There’s nothing new about fermenting food. In fact, it may be one of the oldest food preparation techniques around. Long before we were sipping pricey Kombuchas at the local café, our ancestors were using this process as a means of keeping their food from spoiling in age without refrigeration.
Lately, despite our ability to preserve and refrigerate food, fermentation is all the rage again. So what exactly are fermented foods (and beverages)? And why should we make a point of including them in our diets?
What Are Fermented Foods?
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form. This, along with the bevy of probiotics created during the fermentation process, could explain the link between consumption of fermented foods and improved digestion.
Cultures around the
Where Have All the Fermented Foods Gone?
The amount of probiotics and enzymes available in the average diet has declined sharply over the last few decades as pasteurized milk has replaced raw, pasteurised yogurt has replaced homemade, vinegar based pickels and sauerkraut have replaced traditional lacto-fermented versions…the list goes on.
Even the much maligned grains were safer to eat in earlier times since their preparation included soaking, sprouting and fermenting, which largely reduces the anti-nutrient content and makes them less harmful (notice – I still didn’t say good!).
Instead of the nutrient rich foods full of enzymes and probiotics that our grandparents probably ate, the average diet today consists mainly of sugar laden, lab created dead foods.
Why Eat Fermented Foods?
Besides the fact that they taste great and really grow on
Probiotics: Eating fermented foods and drinking fermented drinks like Kefir and Kombucha will introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and help the balance of bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics have also been shown to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and improve immunity!
Absorb Food Better: Having the proper balance of gut bacteria and enough digestive enzymes helps you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat. Pair this with your healthy real food diet, and you will absorb many more nutrients from the foods you eat. You won’t need as many supplements and vitamins, and you’ll be absorbing more of the live nutrients in your foods.
Budget Friendly: Incorporating healthy foods into your diet can get expensive, but not so with fermented foods. You can make your own whey at home for a couple of dollars, and using that and sea salt, ferment many foods very inexpensively. Drinks like Water Kefir and Kombucha can be made at home also and
Preserves Food Easily: Homemade salsa only lasts a few days in the fridge- Fermented homemade salsa lasts months! The same goes for sauerkraut, pickles, beets and other garden foods. Lacto-fermentation allows you to store these foods for longer periods of time without losing the nutrients like you would with traditional canning.
How to Incorporate Fermented Foods Into Your Diet?
On a basic level, you can make foods like sauerkraut with just cabbage, water and salt on your counter.
You can also incorporate fermented drinks like Water Kefir and Kombucha, which are inexpensive to make and can be carbonated like soda!
I’m going on a fermentation course this weekend where I will be learning to make Ginger Beer Kefir, Kombucha, Kimchi and Sauerkraut – recipes and pictures to follow next week.