From kimchi to sauerkraut, fermented foods are having a serious moment right now. Yet, they have been around for thousands of years, so they’re the farthest thing from new. It’s an easy and delicious way to preserve food and extend shelf-life.
But when you consider the health perks, it’s easy to see why fermented foods are causing a buzz. The process allows good bacteria to grow and “eat” the sugar in vegetables or fruit. In the body, these microbes will do wonders for the gut.1 The outcome is a wonderfully tangy and tasty probiotic food.
For an intro to the world of fermentation, check out this basic guide and breakdown of what you need to know.
What Are The Benefits?
1. Boosts Immune System
The gut makes up 70 percent of your immunity, making it a major player in good health. However, in order to do its thing, good and bad bacteria need to live in harmony. That’s why it’s so important to achieve microbial balance.2
With fermented food, the level of good bacteria will be continuously replenished. It’s a lot like adding more players to your team.
2. Improves Digestion
The gut, as you can imagine, also impacts digestion. A balanced microbial environment protects the intestinal barrier, allowing for optimal nutrient absorption. Inflammation and harmful microbes will also be controlled.3
3. Enhances Mental Health
Through the gut-brain axis, intestinal bacteria have a strong relationship with mental and emotional health. It actually supports the production of neurotransmitters!4
A 2015 study also found that a balanced gut reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.5 Because of these benefits, experts speculate that gut health contributes to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other mental disorders.6
4. Saves Money
Don’t forget fermentation is a preservation method. For centuries, it’s been used to extend the shelf-life of food.7 These days, fermented vegetables and fruits will last for months, so you can save money over time. It’s an awesome way to save produce before it goes bad.
How To Buy, Make, And Store Fermented Food
1. Use Seasonal Vegetables
Are you the DIY type? Fermenting fruits and veggies is easy and cheap, but be sure to use the produce that’s in season. This will guarantee optimal flavor, color, and texture.
2. Sanitize Jars
When making fermented food, always sanitize jars first. It’ll give the fruits and veggies a “clean slate” for good bacteria to grow. To sanitize, add glass jars to boiling water for 10 minutes, and submerge lids in simmering water for 10 minutes.
3. Chill Out
Remember, fermented foods are alive and kicking. In order to survive, they should be stored in the refrigerator after opening. Never leave fermented food at room temperature.
|↑1, ↑3, ↑4||Selhub, Eva M., Alan C. Logan, and Alison C. Bested. “Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry.” Journal of physiological anthropology 33, no. 1 (2014): 2.|
|↑2||Vighi, G., F. Marcucci, L. Sensi, G. Di Cara, and F. Frati. “Allergy and the gastrointestinal system.” Clinical & Experimental Immunology 153, no. s1 (2008): 3-6.|
|↑5||Carabotti, Marilia, Annunziata Scirocco, Maria Antonietta Maselli, and Carola Severi. “The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems.” Annals of gastroenterology: quarterly publication of the Hellenic Society of Gastroenterology 28, no. 2 (2015): 203.|
|↑6||de la Fuente-Nunez, Cesar, Beatriz Torres Meneguetti, Octávio Luiz Franco, and Timothy K. Lu. “Neuromicrobiology: how microbes influence the brain.” ACS chemical neuroscience (2017).|
|↑7||Ross, R. Paul, S. Morgan, and C. Hill. “Preservation and fermentation: past, present and future.” International journal of food microbiology 79, no. 1 (2002): 3-16.|