Valerie Teo’s rainbow-hued bento lunch boxes taps into a 4,000-year preservation technique, benefits one’s health and tastes good to boot.
Food trends come and go much like fashion trends do, but it’s hard to call what Valerie Teo sells, a “trend”, especially when it’s built on a 4,000-year-old technique called lacto-fermenting.
Several years ago, Teo, now in her 20s, found herself suffering a mélange of problems, from depression to anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as well as psoriasis and irritable bowel syndrome. Shuttling between psychiatrists and physicians, the former copywriter eventually found breakthrough healing when she started to pay attention to her food intake—specifically, ingesting more fermented, or cultured food, rich in probiotics.
“Cultured foods are high in probiotics, so they give you good bacteria in your gut,” says Teo, who is now an independent food consultant-cum-entrepreneur, having recently set up Good Food Heals, a diner that sells bento sets featuring cultured ingredients.
According to Teo, this is her ninth year free from cough, flu and fever, in addition to being cured from “chronic” ailments such as psoriasis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Fermented foods help to break down and eliminate heavy metals and toxin from the body and boost the immune system; 75 to 85 percent of a person’s immune system is in the gut, says Teo.
“Yes,we are people of faith, we need to pray for our healing, but God also gave us the power to choose what we put into our mouths three times a day,” says Teo, who is a member of City Harvest Church.
Additionally, cultured food is known to sustain energy given that fermented food is high in enzymes for food digestion and energy production.
Teo learned the art of making cultured food from her mother, who had been making cultured food since Teo and her siblings were young. They grew up eating cultured food.
The jars of cultured food at Good Food Heals are priced between $13.90 and $14.90. Choices include the customer favorite Japanese Plum Citrus Tomato, the Creamy Golden Cabbage and Guava Pineapple Relish. The fruit and vegetables are fermented using a blend of juices garlic, red chilli, honey and vinegar, rendering a blend of flavors sweet, tangy, sour and tart all at the same time. They can be eaten as side dishes in a meal, just like kimchi.
GFH also sells bento boxes for lunch, priced from $8.90. The bento boxes are rainbow-hued mixes of cultured ingredients, soba noodles and protein treats like teriyaki salmon or tamago (Japanese eggs).
But one doesn’t necessarily need to eat cultured food everyday to maintain a healthy gut. One handy tip Teo shares for keeping a healthy digestive system is to eat a serving of fruit before meals instead of after, because it helps to “set a pace” for the food to be digested and keeps one satiated; eating fruits after meals may cause bloating. Pineapples, in particular, contain bromelain, an enzyme which helps digest meat better. This takes the load off the liver, which works overtime when one partakes in, say, a meat buffet.
Teo admits that she is not in perfect health yet, although she did improve by gaining over 10 kg within less than a year. “I’m not waiting for perfect conditions to start,” says Teo, who credits her cell group and her pastors, Tan Yah Lan and Tan Ye Peng, with praying for her and giving her the encouragement and guidance to pick up her life and start Good Food Heals.
She recalls naysayers telling her that she did not have the right to tell people how to eat healthy when she was not in optimal health herself. “A lot of people think that we have to be absolutely perfect before we start doing something. But it’s not true. We just have to take the step out in the storm, then amazing grace will come. If you want to know grace, you have to dare to step out despite the storm. Don’t wait for the storm to be over.”
So even as Teo is still managing her health, getting healthier and fitter with each day, she is helping clients walk the same path of healing and restoration.
Good Food Heals
10 North Canal Road,