which give you access to vitamins, minerals and enzymes that you may otherwise have a hard time incorporating into your diet.” he explains. “From my perspective fermented foods that use an alkalising vegetable substrate, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, are the healthiest.”

“Kombucha and kefir  will always be better for you than soft drinks and milkshakes, and there are honey-based kombuchas which are very good for you too. I always advise patients,” he adds, “To read the list of ingredients on a product before buying it. If anything is unclear, phone the manufacturer and ask how the product is made. Only then should you try the product on a 30-day trial….”

Another medical professional who is convinced of that fermented foods are one of the tools we can use to become healthier is James Raaff. “The human body contains 100 times more gut bacteria than it does human cells, so we are, quite literally, what we eat. When we put food in our mouths we chew it and swallow it and our stomach acid partly digests it, but we are still left with relatively large chunks,” he says. “This is where bacteria come in. The gut microbiome is like a garden, and trillions of bacteria are needed for this garden to truly flourish.”

“Scientists, chemists and specialists in integrative medicine are all convinced that a better understanding of the gut biome is essential to improving overall health, and there is growing evidence that the gut and the brain are intrinsically linked,” he enthuses. “In time we will be able to run tests on individuals to determine which particular bacteria they need to add to their system and in what quantity, but for now we can safely say that the human body needs fermented foods, among other things, to function at its best.”

What better way to start the voyage of discovery than with a bunless burger at Sexy Food? It contains no fewer than six different fermented foods and is utterly delicious to boot.

Sidebar: On the menu

Kombucha: A sweetened tea that is fermented using a community of living organisms and tastes a bit like a delicate, alcohol-free champagne.

Milk Kefir: Yoghurt made using whole milk and cultures from the Kefir plant which originates in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia.

Water Kefir: A delectable, naturally carbonated probiotic elixir enhanced with a powerful culture that feeds off naturally sweetened water. There are stories that place the water kefir culture origin in Tibet, the Caucausus Mountains, and the southern peninsula of Ukraine.

Miso: A traditional Japanese paste made using cooked soybeans and rice and the koji fermentation culture.

Tempeh: Cooked soybean patties that originated in Indonesia and are bound together by dense Rhizopus mould.

Kimchi: A Korean pickle made using chopped, fresh vegetables, natural salt and other seasonings which ferment in a ceramic crockpot.

Kraut: A German pickle that’s quite similar to kimchi but contains less seasoning.

Box: Contacts

James Kuiper:

Karin Rose:

Dr Yesheen Singh: