You don’t need to be a science student to know what fermented foods are. We may not be very mindful of it, but many fermented foods are a regular part of our diet.
So, what are fermented foods exactly?
Fermented foods are made through a process known as fermentation. The fermentation process involves microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast converting carbs such as sugar into alcohol and acids. This technique used for preserving foods is used to make various common foods such as wine and cheese.
The art of fermentation provides foods with a distinct zest and tartness, but that’s not all. Fermentation also encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria known as probiotics that offer many benefits to the human body.
Science Behind Fermented Foods
The fermentation of certain types of foods is known as culturing. This name stems from the fact this process includes the colonization of foods by communities of microbes, also known as cultures. By converting naturally-occurring sugars in food into energy for themselves, microbes cause food or beverage fermentation.
Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
Many people are incorporating fermented foods such as kombucha or kimchi into their diets due to the massive benefits that these foods provide. Even though some foods’ unfermented form has its own benefits, fermented forms tend to have higher nutrition values.
Here are some health benefits of fermented foods.
Improves Digestive Health
Studies show that the probiotics that occur due to the fermentation process help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in your gut, leading to a reduction in digestive problems. Probiotics can help also alleviate symptoms of common digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Therefore, adding fermented foods to your diet can be helpful if you regularly experience digestive problems.
Boosts Your Immune System
The bacteria residing in your stomach have a considerable effect on your immune system. Studies reveal that since fermented foods contain high quantities of probiotics, they can help boost your immune system and reduce your chances of infections such as the common cold. Moreover, fermented foods are also quite rich in iron, zinc, and vitamin C, all of which help improve your immune system.
Makes Food Easier to Digest
The fermentation process helps in breaking down the nutrients in food. This makes them much easier to digest in comparison to their unfermented counterparts. Additionally, fermentation also helps break down anti-nutrients – compounds found in nuts, grains, and seeds that keep your body from absorbing other nutrients.
Improves Mental Health
There are a limited number of researches that reveal some additional benefits of having fermented foods. Some studies show that some probiotic strains in Fermented foods can help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Leads to Potential Weight Loss
There is limited evidence, but a few studies revealed an association between certain probiotic strains and weight loss. These probiotic strains found in fermented foods can help reduce belly fat.
Improves Heart Health
Certain fermented foods can lower the risk of heart disease and improve your overall heart health. Fermented foods contain certain probiotics that help reduce blood pressure and lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
History of Fermentation
The origin of fermentation is quite difficult to track down, but evidence suggests that this process may date back as far as 7000 BC. Almost every culture in the world consumes fermented foods. In fact, some historians also suggest that ancient Chinese dynasties would use fermentation to create beverages such as rice wine in 4000 BC.
Most Popular Fermented Foods Around The Globe
Here are some of the most popular fermented foods and beverages that are consumed around the world.
Kefir is a cultured dairy product, which is great for those with lactose intolerance. By combining kefir grains with yeast and bacteria into milk, this beverage has a thick consistency and a tangy taste. Kefir contains much less lactose than milk and is also associated with improving bone health.
Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh is often found in the form of a compact cake. Popular in the vegan diet, tempeh is considered to be a high-protein meat substitute. Not only is this fermented food rich in probiotics, but it also contains many nutrients that help improve your health.
Kombucha is becoming quite popular amongst people due to its fantastic benefits. This beverage is made by fermenting green or black tea. Not only is kombucha tart and fizzy, but it is also very flavorful.
Made through the fermentation of soybeans with salt and Kojo, this food is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Most people love miso soup that is made with two simple ingredients – miso paste and stock.
Made from fermented cabbage and chilling, kimchi is a popular Korean dish that has many health benefits.
Recipes For Making Your Own Fermented Treats
Here are a few recipes to make some common fermented foods at home.
This is one of the easiest fermented foods to make. All you have to do is pack all your ingredients: cabbage, caraway seeds, and salt into a jar and leave it for about 10 days to ferment. This food can be kept for several months since it’s fermented.
You can pickle a variety of vegetable includes carrots, cucumbers, radishes, etc. While the fermentation process largely depends on the vegetables you want to pickle, the pickling recipe typically includes vinegar and sugar.
Kimchi is basically traditional sauerkraut that has produced through the process of Lacto-fermentation. You can make kimchi extra spicy by adding more chillies.
You don’t need a yoghurt machine to make your own yoghurt. All you need is a few tablespoons of premade yoghurt and some milk, and then leave it all up to the fermentation process.
You can make kombucha by yourself, which will cost you a fraction of what it costs you at a store. You need caffeinated green or black tea, water, sugar, and bacteria or yeast, known as the mother. Add all four ingredients to a jar and let it ferment for 7 to 10 days.
The Bottom Line
Now you know that fermentation is the process of breaking down carbs through bacteria and yeast to preserve food. Not only do fermented foods such as kimchi or tempeh add zest to your meals, but they also provide various health benefits.