Fermenting is an ancient process used across many cultures to preserve food. However, as fermentation becomes increasingly popular today, the benefits are becoming more apparent. Fermented foods and beverages are not only great for preservation, but they also provide a healthy source of bacteria and other nutrients. The good news is fermented foods are not difficult to make, here is what you need to know about fermentation.
Fermented Foods and Probiotics
The process of fermenting food requires microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast. This provides a good source of beneficial bacteria in many fermented foods. Fermented foods can help to support gut health and may provide benefits for a variety of gut conditions such as: diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and bacterial infections.
When the gut bacteria is out of balance, such as what can happen after a course of antibiotics, yeast and bad bacteria may be allowed to multiple. There is also some evidence that probiotics may benefit other conditions such as depression, anxiety, diabetes and urinary tract infections, however more research is needed.
Fermenting Isn’t Just a Fad
With so many food trends coming and going, it’s hard to know what is a fad and what is not. Recently fermented foods have been growing in popularity, driven by health-conscious consumers. However, fermented foods have been around for a while. Traditional fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, yogurt and kimchi have been the foundation of the modern fermented food industry, maintaining their presence over time. However ancient fermented products like kombucha have recently made a comeback and gained a massive following.
The recent rise in fermented food popularity is mainly due to the growing interest in gut health. Fermented foods provide a good source of healthy bacteria which can be beneficial for gut health. While fad foods are usually only popular for a limited period of time, and often make health claims which are not backed up by science, fermented foods have been around for thousands of years and have stood the test of time. Not only this, fermented foods are becoming involved in many studies relating to gut health.
It’s Much More than Sauerkraut!
You may not realise how many types of fermented foods there are to choose from, each with their own unique taste and nutritional benefits. While sauerkraut and yogurt are common fermented foods, there are many more to choose from:
This is a fermented cabbage dish which has been around for centuries. Sauerkraut is a good source of B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C and K. Sauerkraut is also high in fibre and a good source iron, magnesium, copper and manganese.
This is a probiotic drink made with multiple strains of yeast and bacteria. Kefir is rich in B vitamins and vitamin K.
Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut, being a form of fermented cabbage, along with other vegetables. It’s spicier than sauerkraut and provides a source of vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, iron, calcium and selenium.
This is a fermented type of tea. Kombucha is a fizzy fermented drink which has a slightly sour taste. Kombucha is made with a specific culture of yeast and bacteria and when prepared with green tea, can provide a good source of antioxidants.
Miso is a traditional Japanese paste made from fermented soybeans. Miso contains millions of healthy bacteria and is high in B vitamins, vitamin E, K, folic acid and essential minerals.
This is a fermented type of bread. The process of fermenting flour in sourdough helps to release nutrients such as zinc, iron, B vitamins, folic acid and magnesium making them more bioavailable compared to commercial bread. The fermenting process also breaks down gluten making it kinder to the digestive system and potentially easier to digest for sensitive individuals.
Lacto-fermentation is used to make yogurt. This type of bacteria breakdown lactose (milk sugar) into glucose and galactose, and then finally into lactic acid giving yogurt its sour taste. Yogurt provides a good source of beneficial bacteria as well as calcium.
Other fermented foods and drinks which are commonly used include: beer, cheese, wine, vinegar, soy sauce, pickles, coffee beans, and chocolate
Fermenting Food Isn’t Only About Preservation
Fermentation was traditionally used as a method to preserve foods before refrigeration was available. However, this age-old process not only boosts the shelf life of food, it also increases food’s nutritional value and provides the body with an excellent source of healthy probiotics.
The live bacteria contained in fermented foods can help with digesting, absorbing and assimilating nutrients in our diet. As well as helping with digestion, good bacteria can help to boost the immune system. Consuming fermented foods may help to maintain a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, which may reduce symptoms associated with dysbiosis (when the gut microbiome is out of balance), such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Fermenting at Home
Fermenting your own vegetables is not difficult and doesn’t require a lot of vegetable fermentation equipment. Your will need a few good quality supplies, the type of equipment needed will depend on what you decide to make, for example if you choose to ferment vegetables, or prefer to make kombucha. Everything you need to get started can be found here.
If you’re interested in learning more, second fermentation can provide an extra step to the process. Purchasing good quality second fermentation accessories is essential. This process creates a large amount of pressure as the sugars are converted into carbon dioxide and trace amounts of alcohol. This can result in poor quality bottles exploding. You can find strong, high quality second fermentation accessories here.
There’s a lot of information available to help beginners get started with fermentation. You may benefit from fermentation books which can be found here to get you started.
Fermentation is a great method for enhancing the nutrient content of food, providing a source of probiotics and preservation. Fermented foods can provide a good source of many vitamins and minerals, as well as beneficial bacteria to support gut health. To learn more about the different types of fermented foods and drinks you can create visit Nourishme Organics for all of your fermentation requirements.