Humans have been fermenting foods for thousands of years. Back when there wasn’t refrigeration, pasteurization, and the inability to control much of the environment, mankind had to resort to ways to preserve food longer, to sustain their nutrition.
Every civilization in this world has at least one form of fermented food. Kimchi for the Koreans, Sauerkraut in Germany, and Kefir – which is basically sour milk.
Fermented foods or drinks have many health benefits – some real and others, a little overstated. It is safe to make it by yourself and it is beneficial to your gut microbiome. In this article, we shall sieve through fact from fiction so that you can make a more informed choice when it comes to fermented foods.
Using Bacteria/Fungi To Change Carbohydrates Into Organic Acids Or Alcohol – That’s Fermentation
Your wine, beer, vinegar, miso, yoghurt and so many foods we take for granted are fermented. Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years. Before refrigeration, civilizations across the globe had to learn how to improve the storage life of foods.
Thus, enabling our ancestors to travel far across lands and to survive even in the harshest weather conditions.
Almost any food can be fermented. To ferment means to break down the carbohydrates in the food by fungi or bacteria. It helps increase the shelf life of foods as the PH content drops to become slightly more acidic and alcohol is produced as a by-product of fermentation. That is how you get beer and most fermented foods contain very minimal amounts of alcohol.
Are Fermented Foods Really Good For Health?
Fermented foods can serve as carriers for various biotic substances, including probiotics, prebiotics, symbiotics, and postbiotics. Which means they are great for a healthy gut.
Besides being amazing for your gut microbiome, fermented foods improve digestive health, lactose intolerance in some individuals, improve your immune system, weight management, your heart health, and your mood too! This means, that fermented foods especially vegetable bases like achar or kimchi can do incredible things for your health.
It Improves Your Health By Having A Healthy Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria that are good for you and they call your digestive track their home. Ever since our cells started to work together to become a multi-cellular organism or in our case, human beings, these trillions of “good” bacteria started a symbiotic relationship with us. They eat the foods we eat and in return, they protect our gut from any harmful bacteria or viruses.
By introducing fermented foods, you increase the amount of these “good” bacteria. Couple it with prebiotics(fibre) You now have a flourishing gut microbiome that protects you against many diseases, and cancers, reduces inflammation and even telling you what it craves.
Fermented foods give you these benefits as they generally improve your gut microbiome, which plays a huge part in many other bodily functions and your overall health. Therefore by improving your gut microbiome, you effectively just give yourself more years to live.
Do note, that research is still ongoing to fully understand the impact the gut microbiome has towards us, and more understanding is needed to fully grasp the idea. However, it is recognized as an important part of our overall health.
More Research Is Required To Determine Effectiveness
The health benefits of fermented foods are well known and heavily documented throughout history. What is required however are the actual microbial strains that might potentially help us.
Ongoing research is vital to unlock its full potential, identify specific strains for targeted health interventions, and understand the precise mechanisms behind these benefits. Thus allowing us to specify a more informed dietary recommendation.
Also, we do not yet fully understand the exact mechanism as to why fermented foods exert their health benefits.
Every Single Version Of Fermented Food Is Unique
Every single kimchi, cheese or tempeh is unique. Its tastes are different from household to household. Sure, we can control certain factors such as humidity, and factory-made fermented foods do taste the same. However, every time anyone makes their own fermented food, it is unique to them.
The bacteria and fungi cultures are different, the size of the colony is different and if you have noticed, different families have their own unique recipe to create their own kimchi, tofu, or tempeh.
That is also why there are over 1,000 different types of cheese even though it is made from the same source: Cow’s milk
Introduce Fermented Foods For Its Prebiotic Benefits
Try having a little more fermented foods in your diet to introduce more fibre. An increase in both prebiotics has been shown to improve gut health, and digestion, fight cancer, reduce obesity and so much more