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. Fermentation was one of the earliest forms of food preservation
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?
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 world have been eating fermented foods for years, from Sauerkraut in Germany to Kimichi in Korea and everywhere in between. Studies have even shown the link between probiotic rich foods and overall health (PDF). Sadly, with the advances in technology and food preparation, these time-honored traditional foods have been largely lost in our society.
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 you, there are several great reasons to start making and eating fermented foods:
Bring on the Bacteria! How to Incorporate Fermented Foods Into Your DietI’ll be delving into this more in the next few weeks and providing some recipes, but adding fermented foods to your diet can be an easy process (and can save you money on probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements!)
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.
Are you a fan of fermented foods or are you still unsure? If you already eat fermented foods, please share your favourites!
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!